How can more efficient driving save money?

mark robets
Mark Roberts, MD of Ashwood Automotive

Bad driving costs fleets money. Tan Parsons looks at how companies are changing behaviours.

The difference in miles per gallon between the best and worst drivers in a wholesaler’s fleet is typically 30%. With the cost of diesel rising all the time, there are huge savings to be made by changing how your drivers behave on the road.

This is why Seafood Holdings, part of the Bidvest Group, invested in a driver assessment technology for its vans called Lightfoot. After an initial trial just over a year ago, the group, which has nine businesses across the UK and a turnover of £120m, has announced a reduction in its annual £2.5m fuel bill of 18% – a saving of £450,000.

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Top money saving examples
  1. Reduces fuel costs
  2. Smaller likelihood of accidents
  3. Reduces driver downtime
  4. Lower insurance premiums
  5. Increases life of vehicles
  6. Increases resale value of the vehicles
  7. Deliveries less likely to be damaged

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Group operations director Brian Hall admits he was initially sceptical, but says the technology is now a critical part of how each driver is assessed.

He says: “Our drivers are a massively important part of the business and we simply can’t accept poor performance. This significant improvement in driving style and efficiency has resulted in a massive win for the company in terms of our fuel capability.”

At first, the group’s drivers were found to be 40-50% in the green ‘efficiency zone’ for driving. When the in-cab display units were switched on, this immediately jumped to 70%.

Unlike some telematics programs, the Lightfoot interface works in ‘real time’, talking to the driver as they make their deliveries. If they are not driving well enough, a verbal warning says: “Improve your driving.” They then get a second warning, and if their driving still does not improve, they get a ‘violation’.

The first and second warnings are just between the driver and Lightfoot. At the end of the week, when their report goes up on the board, it might show they spent 95% of the time ‘in the green’ and had no violations. They may have had 20 warnings, but this doesn’t feature in the report.

The system works by monitoring what the engine, the lights, the brakes and the handbrake are doing, and comparing that with things such as rate of acceleration and vehicle load.

Mark Roberts (pictured top), the MD of Ashwood Automotive, which supplies Lightfoot, gives the example that if a driver is going hard on the throttle with a full truck up a hill, the system recognises this is necessary and the driver will not get a warning.

“But if he is going at full throttle, on the flat, without changing gear, he will get in trouble,” he says.

Taking steps to improve fleet efficiency is a trend growing throughout the delivered wholesale sector.

In Glasgow, JW Filshill has an instructor on-site to improve driver behaviour. The group awards drivers bonuses when they hit their fuel efficiency targets.

MD Simon Hannah says: “If your people are more efficient in how they drive, it saves money for the company.”

Birchall Foodservice saved 54 hours of truck idling per week by investing in telematics software. The Burnley-based group’s drivers are graded from ‘A’ to ‘G’, depending on factors such as how hard they accelerate and brake. Palmer and Harvey is another wholesaler monitoring how much fuel its drivers are using and what they are doing.

“It’s hugely important to the wholesale sector,” says Roberts. “Driver behaviour is the biggest contributor to fleet costs – it impacts everything from fuel costs and safety to wear and tear on the vehicles.”

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