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How Truck Driver Performance Debriefs Improve Route Efficiency

How Truck Driver Performance Debriefs Improve Route Efficiency

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How Truck Driver Performance Debriefs Improve Route Efficiency

Nov 24, 2020

Jason McCourt
cartoon semitruck

Truck driver performance is critical to running an efficient fleet. In the past drivers were pretty much out of sight once they left dispatch with a load. Good performance was simply a matter of returning with an empty truck and no incoming complaints from customers about late or missed deliveries.

That’s changed.

We can now automatically record all activities along a route, from the moment the vehicle passes a virtual fence around the dispatch area to the point of return. Route execution software can compare the actual route driven to the planned one via GPS tracking and CAN bus data — information from microcontrollers and devices inside the vehicle — provided by tracking/telematics systems.

More details lead to greater improvements

The key items to measure are mileage and duty time. Drivers who drive more than planned burn more fuel, add costs and risk generating fines for running afoul of hours of service limitations. Added levels of detail in a truck driver performance debrief make for increased opportunities to improve operational efficiency, cut costs and increase customer service levels. In the past, you could ask, “Why did you drive 50 miles more than the planned route?” or “Why did you take an hour longer than predicted to complete the route?” The answer could be vague — construction on a main highway or congestion at a delivery site.

That conversation can be far more focused on actual events with the level of data now available. The questions might be: “Why did you make this unscheduled stop? Why were you idling for 40 minutes at a stop scheduled for 20 minutes? Why did you alter the sequence of stops?” The driver’s answer may well be both justified and useful and can be incorporated in future route plans. The overall goal is to generate continuously improved route plans and delivery operations rather than repeating the same mistakes day after day.

If a driver knows a better or faster way to a customer site or between destinations, you want to know about that and incorporate that knowledge into the next route plan. Tracking/telematic systems can also help identify drivers who are revving the engine excessively due to bad gear-shifting practices or unnecessarily driving back and forth on the same stretch of road in order to burn duty time and avoid being called back to run a second trip.

Another advantage of automated gathering of actual route data is that, in the past, a driver would typically just scribble down his time on a piece of paper for input manually, possibly days later. The driver could be forgiven for failing to remember exactly what happened on a route by the time somebody got around to the debrief.

Now, because the report is generated immediately, any deviations can be addressed right at the end of a driver’s shift. At some customer sites served by Paragon Route Execution by Aptean, returning drivers are directed to re-enter the depot via colored lanes. The green lane indicates the driver can go straight home because the system shows little variance between the route plan and the actual route. The red lane indicates the driver must come in for a debrief to explain the plan versus actual variance. That way, the debrief takes place when the day’s activities are fresh in a driver’s mind.

Scorecards that fit your business goals

The driver activity report can take a variety of forms and advanced route optimization software vendors such as Paragon from Aptean can adapt reporting to fit whatever the user already focuses on or wishes to use. Typically, the driver scorecard includes information from dashboards and other extracted information, combined into a spreadsheet with items printed out and marked in red, amber and green.

Details include:

  • Miles driven

  • Time driven

  • Planned vs. actual route taken

  • Fuel consumed

  • Idling time

  • Harsh braking events

  • Excessive speeding

There is no right way to use driver scorecards. It’s up to how you give weight to different truck driver performance factors and that may change over time. Safety concerns may cause you to put more emphasis on harsh braking or speeding. You might choose to focus on improving on-time delivery performance. Your debrief processes and scorecard structure should reflect the KPIs that are most important to your business. This is about a lot more than a dispatcher trying to improve everyday operational performance.

Many businesses choose to post truck driver performance metrics on a board in the break room, broadcasting to everyone who are the top and bottom performers. Some even give out monthly awards based on these metrics. This creates healthy competition between drivers to perform better.

There can be initial pushback from drivers about being monitored in this exacting way but it’s important to remember that rogue drivers are the minority. Identifying them sooner is better for everyone. Drivers soon come to understand that detailed delivery driver debriefs lead to plans that are not only realistic and achievable but are also balanced fairly between the drivers. There’s far less chance that one driver is going to get all the difficult, long routes while another habitually gets the short, easy ones with carefully planned and monitored routes.

A golden opportunity

There’s a golden opportunity to link tracking information with route plans, and to perform immediate, detailed debriefs with more and more transportation operators making increasing use of vehicle tracking technology. The real-world information that combines tracking data with driver input can provide planners with the insight they need to make delivery routes more realistic and schedules more achievable, ensuring satisfied customers and happier drivers who are more likely to stay.

For more information about how you can use route optimization software to achieve better truck driver performance, contact Paragon from Aptean today.

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