NACFE’s recent “Run on Less” event, where several hand-picked trucks were driven across the country to demonstrate the trucking industry’s improvement in fuel economy, was an interesting industry event for sure. It showed that with enough investments in new engine and drive train technology, the use of enough aerodynamic aids, and “public spotlight” pressure on drivers, high MPG results (even 10 MPG) are possible, at least in a controlled “contest” environment like the well publicized and carefully monitored “Run on Less” event. That’s certainly good to know, and a credit to the advanced technology coming off the truck OEM’s factory floors, the fleets and drivers making use of this technology and the public relations efforts of valuable organizations like NACFE, who continue to help educate the public on the significant fuel economy progress being made by the trucking industry. 

But how does that translate into the real world, where not every fleet (and not every truck) is as well equipped, and not every driver is as well motivated, as what was tee’d up in Run On Less?  The vast majority of trucks moving America’s freight every day do not have all the fuel efficiency add-ons as the trucks that were volunteered for Run On Less. More importantly, although the potential to optimize trucks through mechanical configuration certainly has value, Run On Less did not seem to specifically assess or quantifiably measure the largest influence on real world fuel efficiency, namely, the driver.

Run On Less did acknowledge the importance of drivers generally and cited some interesting anecdotes about some of the drivers’ attempts to help the demonstration event achieve its high MPG goals. Not surprisingly, it also acknowledged that charging the drivers to drive fuel efficiently across the country, without really empowering them with specific tools to help them to do so, actually created tiring pressure on them. It recommended, going forward, driver fuel efficiency training and even incentivizing drivers for fuel efficient driving, but it did not really say much about how best to do this nor how to fairly measure or specifically assess the driver’s role in achieving results like those achieved in the Run On Less event. 

That doesn’t seem right or fair to the men and women moving 80% of America’s GDP throughout each year. It’s easy for us to lose track of the driver as we project all of the ways that future technologies can transform the equipment, but the truth is that drivers will always play a key role in fuel economy, no matter how modern their truck is or how much technology has been built into it.

Why does this matter? The steadily rising cost of diesel fuel is again a significant concern for fleets.  But it’s not the only one. The ongoing driver shortage and the high rate of turnover affecting the trucking industry as a whole is another major obstacle. What if you could address both these challenges at the same time, with technology that saves fuel and gives drivers a reason to better engage with their fleet and stick around long-term? Technology that gives drivers automated assistance in achieving the highest fuel efficiency possible, and automatically and fairly measures their professional accomplishments in fuel efficiency, apart from—and regardless of—their truck, load or route, so that you can properly recognize and reward them?

Getting Drivers Invested in Fuel Savings

Without some kind of incentive or personal stake, drivers have little reason to be motivated to drive in the most fuel-efficient way possible. It’s not their money being lost, and some of the ways drivers are compensated (e.g. pay by mile) can even unwittingly encourage fuel inefficient driving. In prior times the threat of discipline or loss of employment could be used to provoke better driving habits from a fuel perspective, but few fleets these days are willing to approach drivers this way given the imbalance between freight moving demands and driver availability.

But drivers can still make a huge difference on fuel, even with the most modern and well equipped tractors, so it only makes sense to engage them constructively with a real financial incentive that genuinely motivates them to achieve maximum fuel efficiency. That way, you’re not just saving on fuel but you’re also giving the driver a reason to stick around and work harder — saving on the massive costs of turnover and recruitment too.

To be sure, higher pay isn’t the only way to motivate drivers to perform at a higher level and commit to the fleet. They’re also looking for respect and recognition for the job they do. There’s so much value in finding a means to celebrate the driver’s personal role in increasing fuel efficiency, and showing them that the fleet is just as invested in them as it is in the trucks they drive.

The True Fuel® Difference

The perfect “invisible coach in the cab”, True Fuel® normalizes factors that MPG as reported by telematics or other systems can’t account for, like the truck, the load, the route and the external environmental conditions — factors that the driver can’t control and shouldn’t be measured by. It automatically quantifies driver fuel efficiency apart from the other factors impacting MPG. With real-time, in-cab coaching that focuses only on the fuel efficiency factors that the drivers can actively control, like engine speed, idling time, and highway speed, drivers are empowered and enabled to improve their fuel efficiency–and with True Fuel they can get rewarded in the process, with a completely fair and transparent measure of their professional fuel-efficiency accomplishment.

True Fuel® and a rewards system built behind it provide a realistic way to show drivers that your fleet values them. With precise metrics operating in real-time, every driver is assessed fairly no matter their truck or driving situation, provided with the guidance they need to improve, and equipped to be the best they can be.

This kind of fair reward system serves two purposes: it recognizes, rewards, and engages the driver in their own improvement, and it finally gets the fuel economy goals of the driver and fleet leadership to fully align—in a positive and respectful way. Drivers are motivated by the same goal as fleet leaders: to perform at a high level, save fuel, and help the fleet succeed. Drivers become more than just workers; they become partners both in their own personal success and in the success of the fleet as a whole.

Imagine if your entire fleet of drivers was engaged in this fashion day in and day out, with an automated driver coaching aid and fair and transparent data on how well they’re doing always available to them and giving them a fair chance to earn more money for achieving better fuel results? How much more driver engagement would you have and what would that do for your fuel costs and your fleet performance overall? The fuel-saving technologies highlighted by Run on Less can help optimize your trucks as they leave the terminal, but once they are out on the road, only True Fuel® can empower and excite your drivers to make fuel efficiency their own mission on a day in, day out basis.