While first-grade footballers are at the top of their game, they still have a coach to get the most out of their on-field performance.
In much the same way, truck drivers are professionals, but for many, a guiding hand can improve work habits, with many unexpected advantages.
Educating transport drivers isn’t simply a task for newcomers to the industry; veterans can fall into traps with their driving style, and from time to time may need a nudge back on course to get the most out of their chosen craft.
Modern trucks are complex beasts, with new technologically advanced systems in play that when utilised correctly, offer significant advantages over older machinery.
An obvious aim of driver training is to reduce fuel consumption, with companies that have committed to education initiatives seeing fuel savings of up to 30 per-cent.
However, the knock-on effects for these businesses run deeper than a simple improvement to the bottom line on the spreadsheet.
There are many contributing factors that lead to the optimal working conditions for a given truck, from an easing up on the right foot, to a change in gear shifting strategy, or even the way cargo is loaded.
Well-structured training leads to less fuel use, which in turn means less harmful emissions and less wear and tear on equipment, which reduces the cost of maintenance and downtime, while it also improves the working conditions for the driver.
This last point is an important factor for an industry that will be growing into the future, as companies are looking to attract and retain good quality employees.
A positive stemming from superior staff is that they are the frontline for a business, and a major factor in building a brand’s reputation.
A matter of technique
In motorsport, races can often come down to a battle of fuel conservation – the balancing act between going as fast as possible, while not using surplus propellant.
Techniques to maintain a steady and safe speed, use of cruise control, improve clutch and acceleration to avoid excessive braking, revving and idling can in part be transferred to every day life in the transport industry.
For starters, there is a massive gain to be had in being smooth, both in braking and accelerating.
Improvements can be achieved by understanding traffic flow and driving to minimise the time spent idling at intersections – burning fuel for a zero gain in forward movement.
Reading what is happening on cross roads at traffic lights can deliver savings; why bother accelerating heavily to a light you know will be turning red?
Understanding how to drive to the terrain also has advantages – there is often no point in charging over the crest of a hill, which uses more diesel on the way up, and harder use of the brakes on the way down.
Knowledge of local roads utilised in daily routines and checking the weather conditions can ultimately be used to a driver’s advantage. It might be time to invest in the latest technologies such as satellite navigation systems to determine the most efficient route for your journey.
Transmission use is an important factor in saving fuel, especially with skipping gears and short shifting, i.e. not using maximum revs, while trucks fitted with a retarder can save greatly on the wear and tear of the service brakes.
Outside of truck-based efficiencies, reducing stress on the driver has far reaching implications.
Occupational factors such as driver ergonomics behind the wheel, to optimal ingress and egress from the cabin, can improve staff wellbeing, which flows on to greater job satisfaction and less turnover.
Like driving styles, factors such as improving aerodynamics by arranging your load as low as possible at the centre of the truck and behind the cab can produce efficiencies.
Everyone is different
While the above is a general outline, there are many sectors that have unique factors that require tailored tuition.
Specialist applications, for example off road operation, or perhaps in dedicated arenas such as portside work, attract a different set of conditions.
That said, no matter the field, a refresher on applicable industry rules and regulations can help keep a fleet moving safely.
There are multiple ways to deliver driving training programs, using experts, or by the proper understanding of telematics data, but no matter what, experience has shown that continued feedback provides the best results.
Educating staff on safe driving techniques empowers them with more confidence on the road.
Even if you are a driver and don’t pay for the fuel in your truck, make it a project to improve, challenge yourself and set targets to reach.
At the end of the day, driving technique and style is all about attitudes – with winners all round from better performance.