Let’s talk about speed tolerances

Let’s talk about speed tolerances

There is a lot of talk in the news covering the confusing messages about speed tolerance over the Christmas break. I think Joe and Jane public just inadvertently had a quick insight into the tricky world of the truck driver.

The law says trucks can travel no faster than 90km/h on the open road. It’s not an easy thing to work with when cars can go up to 100km/h, and some cars only manage to achieve this in the overtaking lanes dropping back to 80km/h again when the opportunity to pass has gone.

There has been a rumour for about a year now, of increased speed limits of up to 110km/h on some roads, and yes, I would support an alignment of heavy and light vehicles’ speed limits, to promote better harmony between the road using community. The truth is that this is still a rumour and we don’t get to make the rules we only get to follow them.

In the mean time, we need to be clear on what the rules are, because there is a few different things going on.

  • The heavy vehicle speed limit is 90km/h
  • HPMV have zero tolerance for overspeeds, but anecdotal evidence suggests that this is not enforced any more rigorously than for any other truck
  • Other heavy trucks may be treated to a discretionary tolerance of up to 5km/h by the police, but this depends on each circumstance. It also brings another question: Does that mean that 95km/h is ok or 96km/h is ok? It doesn’t really matter, does it?

When driving, your speedo is your primary way of checking your speed. This is good as most speedos will tell you that you are going faster than you actually are. So if you think you are driving to the speed limit, you are probably 1-2km/h just below it– perfect!

Extra confusion starts though when your manager comes to you with the GPS records from your travels. GPS is much more accurate than your speedo to know how fast you are travelling. Those of you with a TomTom on the windscreen will have noticed that it is normally reading a bit slower than your speedo. Haven’t got a TomTom? Use the “Your Speed” signs on the side of the road. These will read the same as a police speed radar.

Whilst the police can’t be everywhere, GPS can.  BUT, despite your manager telling you there is a zero tolerance for speed in his (or her) company, you will often be able to drive a bit over the speed limit and you won’t hear anything out of your manager. Why is that?

Some GPS systems do not even start to report speed events until 94, 95, 96km/h (depending on the system), whereas others as soon as you are at 91km/h, boom! alert! and your manager is at the door waiting for you when you get home.

Just like those grumpy car drivers over Christmas, the best way to avoid all of this confusion is to drive no faster than 90km/h on your speedo, giving you a true road speed of about 88 or 89km/h, safely inside the law and whatever policy your boss and his funky GPS tools will clock you for. Yes you will use a bit more fuel going uphill without a good downhill runup, and yes, a few car drivers will get irritable, but you are a professional with a precious cargo, an expensive rig and many more hours experience than them.

Think about this:

  • If there was a long flat piece of road 350kms long, with no towns along the way and you could maintain an AVERAGE SPEED of 95km/h including all corners and traffic lights, stray dogs and pie stops, you would arrive at the end 12 minutes faster than if you had an average speed of 90km/h
  • That piece of road doesn’t exist – you can’t drive 350 km at a constant top speed anywhere in the country.
  • No truck can maintain an average speed of anywhere near 90km/h

So the story is that speeding doesn’t get you there sooner.

Here is what we have seen over the last several years looking at GPS data:

  • Those who drive faster, often have a lower average speed, taking longer to do the same stretch of road. Don’t believe me? Talk to a driver trainer near you.

I can’t tell you what combination of engine brakes, retarder, gear selection or manual vs auto in any given truck on any given hill, that’s not my job. What I do know is that when you speed, you use more fuel, jeopardise your employer’s reputation, their Operator Rating Score and potentially gain demerit points on your license which will affect your ability to do your job.

Speeding doesn’t save time, it doesn’t protect the engine from undue wear and tear and it is not an excuse for allowing the truck to over run going down hill to save fuel. If you don’t know how to keep your truck below 90km/h, ask for some training. It’s time we stopped taking advantage of the tolerance and drive to the law. That way if the police or your employer provide you with any lee way, it is for a valid one off events.

Your employer is under pressure to demonstrate best practice in Health and Safety in 2015, with a lot of strict new legislation being introduced. What gives you the right to decide whether his company is closed down or not, because you choose to be unprofessional?

What is the best way to drive professionalism?

What is the best way to drive professionalism?

Professionalism: “The skill, good judgement and polite behaviour that is expected from a person who is trained to do a job well.”

We need to create a positive culture that recognises good performance, supports willing compliance and is generally attractive to new recruits if we are to create a sustainable industry.

After more than 9 years working alongside operators who want to improve their standards and talking to many others, some who are getting ready to take that same challenge, some who are not, I am still learning about all of the different things that come together to shape attitudes in our industry.

On the whole it is the actions of the few that affect the reputation of the many. However, in the post Global Financial Crisis boom, when truck and trailer builders can barely keep pace with demand and there aren’t enough drivers to go around, the pressure is certainly coming on and corners are starting to get cut, either consciously or not.

I am hearing a number of variations on a phrase uttered to me about 18 months ago: “We’re too busy making money to save money Corinne.” It was only a few months later that I watched agape as a truck from that operator’s fleet overtook a car and a ute heading downhill on Porter’s Pass in Canterbury.

GPS and associated technology has certainly done wonders to improve transparency in our industry, and using that data to increase awareness and tackle breaches of standards has definitely brought benefits. As many of you will know, we work with transport managers to set standards in the fleet and to recognise those drivers who meet them, and offer needs based support and training to those who don’t.

Technology providers are also doing their bit to develop tools that reduce the reliance on the transport manager to find the time to have these conversations with drivers.

Is this a problem that technology can fix?

Having built a business around leveraging technology, this may sound like a strange thing for me to say. BUT, technology shouldn’t be used to fix a people problem. As I write this, a media release is due, highlighting the upcoming enforcement activity on speeding and behaviours that distract from driving.

Is there a limit to the number of devices that should be installed into the cab to ping, bong or light up as a driver is negotiating the hazards of the open road? Whilst I understand the case for giving drivers real time awareness of their actions versus a performance standard, is it the right way to go?

The goal is to generate awareness, safety and respect. If you had a bonging device on the end of your desk that went off every time you were unproductive, or unprofessional, but stayed quiet when you did a good turn, won a new contract, saved money through a contract negotiation and all of the other good things you do in a day, how would you feel?

Technology has a role to play in changing human behaviour, but its value is as part of a wider, more personal approach.

If our drivers are professionals, let’s treat them that way and let them keep their eyes on the road when they are doing their job.

Could have,  would have… should have?

Could have, would have… should have?

The law is changing and the implications for directors of a business when something goes wrong are getting harder to ignore. The question of whether an employer did everything that could have been done, or everything that a prudent employer would have done, or should have done is a matter of semantics. As an industry, we have to make sure we are looking after our people.

When the mechanics of the ORS were first understood, there was a bit of an outcry that an employer was being penalised for the actions of a speeding driver that he knew nothing about and was therefore powerless to prevent. With more than 75% of fleets now equipped with GPS this argument is wearing a little thin.

Like it or not, the consequences for continuing to ignore these behaviours in your fleet are coming with increasingly harsh penalties – both financial and jail time.

So what can you do about it? No one comes to work to do a bad job and a good safety attitude starts at the top – you set the standard for how your staff perceive the importance of working within the rules.

Through our work with fleets in this area, we have seen some amazing results.

  • A fleet who had been paying lip service for some time to the “we don’t speed” message decided that it was time they actively managed this. Within one month their results were astounding. From thousands of overspeed events per day to a mere handful, personal phone calls to the drivers made them aware of their actions – confirming that there was enough time to do the job safely and the driver was part of a team, not the only one responsible for on time deliveries. A general sense of relief was palpable as the drivers’ stress levels reduced, knowing they had the support of their boss to drive safely.
  • In another fleet, we had a driver apply for a job who had a terrible reputation – drink, drugs, log book offences, speeding, attendance issues, you name it, his reputation covered it. The driver shortage being what it is, this company took a punt and brought him on. Some strict guidelines and managing him closely to ensure he understood that he was accountable for portraying his company in a good light to the customer, allowing the fleet to retain the contract, and the driver to keep his much needed job… all combined to propel this driver to the top of the driver league table in this fleet.

A journey of 1000 miles starts with the first step. Just because you have never looked at this stuff before, doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve those results that you read about – 5%+ savings in fuel, reduced speeding tickets, climbing ORS, falling insurance premiums – the possibility to save $1,000s is within your grasp.

It is a long term commitment. This isn’t something that you can blitz for 6 weeks or 6 months then move on. To coin a phrase, “safety is everyone’s responsibility” but it starts at the top.

We have seen a customer who was making good inroads, get distracted by a new contract. The paperwork and relationship building distracted them from the time which had previously been spent encouraging and recognising drivers for doing the right thing. Tempers throughout the fleet have frayed, perceived pressure is rising, and so are their top speeds. It isn’t long now until another big bill comes their way. The savings that have been made in the past will help to offset the cost of this, but nothing pays back the sleepless nights and the mountains of paperwork that are sure to follow.

Make the commitment to do the right thing, use the tools available to you to monitor whether your fleet is upholding your standards as they go about your business. It might cost you a bit of money and a bit of time to get it underway, and to stay on top of it, but it will cost you a whole lot more of both money and time if you don’t.

We need to make overspeeds part of the daily agenda

We need to make overspeeds part of the daily agenda

Truck Drivers are in a unique position of being trusted with expensive company assets and valuable customer property away from the direct control of their managers. All of the new legislation which is being developed or considered currently is looking at ways to enforce that this situation is controlled more and more.

This week in Canterbury we have seen two major crashes involving trucks, both at low speed, both with devastating consequences. When a truck crashes at open road speeds the outcome is worse. The cost is not just the cost of the truck repairs, it is the cost to the brand perception, the clean up cost, the cost of the goods to be replaced for the customer and the associated lack of trust which that can breed. Of course additionally there is the the counselling for the driver and the relief driver and truck required whilst the driver recovers both physically and emotionally.

In summary nobody wants to see a truck crash.
The Police, NZTA and Accident Investigators are quite clear that speeding trucks cause crashes and yet speeding trucks continue to be a source of frustration for transport managers up and down the country.

Here are some stories that we have gathered across our customer base in the last few months:

•A fleet that has multiple “sister ships” identical trucks of the same age working on the same run, but the fuel efficiency for each pair varies significantly. Digging further, it is clear that the truck with the better fuel figures spends less time over the speed limit, peaks at lower top speeds and spends less time idling. He also costs his boss less in fuel and maintenance costs.

•An owner driver running linehaul between Nelson and Christchurch offered to try out this “new” idea of driving to the speed limit. He had recently bought a truck with sufficient horsepower to suit his preferred driving speeds through this challenging route. Driving at the speed limit for the whole route, saw him arrive consistently 10 minutes earlier and fresh enough that he felt he could almost do a second shift.

•A driver doing multiple drop deliveries across a broad region who was triggering many over speed alerts in built up areas on the main routes changed his style of driving to make sure he was down at the speed limit as he entered the speed zone, instead of starting to slow down as he passed the speed limit sign. He reported an initial increase in fatigue to the concentration required to break the habit but was very pleased with the 10 – 20 litres of fuel saved per day for his efforts.

One of our customers who has been struggling with poor driver discipline around speeding and the constant threat of the driver shortage has recently had a revelation that every transport company who they respect is also trying to manage speed. This has given our customer the confidence to take a hard line on speeding in their fleet. If their drivers don’t like it and choose to leave, they will be leaving to go to a company with worse conditions, or they will have to step up and be accountable for their speeding behaviours if they apply to a more reputable fleet.

Speeding is a risk. It is the constant risk of crashing, the real risk of spending hard earned profit on too much fuel and inflated insurance premiums and the risk of losing your customers if they lose respect for your brand on the road. One fleet close to us has recently lost a driver because he wasn’t receiving the feedback he craved regarding his driving style: He has moved to a fleet where he knows he will get this feedback.

For every fleet, the benefits gained by tackling this elephant in the room more than pays for the costs invested in the initiative.

Two of the three key pillars of such an initiative are making the drivers a part of the solution, and providing consistent feedback to them. The third pillar is getting started….

Driver training – punishment or fundamental entitlement?

Airline pilots must complete regular refresher training to ensure that your life is safe in their hands.

For each different type of plane that they fly, they must be certified to ensure that they are aware of all of the controls, how they work, when to use them and where they are located within the cockpit.

Many other professionals – surgeons, accountants, engineers, must belong to a professional association or institute, and demonstrate that they have undertaken formal skills training, refreshers, or other forms of recognised professional development throughout each year in order to retain their membership. Membership which is vital to their credentials and allows them to continue operating – the equivalent of a driving license to a truck driver.

Yet, when a driver trainer singles out a truck driver for an observed drive, or a skills refresher, it is almost universally perceived as punishment.

The average age of an NZ truck driver is 43, and the average experience driving trucks is 18 years. Obviously to get to this average, there are also many drivers aged 40-60+ meaning it could be up to 30 years since they had any formal training (or at least a few pointers) in how to drive. And yet, look at how trucks have changed in that time. That’s like taking a pilot certified on a DC3 and throwing him the keys to the new Air NZ Dreamliner that has just arrived in Auckland.

Truck drivers are professionals. It isn’t everyone who can pilot 40-50 tons of truck around our road network, work up to 70 hours per week and come back for more week after week, year after year.

Our drivers deserve recognition. They deserve time off the job to learn about new technology. They will be much safer and less stressed if they are introduced to a new truck and the driver aids that the manufacturer has spent years developing and perfecting.

We are doing our drivers a gross disservice by NOT offering them routine skills refreshers and NOT drawing on GPS stats, customer feedback fuel and maintenance bills to provide them with regular feedback on their performance.

The new ACC Fleet Saver programme requires this commitment to driver ongoing development. The audit standard requires “Evidence that ongoing (internal or external) training is provided to drivers at least every 12 months.”
Generation Y – the current 20 something year olds, and ripe to obtain their Class 4 and 5 licenses right now – are the generation of instant gratification. The row of green lights on the dash signifying that the truck is being driven well, or the challenge of working to resolve an amber or red light that reflects a poor decision and created a harshbraking or cornering event… this sort of feedback works really well for many of this age. Knowing that they are doing their job well, not just receiving a pay packet, is a critical factor in retaining this new breed of driver.

Which leads me to a question which is increasingly poignant in our industry:
“What if we train them and they leave?” to which the trueist response remains… “What if we don’t and they stay?”

Can GPS stats reflect maintenance costs?

…. Or is a major engine rebuild just inevitable on a high mileage truck?

The reason I ask is that two of our customers have just had maintenance bills of about $30,000 each.

Both fleets have recently joined our TrucKing monthly support programme and, accordingly in the last 6-12 months have made significant gains in becoming more compliant and promoting driver ownership of company success.
In both fleets, most of the drivers have responded really well to the feedback on their driving habits. They have recognised the gap between the driving style they have developed, and the expected driving performance with regard to driving speeds, idling times, log book hours and breaks. The short amount of time that it has taken most of these drivers to recognise and adjust away from the bad habits that have crept in is a credit to their skills and intelligence.

In every fleet there is always 1 – 2 drivers who ignore, or even rebel against, these changes. Fundamental driving behaviours such as overspeeds and idling are often a simple indicator of which drivers fall into this bracket. There is plenty of research showing that unsympathetic driving leads to higher operating costs in fuel used, tyre wear and higher maintenance costs.

NZ driving conditions have many differences and many similarities with Australia, Europe and USA where a lot of this research comes from.

But, is it really such a coincidence that the truck in each of our customers’ fleets with the $30k maintenance bill is also the truck with 10 TIMES MORE speed events than the other trucks in that operation?

Whilst most drivers have embraced the challenge of doing the right thing, that these two drivers are saying things like “speeding keeps me focussed” or “the truck is happiest at 98-100km/h.”

Funny then, that there are trucks in both fleets with higher mileage, but that it was these two drivers who have the inconvenience of having their truck off the road and their bosses who have the inconvenience of the costs of an engine rebuild and a replacement truck for the duration.

Free Money!

Do you want to save between $100k and $500k? Well you can!
It is really fantastic to be a part of the transport industry at the moment. Not only is the economy buoyant, but the media is full of good news stories too;
• The Women in Trucking initiative is in full flow, highlighting the experience of many operators; the girls are easy on the gear, great with your customers and good for team morale
• The ACC Fleet Saver initiative is getting up and running with savings of $168 per truck per year for compliant fleets
• The fuel initiative is in full marketing swing with promises of “at least” 10% fuel savings for fleets of all sizes.

Add all of this together and it is clear that the next industry cost survey could show a huge leap upwards from the current average of 1% profit to closer to 8% or even 9%! Not a bad result for an industry as large and diverse as ours.

It can be real
At CCS Logistics, we’re proud to have been supporting fleets to make such improvements since well before it was trendy to do so. Real changes and feedback we have received from our customers include;
• Up to 13% fuel savings
• A complete change in mindset throughout the company
• Morale significantly improved
• Tyre wear reduced
• Speeding tickets down by 95%
• Idling down by 40%
• Improved driver retention and a better calibre of applicant for new roles
• “A nicer place to work”

The other side of the story
What is missing from all of these good news stories is some straight talking.
• All of the fleets with the good news story have worked really hard to achieve the improvements they are so proudly describing. And rightly so.
• You can’t walk into a show and buy these savings. This is not a programme that is “done” to you
• You can’t attend a meeting once a month and accrue credits that you cash in for positive publicity at the end of the year
• Or, my personal favourite, thumping your fist on the desk and demanding savings – no, that doesn’t work either.
You have to invest money and time to make money – expect to spend $1-3 to save $5 and you may need do quite a bit of spending before you start to see savings.

Recipes for success
Maximum savings are achieved by:
• Engaging your staff
• Working as a team, involving the whole company from the directors to the storeman, from the admin team to the drivers and everyone in between.
• Buying the right trucks
• Good R&M processes
• Driver skills training

Start with a commitment to pursue savings. Nothing happens without a champion and anything worth doing is worth doing properly
• Do your research – talk to other fleets who have already got started – learn from their experience. Talk to your service providers, the ones whose opinions you genuinely value, to see how
they can help with support, tools or advice. Getting the big savings requires time, effort and a cash injection. Know what you are in for and assign resource to it.
• Communicate, communicate, communicate – tell your team what you want to achieve, what you need from them, and how you will support them to get there. Canvas their ideas – this is a team
effort after all.
• Assign a champion – someone senior enough to make decision, and who is well liked enough to help your staff to make changes
• Select an external partner as your mentor to navigate your way to savings
o If you don’t have much spare capacity in house, you’ll need someone you can lean on quite heavily – again choose someone you like and respect.
o Conversely if you are able to appoint multiple in house champions, you are looking more for someone with a bit of experience to help you to avoid the most expensive pitfalls and dead
ends, to steer you towards quick wins, then long term savings

Here at CCS Logistics, we are in the process of refreshing our management skill sets. Lesson 1 in the course is “Goal Setting;”
What are you going to achieve?
How are you going to achieve it?
If your “what” is to save $100k – $500k in the coming months, look beyond the media hype to understand “how” to approach making those savings in a sustainable way that will work for you.

Even the oddest data has a useful message

Twice as many traffic tickets are now being issued for hand held cell phones being used whilst driving, versus when this was outlawed in 2012.
This is a challenge to you as it indicates a threat to your ORS, the appearance of your fleet, the perception of your brand, and yes, even your fuel costs.

Nothing happens in isolation and the lack of discipline represented by the continued use of hand held cell phones whilst driving is just another indication that everyone needs to pull their weight to set standards that we can all be proud of.

Professionalism is a team effort.
Ignorance is no defense, but nor should it need to be. When you understand the value of your brand and you want the very best for your customers, it comes as second nature to galvanize everyone in your company to live the values by which you want to be known by. Don’t wait for your ORS report to tell you that standards have slipped – take proactive action:

Drivers MUST take personal responsibility for their actions. There are a number who do, but a bigger number who don’t. Those who have slid sideways into the industry to fill the gaps left by the skills shortage, still have something to contribute.

Managers must lead by example, leaving the yard with your seatbelt yet to be fastened, your cell phone glued to your ear and the other hand hanging out of the window is not what you want for your drivers, so stop and think about the example you are setting.

Dispatchers have their own unique pressures, but that doesn’t mean they are excused from their role in the team. Ringing a driver who has no handsfree kit, when you know he is driving – not OK. Also not OK is booking your driver on the interisland ferry without double checking the schedule allows him enough time to get there legally – that means at a fair and legal speed and with all required log book breaks taken.

Quitline exists for a reason – because breaking a habit is not a simple thing to do.
It is almost never that we first work with a customer whose speeding stats reflect the manager’s perception of the fleet. “just a little” over the limit is where most people like to drive, but that means every slight loss of concentration takes you further over the limit, and every downhill blows out your stats for good.
Speeding is a habit as much as smoking, or swearing. It takes discipline to stop doing something that has been a part of your life for so long. Support, role models and peer pressure all play their role, but the first step is for each driver to find his or her own reason for wanting to break the habit of speeding. Have all of your drivers found that reason yet?

Appearances DO count
A clean depot, a tidy yard and a well looked after drivers’ room all set the standard for the care taken in the rest of the company’s business activities. Set the standard for your fleet from the front door to the yard gate. Well looked after facilities encourage everyone to lift their game.

Professionalism is not a buzzword, it is a way of life. Earn the respect of your drivers by recognizing your own sloppy habits and lead your whole team on a journey to do the right thing.

Drivers are human too

It’s hard to soar with eagles when you are surrounded by turkeys”

It seems that scoring a driver is the theme for the year with most of the leading GPS suppliers coming out with a way to measure a driver out of 10. This leads to two questions:

  1. Can you trust the score? And if so,
  2. What do you do about it?

A recently publicised driver performance bonus has been scrapped because the drivers felt it wasn’t a fair way of deciding their bonuses. Whilst there are a number of reasons for measuring the performance of your staff, with drivers, it is not unusual for this to be linked to a bonus, or an “at risk” portion of their pay. If you are going to mess with people’s money, you need to make sure that the measure is fair. In this respect, objective (data) is much better than subjective (opinion).

For example if you are going to make speeding a criteria for your driver “scoring system”

– Using the GPS to tell you either the maximum speed reached, or the number of speed events counted is “objective”.

– A manager driving past one truck on one day and seeing it speeding is “subjective.”

How accurate was the manager’s speedo, was he going exactly the same speed as the truck? Did he drive behind every truck, or do the trucks that he didn’t see get the bonus, but the driver that he “caught” loses out?

I was told of a plan recently to include “driver presentation” in the bonus system for a fleet. Apparently the dispatchers would rate the drivers from 1-10 on how well scrubbed they were each morning. Personally I thought dispatchers had better things to do, so I’m concerned that the scoring could go a bit adrift. What if the driver and the dispatcher don’t get on? Not uncommon – and is that really fair to the driver? Then there is the question of what is 10 out of 10 for appearance? Is my perception different to yours? Is it OK that the drivers’ pay is affected by a difference in standards?? Try to stick with “objective” measures that anyone can calculate and come to the same answer for any driver.

Of course the GPS doesn’t tell you the whole story about your drivers. Most don’t tell you about rev ranges, mechanical sympathy or maintenance bills, but high speed, GForce and idling can be a dead giveaway as indicators. However, we have numerous examples of a driver who is “in the green” because he is overly cautious, some have been able to point to drivers that drive at 70 – 80km/h on the open road to get maximum overtime. I’ve written enough about the tiny difference that top speeds make to travel time, but the sentiment is valid – how much “work” does each driver get done? So you may need to add a reality check in to your performance score. It is unfair to pay him overtime AND top bonus, if he is not actually earning money for the company.

And finally, what example have you given your drivers to follow?  

Are you being fair to your drivers? Have you ever told them what you expect from them? Is it written in 10 foot tall letters on the smoko room wall? Making the assumption that a driver knows what you want is a bit of an unfair position from which to start awarding bonuses. Asking him to be polite, well presented, compliant, safe, professional and courteous both on the road and with the customers can be a bit rich if you give him a dirty smoko room with overflowing ashtrays and nowhere to wash his truck. There is an indisputable link between the culture of your company and the performance of your fleet on the road. Make sure it is obvious that you care for your company, its facilities and people, as much as you are asking the driver to care for your reputation outside of the gate.

Put your personal prejudices aside and before you rush into a bonus scheme, sense check the first few months of scoring (BEFORE you publish) – who is scoring high and who isn’t. Does it “feel” right if you are honest about each driver’s contribution?

Sometimes you have to stop and check who is the eagle and who is the turkey.


Vehicles don’t speed downhill. Not without action, or lack of it, from a driver.

Have you ever been blamed for something you didn’t do? Or watched someone take the credit for something that you know they haven’t achieved?

It is time to have a serious look at adding Driver ID to your GPS system. Our collective challenge is not to improve the performance of your fleet, but to improve the performance of individual vehicles. The only way to do that is to work with your drivers.

Driver ID is not a new concept from the GPS suppliers. It is quite simple – a driver logs into the truck when he starts work and all of the data collected by the truck GPS is assigned to that driver until he logs out. Talk to your GPS supplier about the options available for your system.

There are a number of ways to motivate people to change their behaviour. The first thought always seems to be “money” but money is not the most effective motivator. Recognition of a driver for a job well done goes a very long way. But targeting the wrong driver for the behaviour you hoped NEVER to see in your fleet and you have an uphill struggle to undo the lack of faith created.

Anyone who has taken a driver to task about a series of speeding events recorded by their truck, only to find out that it was a relief driver who caused those events, knows that feeling of impending doom when months of progress with the drivers starts sliding down the tubes because you, or your drivers, no longer trust the data.

Driver ID allows you to know that you are talking to the right driver about the right performance and that you can congratulate, or train, the right people.

How do I encourage the drivers to login?

It is normal for drivers to be suspicious about logging in. Why do you need to know what they are doing in the truck after all? As always, honesty is the best policy. Your best drivers cost you less to employ. They use less fuel, make their tyres and brakes last longer and have lower general repairs and maintenance bills. It makes sense that you want to know who these drivers are so that you can use them as an example to other drivers. For those that haven’t yet made the grade, it is a lot easier for them and for you if you know what sort of behaviour is letting them down so you can provide training and support to help them to improve.

Drivers are a competitive breed and are often keen to prove that they are better than the rest. Driver ID gives them the opportunity to prove that this is the case. Feedback from our customers tells us that you can reasonably assume that those drivers who are not so keen on using the driver ID require additional training – they are so concerned about their driving that they don’t want to own up to it.

In the mean time, encourage those who are using their Driver ID by public recognition of those drivers who are consistently returning the best results.

When things go wrong – like the GPS unit in the truck, sometimes a Driver ID unit can go bad. Normally a Driver ID unit comes with a buzzer to remind the driver to log in. If the login method isn’t working for some reason, the driver can be subjected to an ongoing alarm all day. Well, normally for about 10 minutes, before he finds the wire that, with a good yank, shuts the buzzer up. Hopefully your drivers will tell you when they have resorted to this so that you can fix it. But keeping an eye on the kms reported against each driver will give you a good indication of who is logging in and who isn’t. As above, encouraging your drivers to strive to be the best is the most successful route to a top performing fleet, and most likely to ensure that your drivers will demand a working Driver ID system. If one unit is broken, don’t let that derail your whole programme, the rest of your drivers deserve the ongoing feedback whilst you resolve individual issues.

We're recruiting!

Customer Support role – Fleet Performance

In this Fleet Performance Coaching role, you will relish helping your fleet customers to improve performance, using their GPS data to measure results.

Working in a small team dedicated to making a difference, you will act as a remote team member for each of your customers.

You will:
• Provide a support service to our customer’s transport managers
• Analyse GPS and fuel data to find trends
• Research and make recommendations to enable transport managers to implement improvements

Do you respect the job of the heavy truck driver and want to help them to become even more professional?

In this varied role, you will be using data collected from fleet vehicles to monitor the performance of trucks and service vehicles. Your findings will help you to build an action plan to help the transport manager at each of your customers to improve the safety, productivity and fuel efficiency of his fleet.

Does this sound like you?
You are analytical, with great attention to detail. You have probably spent some time working as support staff or as a team leader in a hands-on environment such as transport or a trade to help you relate to the challenges of introducing change to a workforce of practically minded people. You enjoy finding resolutions to the customer’s concerns and taking ownership of problems.

Key responsibilities include: Analysis and interpretation of performance reports for transport fleets. Identifying changes in performance data and contributing ideas and suggestions to help our customers to continue to make operational improvements.

Whilst full training will be given, the following skills will give you a real advantage:
• Very PC literate: Web based tools and Microsoft Office
• Confident use of Microsoft Excel for analysis
• High level of accuracy for spelling and grammar
• Attention to detail
• Ability to communicate clearly and confidently in report writing, phone coaching and face to face meetings with customers
• Knowledge of the transport industry

The work environment
We are a small team focussed on providing the best possible information and remote support to our customers. You will be the primary point of contact for a group of customers and will provide feedback to each fleet manager based on analysis of their data.
The monthly cycle of the coaching programme provides a structure for the role which combines specific activities with the opportunity to take the initiative for further investigation and development of support material for your customers.

Applications Close 5pm Friday 14th March

If you are ready to be part of the next generation of management support for the transport industry, please send your CV with a covering letter explaining why you are right for this role to: Corinne Watson, Managing Director cwatson@ccslogistics.co.nz

We’re recruiting!

Customer Support role – Fleet Performance

In this Fleet Performance Coaching role, you will relish helping your fleet customers to improve performance, using their GPS data to measure results.

Working in a small team dedicated to making a difference, you will act as a remote team member for each of your customers.

You will:
• Provide a support service to our customer’s transport managers
• Analyse GPS and fuel data to find trends
• Research and make recommendations to enable transport managers to implement improvements

Do you respect the job of the heavy truck driver and want to help them to become even more professional?

In this varied role, you will be using data collected from fleet vehicles to monitor the performance of trucks and service vehicles. Your findings will help you to build an action plan to help the transport manager at each of your customers to improve the safety, productivity and fuel efficiency of his fleet.

Does this sound like you?
You are analytical, with great attention to detail. You have probably spent some time working as support staff or as a team leader in a hands-on environment such as transport or a trade to help you relate to the challenges of introducing change to a workforce of practically minded people. You enjoy finding resolutions to the customer’s concerns and taking ownership of problems.

Key responsibilities include: Analysis and interpretation of performance reports for transport fleets. Identifying changes in performance data and contributing ideas and suggestions to help our customers to continue to make operational improvements.

Whilst full training will be given, the following skills will give you a real advantage:
• Very PC literate: Web based tools and Microsoft Office
• Confident use of Microsoft Excel for analysis
• High level of accuracy for spelling and grammar
• Attention to detail
• Ability to communicate clearly and confidently in report writing, phone coaching and face to face meetings with customers
• Knowledge of the transport industry

The work environment
We are a small team focussed on providing the best possible information and remote support to our customers. You will be the primary point of contact for a group of customers and will provide feedback to each fleet manager based on analysis of their data.
The monthly cycle of the coaching programme provides a structure for the role which combines specific activities with the opportunity to take the initiative for further investigation and development of support material for your customers.

Applications Close 5pm Friday 14th March

If you are ready to be part of the next generation of management support for the transport industry, please send your CV with a covering letter explaining why you are right for this role to: Corinne Watson, Managing Director cwatson@ccslogistics.co.nz

Show me the money!!

When thousands of dollars is unaccounted for in your business you’d care wouldn’t you? I know I do.

The Gold rush has started, many more fleets are targeting fuel efficiency and we are busier than ever providing independent monitoring of fuel consumption figures.

I continue to be amazed at the number of litres of fuel which goes adrift each month. I’m not suggesting it is being stolen, it just isn’t accounted for. We have fleets which have literally thousands of litres of diesel not assigned to an individual truck. It really is very hard to improve something you can’t see, and when this is 20% of your whole company cost base, it’s time to sit up and take notice.

Fuel efficiency programmes have a few key pillars:

  1. Measure your fuel efficiency per truck
  2. Make sure your fuel records are correct for each truck
  3. Work out why your high performing trucks are so good and what you can learn from them
  4. Work out why your low performing trucks are so low, and what you can do about it
  5. Involve the drivers
  6. Train your drivers – it really is an investment not a cost.


1.    Measure your fuel efficiency per truck

It’s simple, isn’t it? Take your KMs, divide it by your litres. Job done – well, sort of:

2.    Make sure your fuel records are correct for each truck

Spare fuel cards, borrowed fuel cards between trucks, fuel cards that follow the driver not the truck (ever seen a driver run on diesel???) we need to monitor the diesel pumped into the right truck please. The list of reasons for losing track of the fuel used by each truck is huge, so I won’t go on, but if you don’t get this bit right, you can’t proceed to the next point:

3.    Work out why your high performing trucks are so good and what you can learn from them

Is it a particularly marvellous driver? If so what is he so good at? Is it astonishing new technology in the truck? Is it the route, the freight? What is it that makes this truck perform so well and how do you bottle it and feed it to the rest of your fleet?

4.    Work out why your low performing trucks are so low, and what you can do about it

Just like the point above, but the opposite…

 5.    Involve the drivers

If anyone can tell you in words of one syllable what makes this truck special, it’s the driver. He (or increasingly she..) spends more time in and around their truck than anyone else so will have a fair idea of what happens. Keep a pinch of salt handy, because your workshop and truck salesman might have something to add to the driver’s opinion.

6.    Train your drivers – it really is an investment not a cost.

It was worded quite flippantly, but the essence is true when a truck salesman said to me last week “these fleet owners will buy a truck over lunch, but choke on the cost of upskilling the driver to match the new truck.” There is no point buying a truck for the new sustainability features if you don’t give the driver the opportunity to understand how to use them. You may as well buy the cheaper truck and get and “eco –blah” badge off trademe for the grill.

If the fuel consumption of your truck doubles, or halves, you want to know why. If it’s an easy answer like a change of route, freight, or driver, you’ll know almost instinctively. If it is none of those things, you want to get in and have a look in case something expensive is about to happen in the engine bay. If all that has happened is that a driver has borrowed a fuel card and not filled in the docket to assign the fuel to the right truck, it is a lot of hullaballoo over nothing.

If you want to be the next poster fleet for fuel efficiency, it is the little things that make the difference… Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.


Thoughts from the road

I write this sitting on the Bluebridge ferry heading home after 2 weeks on the road catching up with customers and suppliers around the north island. 3,500 kms and 10 days of meetings do wonders for bringing back a sense of perspective.

My first observation is that driving is tiring. We all know this, we know fatigue is a big issue in our industry, I spend many hours a year researching and discussing it. But there is no substitute for experiencing it first hand and dealing with the very real conflict between what should be done (good quality rest, fresh fruit and veg, daily exercise) and the demands already planned for the day ahead (scheduled meetings, information to be collated and sent in time for someone else to use it). Suffice to say that, despite best intentions, my driving was much better on day 2 than it was on day 13. Fatigue is a real issue and we need to address it for our drivers.

Next, is the amazement that most of NZ has no concept of the far reaching implications of the missing propeller from the interislander. Fortunately I had booked my return sailing before all private booking started being declined. Will we continue to have bread, milk and Christmas pressies on the shelves of the SI retailers leading into Christmas? Most people I spoke with outside of transport operations had no grasp of the consequences of the rail capacity between islands being stuffed and that all freight must go by road, or the limited truck spaces available on the remaining 4 boats. Transport is still an invisible industry to most of the population. The value of those big / intimidating / slow trucks is completely lost on them.

Spending so much time out of the office gave me time to reflect what a small family our transport industry is. Despite the public spats, there is a very high level of co-operation and close relationship between many operators. I have often spoken with people who never intended to get into transport, but who now wouldn’t leave the industry for anything short of a major lotto win. Transport is, for the most part full of genuine people doing what they love, offering a great service and striving to look after their staff and the community in which they work.

On my travels I have heard many tales of ruthless technology sales people hell bent on convincing operators that without this latest and greatest widget / system installed in their business, the world will end very soon. There is too much technology being touted without any obvious link to solving the real problems that you are facing. There are likewise, too many “solutions” being offered to problems that don’t yet exist. There is a sales technique called “hurt and rescue,.” It encourages the sales person to dwell on the pain / potential pain that you need to be feeling in order for them to “rescue” you with the sale of their product / service. If the pain that they are describing to you feels irrelevant to your current challenges, it probably is. You know what your business is struggling with. You may not know all the options, but you know instinctively if something feels right, and if it will work for you. Don’t do something because you think you “should.” Don’t work with a supplier because you think they are the market leader so they must know what they are doing, work with them because you feel they are listening to your priorities and will work for your best interests, not their own.

Two suppliers to the transport industry offering “it sounds very important” services have gone bust this week. With both, at the time they approached me to work together, I thought my business could fail if I didn’t get involved with them. After a week of sleepless nights considering the merits of working alongside each of them I stuck with my gut feel, continued to go it alone,  and braced myself for the inevitable peer pressure (real or perceived) for going against the flow.

That’s two “wonder solutions” that CCS Logistics has outlasted – and that is just this year. CCS Logistics is almost 9 years old. Yesterday I was talking with a business that has been going for 77 years.  The ones that went bust lasted less than 2 years each. If you have what it takes to start a business, back yourself to keep it going based on your instincts, not what others tell you “you should” be doing.

Make sure you get some rest and relaxation in this holiday season – next year will be just as demanding as last year and we need you with a clear head to keep the country moving.

The operation of the future.

At the weekend, I somehow ended up running 5kms round the back of Rakaia via a bunch of “muddy challenges” – waterslides, commando crawls etc etc as part of the Muddy Good Run event.

I was pleasantly surprised to see drivers from at least two transport companies running alongside me – in their work shirts. Because, despite the CVIU roadside “health stops” and Gwynne Pennell’s stark warnings at the RTF conference in Rotorua last year, I wasn’t convinced that our industry was ready to face up to the changes that must come, if the industry is going to make the gains in the next 100 years that is has in the last 100.

Many of the people who set up the key operations in the industry today are still working in the background of those companies, even if it looks as though their son is manning the front desk. Let’s face it, our industry is characterised by a bunch of fat old men.

In the last couple of years, big changes have been made – we’ve introduced HPMV’s, ORS, smart phones, email newsletters and even electronic purchases of RUC. But we also have some massive challenges ahead of us – dad will eventually retire (one way or another), we don’t have enough drivers, fuel prices will keep rising, customers price expectations won’t rise at all, and the bureaucracy will increase – trying to keep us “safe” as more and more teenagers get their licenses and clog up the roads.

The future is not a place for fat old men. It is not a place for the faint hearted, or those averse to change. We can’t manage all of the hurdles ahead with an A3 dispatch pad, an RT and a handful of drivers who are too stubborn to realise that the driving skills they learnt on the farm in the 70’s are not helping them to get the best out of the 2013 Euro 6, fully automatic 50 tonne rig they have just been gifted with their new job.

If, as an industry, we are to get ahead and run a safe, efficient and profitable operation despite the best efforts of regulators, customers and staff, we need some bright young things to help us to understand technology, some people skills to help the drivers to become a part of the company “team” despite spending little time at the yard, and we need to change our perceptions of the ideal employee.

The next technology heading your way is electronic log books. – Automatic date, time and location stamping of every log book entry. Let’s not muck about, this is becoming compulsory around the world, the UK tachographs were just being updated to digital monitoring when I left 10 years ago, the US and Australia are heading in this direction too – so don’t think it won’t happen here.

The pace of change will continue to increase, to stay on top of it, we need to be fit, alert and adaptable. This goes for our staff and our organisational culture too. In 10 years time, will the business still be run by fat old men, working longer hours than get written into the log book and doing business on a handshake? We all need to start working out how to make those changes proactively, before it gets done to us.

In the mean time, lay off the pies and take yourself for a walk around the block once a week – we need you to be around long enough to help us to make the changes that will encourage the next generation to take over. So, a big well done to the boys from Philip Wareing Contractors and Fonterra with a 5km run under their belt today.

Fuel vs Technology

It was really good to hear other people beating the drum on fuel efficiency at the RTF conference. In particular, the presentation from Ken Russell (BP Fuel distribution) highlighted both the upside and the frustrations of implementing a fuel efficiency programme.

Close to delivering a 10% improvement in fuel efficiency across a fleet of 35 vehicles, Ken certainly had many operators believing it may actually be possible in their own fleet. It always feels much more real when an operator stands up and tells the story, rather than us suppliers, and / or government agencies banging on about it.

One of the frustrations I heard from this case study, was that 3 different GPS systems were a part of the solution:

  • EROAD for their standard fleet management,
  • MiX telematics was subsequently installed in addition to EROAD to provide remote access to the engine management data to access fuel efficiency figures per driver
  • Navman – was installed in their third party driver trainer’s vehicle to provide engine management stats for their driving tests.

Anyone who works with GPS data on a regular basis knows that every system has its challenges, but it is rare to find anyone brave enough to install a second system to overcome the shortcomings of the first.

One of the good news stories that came out of this initiative for BP, aside from the obvious and significant financial saving, was the growth in their people. Drivers who were previously being lined up for disciplinary offences, became caught up in the programme and became recipients of the “most improved” monthly award.

Whilst it is easy to get lost in the maze of options to save fuel, from widgets, gadgets, research papers, workshops, additives, driver training options, and general hype, the basics are pretty simple.  Know what your goal is, make sure you can measure your improvement and encourage your staff to get involved.

The financial saving to your fleet is going to be significant. The overall value to your operation will be much more. Having drivers who understand how their driving habits affect the service provided to your customers takes a lot of pressure off. Being rewarded for taking the initiative and generally “doing the right thing” encourages your drivers to contribute far more to your business than just shifting stuff from A to B. Operating costs go down – not just fuel, but other R&M costs too. Your staff become more of a family – communicating between themselves more effectively and so the cost of rework and half loaded trucks goes down too.

So we are all talking about fuel efficiency because real dollars saved are worth every cent in this industry, but if you want to run a really efficient business, looking at fuel efficiency is just a convenient starting point for moving your operation to the next level. We are seeing our customers experience major shifts in perspective as their results in one area spur them onto greater application in the next.

You don’t necessarily need 3 GPS systems to get you there but, as this case study shows, the right attitude will take you on an interesting journey to a rewarding destination.

Why does my idling look too high?

It looks like we started a craze a couple of years ago when we started publishing the fuel efficiency results of some of our customers – some of those same case studies are still being reproduced in the current magazines to inspire others to get started.

Managing fuel efficiency is both easy and difficult…

It is easy as it is a way to help you bring all of your goals for your business into something that you can involve your drivers in and it becomes a core theme for doing things right. It is always easier to work on something that you are passionate about than something you are told you “should do” but you aren’t yet completely convinced why.

But it’s hard because sometimes things happen that you can’t explain, and in those moments, it can all seem too hard.

One of our first fuel efficiency case studies that we published got results by only focussing on speeding and idling. This was JPM Holdings who achieved 13% savings. This case study has been reproduced by EECA and also forms part of an NZTA study on fuel efficiency. The simplicity of this exercise has seen its ongoing publicity.

Stick with the stuff that makes sense, that you genuinely believe in. Yes it’s true that everything in your business contributes to fuel efficiency – truck specifications, maintenance routines, etc etc… but our experience shows that if you take on too much, your day job gets in the way and the whole project gets dropped. In my book, a little progress is better than no progress, so never forget that it is OK to take things slowly and achieve a little more each year.

I’ve spent the last few months of this column highlighting the pitfalls that need to be avoided with measuring speeds, but idling is a silent festering hole all of it’s own.

Here are the basics:

1.    Running all day

Years ago, trucks took ages to get up to temperature and build up air pressure. This is no longer the case, but a few drivers still go by the old principles – turn your truck on in the morning, off at night, and don’t touch the ignition in between times. We need to find these guys and help them update their processes.

2.    PTO’s etc

Some trucks have various gadgets hanging off them which requires the engine to be running whist the vehicle is loading or unloading – PTO’s are a prime example.

3.    Not all trucks are created equal

A task that one truck needs to be running for, a similar truck may not need to be. Swing lift container trucks, and refrigeration units come in two breeds –

  1. those that run off the truck motor (so the truck must be left running to swing a box, or run the fridge), and
  2. those that have an independent motor (so the truck can be shut down whilst the boxes are swung on and off, or the fridge is left running).

4.    Electronics

Electronic scales and electronic self-levelling suspension, music radio, RT’s, job screens, and handsfree phone kits all vary in the way they work – whether the engine needs to be running, or only the electronics need to be live, or they can operate when the truck is completely switched off, will all vary by device.

5.    Smart trucks

Despite what the driver tells the truck to do, trucks increasingly manage themselves. Examples include:

  1. Idle timers that turn the truck off if it is left idling for more than a few minutes, and
  2. turbo timers that leave the engine running for a few minutes even though the ignition has been switched off.

The definition of idling in terms of how your GPS system normally measures it is: vehicle is not moving, engine running.

So here’s a quick quiz. In each of the 5 situations described above, which would a standard GPS system report your truck as idling?

  1. Yes
  2. Yes
    1. Yes
    2. No
    3. It depends
      1. Yes
      2. No

Twice in the last month I have had operators approach me to discuss their idling reports having just installed their GPS system into their fleet.

“Damn! Why didn’t you ring me two months ago?” is my usual response – getting your idling data correct, is best sorted at install. The GPS system isn’t to blame, but its support staff should have discussed it with you.

The key to getting idling reporting correctly is to know which of the above 5 are factors in your fleet.

The GPS systems needs to know two things:

  1. Is the truck moving?
  2. Is the engine running?

The first question is a basic GPS function. The second needs to be carefully thought about.

If you say nothing, your GPS installer will probably use the ignition as the input that tells the GPS if the engine is running or not.

Situations where this will just not work for you include: idle timer has shut down the truck, truck is parked up but the driver is listening to the RT / music radio, hazard lights are needed whilst unloading. It will also report valid unloading activity like pumping concrete (PTO) and using a PTO-powered swinglift as unproductive idling.

Talk to your maintenance provider about the best source of engine on / off input for your GPS system as the “key” thing to remember is that the ignition key is not the thing to use.

Are you paying out bonuses unnecessarily?

The ORS has become a slippery fish – will it be made public? Or not? But really that question no longer matters as it has already served its purpose with most operators and many customers now seeing it as a valid measure of the standard at which a fleet is being managed. It has put a spotlight on two key areas that previously were in the “too hard” basket; the quality of driver / workshop maintenance checks, and driving behaviour on the road.

Combine this with the increasing focus on fuel efficiency, and it is clear that your driver is more than an ambassador when at your customer’s gate and showcasing your brand on the road. Good drivers are the difference between a 5 star ORS and a 3 star ORS, and the difference between spending up to $300 extra in fuel per truck per week.

No wonder then, that many operators are looking into performance bonus programmes for their drivers. It is one thing to offer a driver a good starting wage based on a belief of superior skills, and quite another to see those skills in action every day.

With a bonus scheme, the driver has to demonstrate those skills every day to earn top dollar. With a good starting wage, the wrong guy could end up with the extra cash, and you, the owner, could still end up with all the bills that trail in his wake.

It is no surprise then, that your previously underused GPS system is being dusted down for use as the basis of your driver bonus scheme, but before you start, there are some ground rules. Two biggies, with regard to speed management that have re-appeared at the top of our “Frequently asked questions” list over the last couple of months are:

  1. Which figures do I use to measure speed for my drivers?
  2. Is my Driver ID working properly?

Speed is a major in terms of both your ORS and the likelihood of a premature conversation with your insurance company. It can also be a big factor your fuel bill.

  1. Which figures do I use to measure speed for my drivers?

Just to be clear, the speed limits for Class 4 and 5 trucks is 90km/h. That’s on the flat as well as down hill. The police will normally allow you a tolerance of 5 km/h – meaning if you nudge up to 95km/h you should be OK. But driving at 95km/h and nudging beyond that is not OK.

So the smart people are measuring all speed events over 90 km/h. BUT watch out for these pitfalls:

  1. Some GPS systems have decided for you that you only need to measure over 96km/h (i.e. beyond the police tolerance),
  2. Some systems haven’t really thought about it at all and you can only measure over 100km/h (i.e. the car speed limit).

Make sure you know what you are measuring, and how that fits with the police’s view, your safety guidance, and the fuel efficient operating range for your trucks.

This is the big one though:

  1. Is my Driver ID working properly?

If you have Driver ID so you can log speed events against an individual driver to go towards your bonus calculations…. You’ll need to check that the driver is logged in. The fastest way for a Driver with a heavy right foot to guarantee a “zero speed event score” is to not log in… so make sure you check how many hours the driver has been logged in for each day / week / month, or how many kms are clocked up against each ID, before you pay out the bonus.

And the fastest mover on our FAQ list is yet to make number one, but it won’t be long until we need a definitive answer to this one;

  1. “My new trucks have fuel efficiency technology that only kicks in at 95 km/h. How do I stay legal, but still get the critical cost saving benefits of this technology?”

When is a speeding event not a speeding event? – Part 2

Have you ever wondered why your monthly GPS reports show a different top speed to the one you saw on your speedo that day? Or why your speedo and your engine management display show different speeds?

Speeding was listed as the cause of 25% of truck crashes in 2012, and enforcement agencies and fleet managers are increasingly using speed management as a basis for underpinning safety programmes and, in some cases, driver bonus schemes.

With more and more technology around, there are more ways than ever to check if you are driving at the right speed. But which one is the right one? Which one can you trust? And will your boss and / or the police be using the same speed record as you?

Speed is a measure of how fast you are moving across the ground. It doesn’t sound complicated, but trying to measure it accurately is. And it’s partly for the same reasons that there is a difference in the distance recorded between your mechanical hubo and your speedo.

The speedo in your truck is most likely reading from a mechanical source (like the gear box) and calculating the speed that the truck is travelling. This is subject to variances such as:

  • The size of your wheels being the same as the manufacturer expected
  • How worn your tyres are
  • How worn your drive train is
  • Whether the sensor or cable carrying the speed information is worn

As an example, after a puncture up the East cape, I had to put a tyre on my motorbike that was 5mm higher profile than I normally use. This affected the accuracy of my speedo by 5%. Essentially, the bike thought it was travelling at one speed, but it had no way of knowing that the wheel had suddenly become bigger, so it couldn’t account for the difference.

As you drive down some stretches of road there is a helpful “your speed” indicator to save you the trouble of glancing down at your dashboard. Have you ever glanced down anyway, to find that your speedo is reading higher than the speed on the sign? These signs use radar (think Police speed radar) and calculate the time it takes the radar signal to bounce back from your truck. Vehicle manufacturers appear to “err on the side of caution” when displaying the speed to you in their vehicle. It doesn’t take too much to imagine the court cases in the USA if your speedo accuracy earned you a speeding ticket when you thought you were travelling at the right speed. We have seen speedos that show your speed as being up to 10% faster than your true speed, to keep you safe.

Your GPS uses satellites to work out its own position relative to those satellites using triangulation. Then it works out where it was, where it is now, and works out how long it has taken to travel between the two points. So GPS is telling you how fast you are travelling over the ground, but it is still calculated, not an instant speed.  Because sometimes the GPS signal can get distorted by physical things blocking the GPS signal, the speed is not perfect, and many GPS systems check that you have maintained a speed for a number of seconds before it will add it to the GPS records that the manager can see. Things that can block the GPS include:

  • Metal walls (think warehouses),
  • Tall buildings (think Auckland CBD), or
  • Natural rock walls (think the Lyttelton access road before the Tunnel)

This can mean that if you have GPS speeds listed on the wall in your smoko room, they could be lower than you were expecting for two reasons:

  1. Your speedo is reading high to keep you safe
  2. Your GPS system dismissed a high speed because you only hit it briefly

On the other hand, if the GPS shows a speed that is well above what you have ever seen on your truck speedo, check where it happened, to see if there is anything there that could have confused the GPS.

Oh, and a word to the wise, if you are looking at speeds in urban speed zones, dig out my article from May for the things that can catch you out when GPS is used to check speeds anywhere other than the open road.

Eating the elephant

An interesting discussion this week, when I asked a supervisor “is the speed limit different going downhill?” He was super quick off the mark with his answer; “of course it is!” Something made him think about what he’d just said as he followed it up with a bit of umming and ahhing and “there’s a bit of leniency on hills though isn’t there…?”

On the whole though, the tide does seem to be turning. These discussions were not even being had 5 years ago, and now there is a definite sense that operators are taking another look at what is happening to their brand and their costs on the road.

A glance through the agenda for the upcoming forums shows a topic list of “compliance, profitability, compliance, risk management, compliance…” Spot the theme?

No matter the varied opinions on it, the Operator Rating System is having an effect. In addition, GPS records are increasingly being referred to post-event by both operators and officials, and e-log books are on their way. There is a gradual recognition that it is time to work within the system rather than to keep trying to beat it. Rising insurance premiums, withholding of permits, finance conditions and other external factors that can strangle a business are driving that message home.

Operators who have grown a successful business from one truck to 30+ through sheer hard work and gut feel are now ready to shine a torch in a few dark corners and get their housekeeping in order. If this is you, the problem you may well be facing is that you are already busy, and everything you look at feels like a big project on top of the day to day running of the business. As always, where there is a need, there is suddenly a whole industry of solutions springing up. There are a lot of people out there offering advice that starts with a “you should….”

As a business owner, when I’ve been looking for advice, as we all have to at some stage, advice that starts with “you should” sends me into a fit of despair – because I am already busy and adding things to my job list just means it will take longer before they get started. What I have found works best for me is to share the load – get some of my people onto the problem, agree why we need to change and how all of our jobs will become easier when we have made the change. That way we are all committed to working towards the goal, it isn’t another “whim of the boss” that my staff feel they have to fit in with. From improving one thing, we can then logically move onto the next thing as the first improvement was so good, we want to keep going.

Likewise, if you are getting the feeling that it is time to address a few compliance niggles, try to look for a way that you can involve your staff, and keep consistent encouragement to keep improving, and communicate how things are progressing. Sending a couple of people on a course, in isolation, will motivate those two for a couple of weeks, but with no changes to the operation, they will soon sink back to the old ways. Speed limiting the trucks might cut out a bit of speeding, but it will also aggravate the drivers if you don’t warn them it’s happening and explain why. If you can’t or don’t have regular staff meetings, at least find a bit of space on your notice board to provide an update about “this month’s goal” and leave space to get some feedback. A lot of thinking goes on, on the road and some of it is really useful.

I’ve used this column in a number of ways over the months that I have been writing, but whilst I truly believe technology is a fantastic tool you will also have noticed my desire is to have technology recognised as being no more than a tool, not the whole answer. Technology can help you to investigate what has happened, measure how much it happens and communicate to a lot of people very quickly if this is OK or not. To get the benefits of that, it is so important that your personality and genuine desire to run the best transport business in town come through.