When you think about the duties of a fleet manager, it might be things like tracking fuel costs and keeping maintenance records that come to mind. In fact, one of the most important responsibilities of a fleet manager is ensuring a high standard of driver performance.
As a fleet manager, you might feel more comfortable with the “nuts and bolts” or paperwork aspects of the job, but a vehicle is only as good as the person behind the wheel. And your company can’t afford for you to neglect your duties as a manager of people.
This article will discuss some strategies for optimizing the human side of company vehicle fleet operations by improving driver performance.
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Why Driver Performance Matters
For many businesses that use a company fleet, vehicles are basically a means to an end. You have company vehicles to transport and deliver customer orders or to get technicians and parts where they need to be.
In this context, it’s easy to falsely think that vehicles arriving at their destination on time is the only aspect of driver performance that matters — or to overlook the role of employees as fleet drivers because they have a different official job title or “primary” role.
However, if driving fleet vehicles is a regular part of an employee’s job duties, then the company can and should do what it can to improve that employee’s performance and achieve operational excellence.
Your business’s vehicles are important and costly assets. Any company that neglects the importance of ensuring a high standard of job performance from the employees entrusted with these assets on a day-to-day basis is doing itself a major disservice.
Better driver performance saves your company money, improves profit margins, and protects your business’s reputation.
How To Improve Driver Performance
How can you improve driver performance if you’re more at home with the mechanical and paperwork aspects of fleet management than with people management? Here are 10 tips.
1) Hire Qualified Drivers
Making sure your drivers perform well starts with making sure you’re hiring qualified candidates.
Set standards for the candidates you’ll consider before you start soliciting job applications. Criteria should include things like driving record, relevant past job experience, and a general history of stable employment.
Once you’ve established your candidate criteria, publicize your job openings well so you get the largest possible pool of applicants instead of having to settle for unqualified candidates.
Next, perform a thorough screening process to pick the cream of the crop. This process can include an interview, written examination, driving records check, and possibly a road test.
If you’re hiring employees who will work as technicians and also perform double duty as drivers, you will have to balance driver qualifications with other criteria. But it isn’t too much to insist on at least a good driving record.
2) Train Your Drivers
Having good qualifications for a job doesn’t mean that a new hire doesn’t need training. Good training can turn an acceptable driver into a good one, and a good driver into a great one.
In addition, a clean driving record in personal vehicles doesn’t mean a new hire can’t benefit from training in the specialized work vehicles your company operates. Drivers might also need to be familiarized with any applicable regulations for operating commercial vehicles.
A road test as part of the hiring process can help you identify any bad habits or areas where new hires need to improve. And regular ride-alongs with longer-tenured employees to identify the need for additional training are also worth consideration.
3) Explain And Enforce Company Policies
Your drivers won’t meet standards that they aren’t aware of. Clearly communicate expectations on extra stops, pre-trip and post-trip inspection checklists, and other aspects of your fleet operations to drivers as soon as they’re hired, and then provide regular reminders.
Your drivers also won’t follow policies if they know you aren’t really serious about them. Don’t make rules you aren’t prepared to enforce. And ensure employees understand there are real consequences for violating company policies.
4) Use Dash Cams
Dash cams are valuable for driving habit data collection and liability protection. It’s no wonder that they’re being adopted by so many businesses on all of their fleet vehicles.
Even a basic dash cam recording on every trip can help you monitor driving habits and give you a record of events to refer to in the case of accidents. More advanced dash cams have driver monitoring and assist systems that can alert to inefficient or unsafe behaviors.
5) Use Telematics
Fleet telematics is the science of utilizing GPS, cellular and wifi data, and the computerized diagnostic hardware built into your fleet vehicles to collect data on the location and condition of your vehicles.
Using this data can help you optimize your fleet operations in a number of ways, including driver performance.
For example, telematics can make sure your drivers are staying on assigned routes and reveal driving behaviors that are unsafe, cause unnecessary wear and tear on your vehicles, and waste fuel.
6) Review Scheduling And Dispatching
The best fleet drivers in the world won’t perform well if there’s a poor process for figuring out where they need to go and when they need to get there.
Placing unreasonable expectations on your drivers will lead to lower levels of job satisfaction and unsafe, inefficient driving behaviors as they push too hard trying to achieve unrealistic goals.
If your drivers aren’t performing as well as you’d like, take a hard look at your scheduling and dispatching processes to make sure they aren’t being hamstrung by things outside of their control.
7) Use Fleet Fuel Cards
A fleet fuel card, sometimes called a fleet credit card or simply a gas card, is a specialized type of company credit card issued to employees who use company vehicles so they can fill up on the road.
Fleet fuel cards can help your drivers operate more efficiently by making it more convenient to refuel between route stops, and they save you and your drivers time because they eliminate the need to save receipts and then issue reimbursements.
When choosing a fuel card, make sure you understand the merchant network you can use. Many fuel cards are a “closed loop” system, meaning the card can only be used at certain gas stations.
Fuel cards won’t help your drivers perform better if they have to go out of their way to fill up.
8) Maintain Your Vehicles
If you want your employees to perform well in their jobs, you have to give them the right tools for the job. This is just as true with driving fleet vehicles as it is with fixing an air conditioner or installing a new water heater.
Staying on top of regular preventative maintenance so that all of your fleet vehicles are in good running condition will cut down on costly delays and emergency maintenance and help your drivers perform at their best.
Getting better job performance out of your fleet drivers requires communication, and effective communication is a two-way street.
If you make employees feel like they are constantly doing a bad job, you run the risk of them simply tuning you out or looking for another job where their concerns will be heard.
Be deliberate and genuine in soliciting feedback from your drivers. Policies that make sense on paper might look different when you’re behind the wheel every day.
Listen to what your drivers have to say about what would help them do their jobs better. And if the changes they suggest are reasonable, see what you can do to implement them. If what they ask for isn’t feasible, take the time to explain why.
10) Recognize Results
Getting better performance out of employees in any profession requires effectively motivating them. Good managers know the motivational value of positive reinforcement.
Make sure your drivers know that you recognize and appreciate what they’re doing well, not just looking for things they could do better. A private pat on the back is good, but team-wide or company-wide recognition of outstanding performance can go a lot farther.
Don’t stop with mere verbal praise, though. High-performing drivers have a tangible positive impact on your company’s bottom line, and they deserve tangible rewards.
Quarterly prizes, annual bonuses, or extra time off can all be effective in motivating and maintaining high performance standards.
How Coast Can Help
Driver management is an integral and vital part of a fleet manager’s responsibilities. Assessing and improving driver performance is essential for the overall optimization of company fleet operations.
The Coast fleet and fuel card can help. It’s an “open loop” system accepted at any gas station that accepts Visa, which makes it easier for your drivers to fill up while staying on schedule, and it provides managers with real-time reporting and robust spending controls.
To learn more, visit CoastPay.com today.