Wednesday 26th Oct 2016 - Logistics Manager

Green driving and the bottom line

Training drivers to be more fuel-efficient should be a top priority

In 2011, the UK’s HGV fleet travelled 15.9 billion miles. Given that articulated vehicles get about 7.6 mpg, then the UK fleet consumes some 2.09 billion gallons of diesel. Since July 2013 the bulk diesel price has not fallen below £1.12 per litre or £5.09 per gallon that means the UK fleet’s fuel bill is £10.67 billion. We have around 330,000 professional drivers. On average each driver spends £32,402 per year on fuel.

By finding a ten per cent improvement, the results for hard-pressed hauliers would be staggering – £3,204 per driver to the bottom      line could mean that for every ten drivers one comes free.

What logistics firm would not invest in plant and machinery for a ten per cent improvement to the bottom line? Yet, there are many drivers and firms that have yet to consider a fuel-efficient driver programme.

There are great examples of why it should top every hauliers to-do list. Take one national firm that operates 800 vehicles, racking up a £14.1m fuel bill. By training their drivers to think about fuel it slashed almost £0.5m per year. The drivers were briefed daily on over-speed events, engine idling and planned versus actual consumption. It works. The daily briefings had a virtuous effect on all aspects of driver performance. As well as getting lower cost and higher profit, emissions fell giving improved environmental performance.

The firm of efficient drivers witnessed a positive behavioural change, which led to a drop in vehicle damage keeping the fleet on the road and productive – the repair was kept down and there was a fall in injuries. All of this facilitated a drop in insurance premiums. Costs are improved also – all for the price of one-day’s fuel efficiency training, plus an ongoing monitoring programme.

Cost is hugely important in our industry but the spectre of carbon-tax looms in the shadows. A ten per cent fuel reduction across the UK fleet would see a drop in the carbon footprint of our heavy vehicles, which could stave off environmental charges. The transport industry generates ten per cent of the UK’s greenhouse gases. A significant drop in greenhouse gases will help a lot. The RHA estimates that a 44 tonne GVW at 7.5 mpg will generate 159 tonnes of CO2 per 100,000 miles. That means the 15.9 billion miles we travel around the UK each year releases some 25.28 billion tonnes of CO2 into the skies of Britain. It makes both environmental and financial sense to invest in training our drivers to drive more effectively.

I saw first hand the power of fuel-efficient instruction when the Logistics Guild provided a five-day professional driving experience to 258 soldiers, about to depart the Services, in three barracks because the industry needs more and better drivers and the soldiers need jobs. All the participants had C+E licences but they had little to no time spent in civilian rigs. DHL, Scania and CRH who provided their expertise in Barracks at Kendrew, Grantham and South Cerney helped us brilliantly. One day into the fuel-efficient driving instruction every one of them was a better, more cost effective, less consumptive driver. Each soldier came away with a completed Driver Certificate of Professional Competency (DCPC).

We still have a scary number of drivers out there yet to take up, let alone complete the DCPC. With just 12 months to go, there will be a lot of pressure on training providers, with spaces being fewer and farther between.

Skills for Logistics (SfL) studied DSA information for the take up of DCPC and found that there will be a shortfall of nearly ten per cent in the number of training hours completed by the 2014 deadline. Across freight and passenger transport SfL calculates that in the best case nearly 50,000 drivers will not have completed the mandatory hours and the worst case could be almost five times that – another big number. If our drivers do not complete the training they will not be allowed to work in 12 months time.

Continued professional development is important in all walks of life and for drivers, equally so. We operate in a hyper-competitive environment where keeping our skills sharp, optimising our costs and bringing value to our contractors, employers and clients means that we will be the ones they call first every time.

The case for fuel-efficient driving is compelling. Few aspects of our trade can create tangible, bottom line effects as rapidly as a well-trained driver. Lowering fuel consumption lowers cost and lowers emissions. A focus on driving practices has indirect benefits, less vehicle damage, less injury & lower insurance premiums.

The investment is modest and can be part of the mandatory DCPC, a cost that has to be borne; combining the two makes a great deal of sense.