Do you know your drivers? Do they know you?

29 May 2015 - By Eugene Herbert

Hi Folks…


In many instances,  driver communication at fleets has been outsourced to fleet management companies out of expediency because there are not enough hours in the day for an under-staffed in-house fleet manager to field numerous driver calls. It is also true that many of these calls often pertain to questions that could be easily answered if the driver bothered to first read the company fleet policy. While this is understood and happens, it could be about time that drivers are seen as “customers” by fleet departments. Then maybe, communication will be improved and overall improvement of vehicle standards will be seen. So how do we do this?


Setting a Driver Communication Strategy


A driver communication strategy is just as important as an asset management strategy. One basic of a driver communication strategy is to increase fleet policy compliance to help reduce unnecessary costs. Fleet policy is a crucial part of a company’s over-all cost-control strategy and the best-managed fleets are those whose drivers adhere to a written fleet policy.


All too often, managers attempt to control fleet costs on the back end. The best time to control costs is before they occur and the way to do this is by establishing policies and procedures that inhibit unnecessary spending and protect company assets. A Fleet policy provides the mechanism to curb money-wasting behaviours. Think about it: If you want to reduce fuel costs, some ways to do so are to ensure that drivers maintain properly inflated tyres, avoid excessive idling, and keep to the posted speed limit. This isn’t rocket science, but it is effective in producing time-proven end-results by the simple fact of drivers complying with written fleet policy.


Communicating Fleet Policy Face-to-Face


The overwhelming majority of drivers probably want to do what’s right for the company; however, just because a company implements a written fleet policy doesn't mean it is followed. A common problem is that the fleet manager communicates policy to the drivers’ managers, but the word doesn’t get down to the individual drivers. Most fleets make fleet policy easily accessible to drivers and managers by posting it on the corporate intranet. But, is this effective or simply a feel-good justification that the job in communicating fleet policy is effective? How many drivers  have access to the intranet? How many are computer literate?


For instance, have you considered communicating policies and procedures regarding company vehicles during the new employee orientation? Or, what about setting aside time at company meetings to make face-to-face presentations on fleet policies to the drivers and managers? For drivers who work in regional offices, you can hold periodic webinars or teleconferences. During these meetings, not only emphasize the importance of policies designed to control costs, but, just as important, emphasize how fleet policy can make them more productive by minimizing downtime and thus improve productivity.


A rule of thumb is that fleet managers should engage in driver communication whenever practical and appropriate. For instance, sales and service organizations often hold meetings where they receive training for new products and services. Fleet managers should request some time at these meetings to remind drivers about fleet policy or identify best practices. Since many drivers are in sales, they often attend annual sales meetings, where they go over the prior year’s activity, present awards, and receive face-to-face training. Why not use this opportunity to ask for time on the agenda to discuss the same items that they would on a conference call, but in greater depth, and answer questions from attendees?


Creating Fleet Advocates


How often should you communicate with drivers? Most drivers will tell you they welcome the communication so long as you keep it short and make it pertinent to their job. Build into every message a feedback mechanism to allow engagement by the driver or field manager – what about newsletters such as the one you are now reading? Drivers can provide a first-hand perspective and share insights on how fleet managers can improve their experience as drivers. A fleet manager needs to know what is and isn’t working from a driver’s perspective, along with soliciting suggestions on how to improve the driver experience.


Don’t Forget Driver Training


All said and done, no policy or communication will work nearly as well as that which is accompanied by an effective driver training intervention. Sadly in South Africa it is a given that driving standards are not what they could be and as a result fleets “suffer”.


If a company supports all its fleet activity with a training program, they will not only save money and prevent crashes, they will in all likelihood   cover the cost of the training by the savings generated - for more detail email info@advanceddriving.co.za


 


In the final analysis, an effective driver communication strategy which supports both training and written policy will win the support of drivers, administrators, and managers. These are potential “fleet advocates,” whose opinions and behaviours can help or hinder operational goals. If you want to control fleet’s bottom line, you need to know your drivers, and they need to know you.


How? Create a driver focus group, with rotating members, and hold periodic meetings to solicit feedback on the fleet program. You’ll discover it’s a terrific opportunity to keep your ears to the ground, be made aware of new issues as they are emerging, and receive honest feedback from drivers — all of which will make you a better fleet manager.


Tell next time - Drive Safe and “get real” with your drivers.


Eugene Herbert



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