In the process of complying with the ELD mandate many fleets have invested in new mobile technology that supports a wide range of present and future needs.
Amid the current driver shortage, a panel of fleet executives on July 8 said using a real-time driver coaching app included in their ELD system has resulted in improved fuel efficiency, safety and retention.
Real-time driver coaching is becoming more common with many ELD and telematics systems today having cameras, edge computing and software algorithms that can instantly detect and alert drivers to underperforming behaviors and risks, such as distraction.
The panel of fleet executives participated in a webinar hosted by the Truckload Carriers Association that was sponsored by ISAAC Instruments.
Putting a coach in the cab
When CNTL was searching for an ELD platform, Derek Gaston, supervisor of trucking operations for the trucking subsidiary of railway Canadian National (CN), said the company wanted “an industry leading system” for safety and compliance.
When evaluating a platform from ISAAC, “we saw the potential of live driver coaching,” he continued. “It was definitely a bonus in the scope of our product and company goals.”
ISAAC has a live coaching feature that gives drivers instant feedback on their fuel behaviors such as throttle input, shifting and cruise control use. It also monitors safety behaviors and has a camera system that records critical safety events.
In total the ISAAC platform monitors more than 40 vehicle inputs at a rate of 100 times per second and gives driver intuitive feedback, said Jean-Sebastien Bouchard, co-founder and executive vice president of sales of ISAAC Instruments.
Tucker Freight Lines, a dry van and flatbed carrier based in Dubuque, Iowa, has been using ISAAC for about two years.
“The Driver Coach app really works well with the driver,” said Cody McClain, director of safety and human resources for Tucker Freight. “In talking to drivers, that has been the number one thing they love.”
Drivers know what they need to do to make themselves better, he explained. To that end, McClain attributes an overall increase in fleet mpg of 1.0 to the use of ISAAC’s Driver Coach. With an improvement of 1.0 mpg, drivers are saving about $200 per week in fuel. Lease-purchase contractors and owner-operators are taking these savings to the bank, and in the course of one year are saving up to $10,000, he said.
“[$10,000] is a big number, and it can seem to be such a big goal,” McClain said. ISAAC’s driver scoring system lets drivers monitor their progress towards their fuel-saving goals on a daily basis, he explained.
Tucker Freight Lines is using driver scores from ISAAC as the basis for an incentive plan to reward company and contractor drivers for making positive contributions towards the fleet’s safety and fuel efficiency goals, among other areas.
Deryk Gillespie, vice president of information technology and Innovation for Trimac (CCJ Top 250, No. 63), one of the largest tanker carriers in North America with more than 2,000 trucks, said the company has been using weekly driver scores to qualify its employees and contractors for prize drawings.
The Driver Coach feature has removed the administrative headaches of tracking and reporting driver data and talking to drivers about their performance over the phone or bringing them into the office, said Gillespie. “It’s proactive and a lot easier to administer,” he said.
Trimac first installed the platform in about 200 trucks and did not use Driver Coach for nearly a year. During this period, the platform established a baseline for MPG. Since implementing Driver Coach, Trimac has seen fuel efficiency improvements in the 7 to 10 percent range compared to the same trucks, drivers and routes. Fleetwide savings are lower, between 2 and 3 percent, due to a wide variation in operating conditions.
All three fleet executives also praised a feature that allows them to remotely view the screens drivers see on their tablets to assist with training. “That has been a lifesaver for us,” McClain said. “This has helped with our retention numbers more than anything else.”
When drivers are trying to explain something that’s happening inside or outside the cab, CTNL’s Derek Gaston said fleet managers in the office can see exactly what drivers mean when they turn a camera on in the tablet and show the office a live video feed. “That is a game changer for us,” he said.
Trimac’s Deryk Gillespie mentioned strides in efficiency the company has made with the electronic Driver Vehicle Inspection Report (eDVIR), a third-party document scanning app, and by giving drivers electronic access to company documents.
“We are pretty much paperless in the back office side,” he said.
Gillespie said third-party applications can be installed on the ISAAC platform and be locked down while the vehicle is in motion for safety. “I am convinced that’s where the future of the industry needs to go,” he said.
All fleet executives agreed that real-time driver coaching also reduces job stress when drivers have information to hone their skills.
“I really do think it helps the health of a driver if they follow the Coach,” Gaston said.
Tucker Freight Lines’ Cody McClain recalled a conversation he had with a driver who had significantly improved his driving score, mostly by taming his penchant for speeding. The driver, McClain said, told him that “when I get home at the end of week, my wife likes me better. I’m in a better mood and less stressed.”