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Managing driver performance drives bottom-line gains

Jan. 31, 2012
Drivers are key to the success of any trucking operation, so it only makes sense to invest in how they are hired, retained and managed to be successful on the job. Implement a good driver-performance management program based on solid data and you could start to see results “almost immediately”

Drivers are key to the success of any trucking operation, so it only makes sense to invest in how they are hired, retained and managed to be successful on the job. Implement a good driver-performance management program based on solid data and you could start to see results “almost immediately,” speakers Don Osterberg, senior vice president of safety, security & driver training for Schneider National, Inc. and Al LaCombe, director of safety, training & security for Dupre’ Logistics, LLC told representatives of 240 companies who recently attended a live webcast sponsored by GreenRoad and presented jointly by Fleet Owner and the Truckload Carriers’ Assn. (TCA).

Osterberg told the audience that he had four “keys to success” when it comes to fleet safety: Hire the “right” drivers (and retain them); train them effectively; manage driver-performance actively, and leverage technology to enhance safety programs.

Traditional safety metrics are lagging, not leading indicators, he noted. Rather, he said Effectiveness flows from the ability to identify and proactively manage those leading indicators, and technology can definitely help to get the job done.

“Technology enables visibility to driver behavior,” Osterberg said. “In the past, it was a crash that raised our awareness of an aggressive driver. Now we can [use driver performance monitoring technology to help us] detect indicators of problematic behavior to enable interventions to remediate the behavior preemptively.”

Osterberg shared specifics about Schneider’s own driver monitoring and management program as well as insights the fleet has gained over time. For example, he said that in a study of the company’s top and bottom performers in terms of miles per gallon (MPG) “we found a correlation to crash risk: The top 100 drivers in terms of MPG also had a 37% lower accident rate than the poorest drivers in terms of MPG.”

“Success is achieved through layering of imperfect solutions,” Osterbeg observed, and it was a theme that LaCombe also voiced as he shared best practices from Dupre’ Logistics.

Like Schneider, Dupre’ layers multiple programs, practices and policies, one over another, in an effort to create the safest possible fleet, including tracking crashes, lane change-related accidents, intersection-based events and roll-overs, as well as personal injury rates. The company also keeps a sharp eye on leading as well as lagging indicators by driver, such as the number of moving violations a driver is charged with over a given period of time.

For both fleets, the goal is to initiate any necessary interventions quickly, appropriately and effectively. At Dupre’, the company’s driver-performance monitoring system will even automatically trigger certain training programs when a specific risk event occurs, according to LaCombe.

LaCombe called his driver-performance management system a “behavior-based performance system,” and noted that there are some 300 data points in the company’s performance modeling tool. “We do root-cause analysis down to the terminal level,” he said. We believe in stewardship, in everyone taking responsibility for the safety of their team.”

Creating a working environment that provides the most “normal life” for drivers is also a focus at Dupre’, according to LaCombe, who has spent 26 years in his current position. The approach, which includes set schedules for drivers and hourly pay vs. pay per mile, is an important part of the program.

A normal life means getting to be home for ball games and birthdays and family events, LaCombe noted, and to be able to do that, you need to provide a more predictable schedule. According to LaCombe, these policies actively support the company’s fatigued driving initiatives; results are measured on a monthly basis.

The speakers, both safety award winners (LaCombe was named National Safety Director of the Year by the American Trucking Assns. for 2011and Osterberg was honored with the Distinguished Safety Leader Award in 2010 by the Truck Safety Coalition), shared their expertise and their own experiences developing and deploying driver-monitoring and performance-management programs, especially focusing on how they can help companies to:

  • Turn safety from an “intangible” benefit to a tangible benefit fleets can measure
  • Improve fuel efficiency
  • Reduce maintenance costs
  • Help to develop and maintain a more loyal and professional driver pool
  • Improve customer service
  • Reduce risk

The archived webcast is now available for viewing at no charge online. Individuals who have not previously registered will be asked to complete a very short registration form before accessing the webcast audio and slides.

About the Author

Wendy Leavitt

Wendy Leavitt joined Fleet Owner in 1998 after serving as editor-in-chief of Trucking Technology magazine for four years.

She began her career in the trucking industry at Kenworth Truck Company in Kirkland, WA where she spent 16 years—the first five years as safety and compliance manager in the engineering department and more than a decade as the company’s manager of advertising and public relations. She has also worked as a book editor, guided authors through the self-publishing process and operated her own marketing and public relations business.

Wendy has a Masters Degree in English and Art History from Western Washington University, where, as a graduate student, she also taught writing.  

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