129577993 | Welcomia | Dreamstime
Dreamstime L 129577993

How maintaining drivers leads to better fuel efficiency

July 12, 2022
Vehicle condition isn’t the only factor in asset performance, as driver habits play a major role in operational efficiencies. Here are some tips for keeping your driver pool in tip-top shape.

When you think about improving fuel efficiency, naturally you focus on the tractor and trailer and keeping them in good operating condition. Vehicles in the best condition provide the best fuel efficiency. However, vehicle condition isn’t the only factor in fuel efficiency.

The person who sits in the driver’s seat can have a huge impact on fuel efficiency, even when the vehicle is in top condition. Bad driving habits can affect a truck’s mpg. These bad habits can result from improper driver training, boredom, or job dissatisfaction. To reduce these bad habits, your drivers may need a little “maintenance” from time to time.

Here are some tips for keeping your driver pool in tip-top shape.

Keep drivers happy

It’s common knowledge that a happy employee is more likely to excel at their jobs. Drivers are no exception, and there are some simple steps to keep them content.

  • Money. Money is the number-one motivator for most people, and drivers are no different. Offer a fair and competitive wage, and provide wage increases for cost of living, education, promotion, etc.
  • Incentives. Reward drivers for reaching goals—increased mpg, more optimized routes, safe driving, or other goals set by fleet management.
  • Home time. Providing drivers with regularly scheduled home time will go a long way toward job satisfaction. A flexible schedule that allows for special family events would be a welcome perk as well.
  • Pleasant work environment. Ensure that the work environment is upbeat and positive. Focus on creating a comfortable and welcoming workspace. Add phone chargers and other amenities to make drivers comfortable.
  • Recognition and appreciation. As with incentives, it is important to recognize drivers for good work, or going above and beyond. Show them your appreciation by catering a monthly lunch or offer a coupon for a free lunch along their route. Host a summer barbecue for drivers and their families. Negotiate with local businesses to offer drivers discounts. Give them some company swag. A simple Thank You card sent to a driver’s home address is a great way to express your appreciation.
  • Feedback. Listen to what drivers have to say. Have an open-door policy and encourage drivers to share their thoughts with you in person or through email or text. Conduct regular surveys to learn about any driver issues. Create discussion groups to encourage drivers to share their thoughts.

Keep drivers healthy

Healthy drivers are more productive drivers. If a driver is suffering from an ailment, they will either be absent from work more often, or less productive or efficient when they are at work. Here are some things you can do to help keep drivers healthy.

  • A comfortable truck. An important step in helping drivers stay healthy is to provide them with a comfortable and reliable truck. Consider involving drivers when you are spec’ing a truck, especially the interior. A clean truck—free of dust, cigarette ash, grease, odors, etc.—can help the driver breathe healthier air, while a comfortable, ergonomic seat could help prevent back and joint problems.
  • Healthcare. Providing good healthcare options to your drivers is an absolute must. A good health plan will encourage drivers to take charge of their own health and take advantage of wellness appointments. You also can offer health screenings on-site.
  • Exercise programs. Offering an in-house exercise program, contest, or other fitness challenge could not only help a driver stay healthy but can be fun too. Start a walking club or a fitness challenge. On-site gyms are another idea. These types of programs promote camaraderie in the workplace as well, which also could lead to better mental health.
  • A healthy environment. Promote driver and employee health by keeping the terminal, restrooms, and break areas clean. Make sure break rooms offer healthy snacks and plenty of water. Create a walking path on site to encourage drivers to take a walk while waiting for a trailer to be loaded.

Keep drivers informed

In today’s environment of 24-hour news, everyone expects to be kept informed. Having too much information isn’t really a problem—but not having enough often can be. Strive to be transparent with your drivers and keep them in the loop with company news.

  • Onboarding. It is important that new drivers have a clear understanding of the company’s objectives and expectations. Set up a program that gets new drivers up to speed with company policies, equipment, etc. Hold regular check-in meetings with new drivers to be sure they are getting the training they need.
  • Communication is key. When a new driver joins the fleet, it will be necessary to keep in contact with the driver more regularly than just through dispatch information. Staying in contact is essential for developing a professional relationship with your drivers.
  • Mentoring. Develop a mentoring program and pair seasoned drivers with new drivers. It’s good for experienced drivers to feel like they are valuable, and for new drivers to have someone who they can ask questions of and learn from.
  • Share information. A company newsletter, email, or text is a great way to share information with drivers to keep them current with company news. Share information about new employees, incentives, programs, safety, training, special events, etc. Let them know what is going on. Celebrate good news and don’t sugarcoat the bad.

Keep drivers educated

People are life-long learners, and knowledge is power. Drivers need to be apprised of the latest requirements and technology to perform their jobs to the best of their abilities and provide a high level of efficiency. Offer drivers a variety of opportunities to learn new information or get a refresher on or updates to current practices.

  • Hours of service. It is imperative that drivers comply with the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration Hours of Service (HOS) regulations. An HOS regulation violation can sideline a driver until the rules are complied with. In 2020, about 8% of all trucking violations were HOS-related. Make sure drivers understand HOS, exemptions, and how to avoid violations.
  • ELDs. Electronic logging devices (ELDs) were mandated in the U.S. in April 2018. This has helped reduce some HOS violations but made others more apparent. Drivers must know how to operate ELDs, transmit information to the terminal, and download information for law enforcement when requested.
  • New equipment training. Technology on trucks, trailers, and other equipment is getting more and more complex. Make sure to provide adequate training for drivers on any new equipment they will be operating. Provide online classes so drivers can learn when they have downtime.
  • Best driving practices. Telematics provide a huge amount of data and can offer insight into driver behavior. This data can help you to create workshops which can help reduce bad driving habits such as speeding and excessive hard braking. Tap into information from suppliers and OEMs to share with drivers. Tools such as the North American Council for Freight Efficiency’s Driver Tips Handout can offer drivers best practices for achieving better fuel efficiency.

Drivers are a big part or your fleet, and a key component in operating efficiency. Keeping them “tuned-up” should a top priority.

Kim Ehrenhaft is design director at the North American Council for Freight Efficiency. In this role, she works on NACFE’s Confidence Reports and Guidance Reports and is responsible for its social media efforts. Ehrenhaft has been involved in the trucking industry since 1993 and has worked on various trucking industry related publications.

About the Author

Kim Ehrenhaft | Design Director | North American Council for Freight Efficiency

Kim Ehrenhaft is design director at the North American Council for Freight Efficiency. In this role, she works on NACFE’s Confidence Reports and Guidance Reports and is responsible for its social media efforts. Ehrenhaft has been involved in the trucking industry since 1993 and has worked on various trucking industry related publications.