With over 14,000 drivers, Schneider National Inc. takes training seriously. So seriously, in fact, that in combination with other technologies it uses on its tractors, the company has cut CO2 emissions by 1.2 billion lbs. annually.
While Schneider utilizes as much modern technology as possible — fuel-efficient Detroit Diesel Series 60 and DD15 engines, and aerodynamic Freightliner Century Class models as its primary tractor — driver training remains perhaps the biggest influence over carbon emissions and fuel savings.
“From a training perspective specifically, driver performance and driver discipline are at the core,” says Don Osterberg, vp of safety and training. “Driver behavior yields the best fuel efficiency. Training starts with awareness of how these behaviors influence fuel economy.”
Because of the training and equipment, Schneider saves 352.61 tons of particulate matter a year, 10,225 tons of NOx, and nearly 49 million gals. of fuel a year. Schneider is a three-time winner of the Environmental Protection Agency's SmartWay Excellence Award for leadership in energy conservation and emissions reduction practices, the awards coming in 2006, 2007 and 2008. It was the first truckload carrier to participate in the EPA program, first joining in 2004.
One of the big aspects of Schneider's training is a simulator. “The part that is often lost on people to the extent of simulation training is the fuel savings on training trucks,” Osterberg says, pointing out that during a busy period, the company may have up to 300 training trucks on the road at once. Because of the simulator, the fuel savings are estimated at 1 million gals. a year, Osterberg says.
Each driver spends about 15 hours in the simulator, saving about 33.5 gals. per student, according to Osterberg. One hour in the simulator equates to three to four hours of on-the-road driving. Osterberg points to a University of Utah study that says drivers trained on simulators show a 2.8% improvement in mpg following training. And it's not just new drivers that receive simulator training at Schneider.
“We identified our 1,000 worst drivers based on mpg. We brought them in and trained them and saw about a 0.2 gal. improvement post training,” Osterberg says.
Interestingly enough, the same training that goes into fuel savings also correlates to safer driving habits, Osterberg says. Schneider's worst 100 drivers based on mpg have a 37% higher crash rating compared to its best 100. The same also holds true for the 500 worst (23%) and the bottom 1,000 (21%). “The bottom line is that by addressing [issues] from a driver performance perspective, we really get not just less fuel burned from a green perspective but a safety aspect as well,” Osterberg says.
In the simulator training, drivers work through a series of modules, including one on fuel management and a second watching an instructor shift out of peak torque range. The driver then shifts during the peak torque range to show the difference. The training results in a savings of about $2,850 a year per driver.
In addition to the simulator training, there is also a computer-based component, and drivers are rewarded with performance bonuses.
Just because a driver might be performing poorly in terms of mpg does not mean training is automatic, according to Osterberg. “One of the first questions we ask is, is this a training issue or a discipline issue?” he says. “You have to match the solution to the issue. Sometimes it's not clear, but most times we've found it's a training issue.”
Schneider also provides drivers with the tools necessary to reduce fuel consumption, incorporating in-cab mobile communications such as routing with Maptuit software. There is also a fuel optimization software package that not only identifies the closest fueling station, but also provides a recommendation on how much fuel to take on. Later this year, Schneider will begin installing more advanced software packages designed to minimize out-of-route miles and other driver-related issues.
In an effort to make the environment as comfortable as possible for its drivers, Schneider also provides sleep disorder screening, specs all its trucks with in-cab heating systems, and is in the final stages of testing in-cab cooling systems to reduce idling.