Driver behaviour system cuts fuel use by up to 14%

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Getting drivers to buy in to a new behaviour system has helped to reduced fuel consumption by as much as 14%, according to one 500-van fleet.

TPS is the trade parts division of the Volkswagen group, with 75 dealer-operated centres serving independent garages across the country. Collectively, TPS operates more than 500 vans.

Fleet News accompanied Paul Holmes (pictured right), a driver at the Birmingham centre, on a delivery run to see the system, installed by telematics company Trak Global, from a driver’s perspective. 

TPS has been using the tracking system for three years and activated the driver behaviour functionality on the units at the start of this year.

Vernon Leadbetter, national fleet manager of TPS, said: “It’s not driver training. We have a conversation with the drivers on a branch-by-branch basis, and explain that we’re doing it to protect drivers, improve their safety, and save fuel. The drivers value the explanation.”

The branch managers will monitor driver performance, and review shifts with the driver. 

Holmes told Fleet News the system has made a big difference to the way he and his colleagues drive. Throughout the run, which included a mix of city and rural driving, his Volkswagen Caddy achieved 61mpg according to its internal display – 14.4% higher than its official figure of 53.3mpg.

“My driving has become a lot steadier,” he said. “You do sometimes get other drivers behind you being impatient, but you just get on with it. It doesn’t take any longer to do the run.”

In the cab, the system is completely invisible, but once the driver returns to the office, they get to see their driving scored out of 10. 

Leadbetter said that in a lot of cases, drivers are taking it upon themselves to check their scores.

Holmes confirmed this: “I like to know if I’ve done well. Sometimes you don’t always agree with the system – there are sometimes reasons for sharp braking, and I’ll question those and look at them on the computer system’s event log, but overall it has helped to improve my driving.

“I’ve also improved my fuel efficiency in my own car at home, but I do still go faster on motorways in that than I do in the vans.”

Leadbetter said the company has seen startling results with some drivers: “One driver who’d been at a branch for years was returning scores consistently in the red, and in that case, I went out with them and pointed out a few things to improve their driving.

“Simply explaining that their run didn’t need to be completed at breakneck speed improved their fuel economy by 12mpg and reduced risk in the process.

“A 5-6% difference in fuel economy is all that is needed – that will give us a big financial gain.”

After the system was installed at the Birmingham branch, average fuel efficiency for Caddy vans increased from 44 to 48mpg, a 9% increase, and from 28 to 32mpg (14%) on Crafter vans.

“It’s the visibility of it all that’s great for us,” said Leadbetter. “No matter how many meetings you have, once the driver was out the gate, we didn’t know how the vehicle was being driven. Now we do.

“It’s become a conversation changer in the staffroom. Branches operate in different ways, but some will print off scores and put them on the wall. Others display them on giant screens.”

Leadbetter is also keen to look at the accident rate across the year and believes it will fall, but he has to wait a little longer to produce a fair comparison.

As part of the fuel-saving and monitoring measures, Leadbetter has also implemented controls on fuel cards, with all drivers instructed to use supermarket petrol stations and mileages and fill-up capacity matched to each vehicle.

“Our average price paid is now below the AA national average fuel price, which we’re very happy about,” he said.

Leadbetter’s aim is to reduce the ‘potential fuel saving’ – the gap between the fleet’s optimum mpg and achieved mpg  – to as close to zero as possible. The gap is closing rapidly.

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