Reducing the amount of time a truck idles is one of the most critical factors fleets can control in order to improve fuel economy. But truck drivers are literally in the driver’s seat when it comes to how much they actually shut the truck down when out on the road. One fleet has come up with a unique solution as an incentive to get drivers to limit idle time.
Chattanooga- U.S. Xpress has instituted an Idle Reduction Sweepstakes that awards a qualified driver with his or her own truck for cutting back on idling. The incentive is the ability to go from a company driver to an owner-operator with no money up front — the fleet provides the driver with the truck and makes the payments on the rig for the first two years.
Drivers who demonstrate the most significant reductions in idling time qualify for a drawing each quarter to own their own rig.
The only qualification is that the winning trucker must remain an owner-operator with U.S. Xpress during the two-year period when the fleet is making the truck payments.
U.S. Xpress awarded the first prize in mid-May to veteran driver Scot Hays, who’s been with the carrier for 17 years. Hays was one of 150 drivers who qualified for the random drawing by registering the lowest idle times in the fleet for the first quarter of 2011.
All the top qualifiers received cash prizes and Hays was awarded the grand prize of two years of payments on a 2007 Freightliner that had been a part of the U.S. Xpress fleet.
“This is the greatest thing that has happened in my career,” said Hays, who will become an independent contractor leased to U.S. Xpress. “I was blown away when I heard my name called as the winner of the truck. I can remember hearing about the contest late last year. I thought to myself that, if I could do my best to reduce my level of idle, maybe I would have a shot at winning the truck. I did my best and it actually happened. This is unbelievable. It’s going to take a while for everything to sink in.
“I have always thought about owning my own truck, but making those truck payments is a big hill to climb,” added Hays. “I see this as a great opportunity. I’ve been here long enough at U.S. Xpress to know the commitment the company has to its drivers and contractors. I have talked to several contractors over the years here, and I know that I am going to have the support to be successful. I can’t wait to get started.”
“As everyone in our industry knows, idle reduction is a key measurement,” said John White, U.S. Xpress president. “Through our Idle Reduction Sweepstakes, U.S. Xpress has been able to create an additional focus on cutting down engine idle which also offered a valuable business opportunity for our drivers.”
EPA’s SmartWay program encourages fleets to develop such idle reduction incentive programs. According to EPA, fleets can save more than $6,000 per truck annually by limiting excessive idling. Educating drivers about the impact of excess idling on fuel consumption, the environment and potential health risks can play an important part in changing idling behavior, EPA noted. On top of increasing fuel consumption, idling also increases engine maintenance costs, shortens engine life and can adversely affect driver health. Idle reduction incentives have been successful in keeping idling times well below national averages for fleets like U.S. Xpress that institute them, EPA stated.
U.S. Xpress is a SmartWay Transport Partner and was honored with a 2009 SmartWay Environmental Excellence Award.