Sometimes, fleet managers adopt a GPS-enabled telematics system as a reaction to a negative experience with a driver—specifically, vehicle misuse, fraud, or reckless driving. But rather than simply responding to misconduct, fleet managers can also use telematics proactively, to encourage good behavior and improve efficiency both behind the wheel and behind the desk.
Reacting to Driver Misconduct
To be sure, misuse of fleet vehicles is not only costly but also violates the trust between managers and drivers, which can, in turn, create an adversarial work environment. No manager wants to be burned by an unscrupulous employee who uses company assets—including the company vehicle—to perform services on the sly. Although fewer people take side jobs (or “moonlight,” as it is sometimes called) than in previous decades, the rate is still around 5% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The advent of ridesharing and a host of on-demand delivery services provide new opportunities to repurpose vehicles at the company’s expense. Even innocent intentions, such as running a seemingly harmless non-business errand, can prove to be costly in terms of fuel use, wear-and-tear, and possible damage and liability.
Careless or reckless driving on the job can devastate a company’s bottom line, not to mention people’s lives. A typical motorist drives around 12,000 – 15,000 miles annually, and has a 1 in 15 chance of being involved in a crash. By contrast, fleet drivers add 20,000 – 25,000 miles and more on their vehicle’s odometers every year; so their risk of collision is that much greater. Distracted or aggressive driving virtually ensures an eventual accident. The cost of a collision to a fleet owner in lost assets and income averages $70,000—and that doesn’t include potential liability costs. That’s enough to put smaller operations out of business. Worse, driver misconduct of this sort can be deadly. In 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control, 25% of all work-related deaths in the U.S. were workers driving or riding in a motor vehicle on a public road. In every major industry category, motor vehicle crashes are either the 1st or 2nd leading cause of death.
With the stakes so high, it’s no wonder that fleet managers see tracking systems as a quick solution to driver misconduct. True, by monitoring data such as a vehicle’s position and speed, telematics systems can root out fraud and unsafe driving. Yet, telematics can be so much more.
True, GPS can help ensure vehicles are used for legitimate business purposes. But it also can help you deploy a fleet more efficiently, reducing downtime as well as overtime. GPS allows you to give customers real-time, accurate updates. This can help you manage their expectations, and maximize their satisfaction. By the same token, it can help you defend your drivers against false claims. GPS also enables you to design better routes, and to respond to changing conditions and even accidents.
Aggressive driving isn’t always a matter of deliberate recklessness; it can also stem from bad habits that haven’t been addressed by training. Instead of implementing telematics as a punishment, managers can use it to encourage good behavior. Some systems even turn improving habits into a kind of game, a principle referred to as “gamification.” With this kind of positive reinforcement, drivers actively engage in improving their statistics.
Aggressive driving isn’t only a safety issue; it also wastes fuel, a major expense for any fleet. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, aggressive driving can reduce fuel efficiency between 15% and 30% at highway speeds and between 10% and 40% in stop-and-go traffic. Conversely, idling an engine unnecessarily can also waste fuel. The Environmental Defense Fund has found that idling can consume 1/5 to a full gallon per hour, depending on the vehicle. Telematics can empower drivers to monitor and thereby maximize fuel efficiency.
The Bottom Line
Used proactively, telematics doesn’t merely guard against misconduct, but encourages safer, more fuel-efficient driving habits. Many managers redirect some of the considerable savings into incentive programs. Rewarding fleet drivers shows their efforts are appreciated and creates a virtuous cycle that benefits everyone’s bottom line.