Bear with me here…I attend a fairly large church here in Jackson. And a few years ago I felt a push to become involved in the youth ministry at my church. I figured what better way to know what I had in store with my two young boys than to attempt corralling a group of middle school guys. Don’t get me wrong; I’m no saint or youth minister by any stretch…however, the youth ministry in our church and our community is large enough such that the official youth ministers need some help. So we take the overall youth group (around 200 kids) and break them into smaller groups called D-Groups (Disciple Groups), with each group having a D-Group leader (which is what I decided to become). The concept is that you start out with a group of sixth grade guys and stay with them over the years until they graduate high school. So far, I’ve survived almost 4 years and my guys are finishing up ninth grade.
Here is some of my group of rag-a-muffin guys at a youth retreat last year (with the two small ones being my own children who visited us that weekend)…
When I agreed to be a D-Group leader, I had all these grandiose visions of how I was going to teach them from the error of my ways and set them on the right path. I was seriously delusional enough to think that a group of sixth grade boys, fresh out of school for the day on a Wednesday night, were going to sit idly by while I wax poetic about the mistakes I made to set them on the straight and narrow. To say I was wrong would be the grossest misstatement ever made by a human!
What I quickly came to know was that I was going to learn much more from them about being a better Christian and human being than they would ever learn from me. Life lesson…Always be open to learning in the most unsuspected situations and circumstances.
Fast forward to this past December when I was attending a Maintenance Council meeting for the Mississippi Trucking Association. I am primarily a blood and guts liability guy that defends trucking companies that are involved in accidents, while doing some trucking corporate work here and there. I admittedly joined the Maintenance Council for marketing purposes, and at this particular meeting in December, I didn’t think I would get much information from a liability perspective when I found out the topic of discussion was on fuel economy. Boy was I wrong!
At the Maintenance Council meeting that day, we had two phenomenal speakers, Joe Stianche and Bob Wessels, who were very knowledgeable about fuel consumption and fuel economy. What I didn’t realize when they began speaking was that they were about to open my eyes as to how this plays into liability concerns of a company.
Joe Stianche began the presentation by saying that at the end of the day, the driver effects fuel, not any of the added equipment on the trucks. He went on to explain that the average fuel numbers mean nothing if you don’t know your drivers and their driving habits.
Joe stated that the benefits of fuel economy included:
- Lower maintenance costs
- Fewer accidents
- Increased fleet utilization
- Environmental stewardship
- Competitive advantage
Joe went on to explain that driver behavior can account for up to a 30% variation in fuel efficiency, and there is tremendous power in ranking and posting to all the company drivers where drivers fall on the efficiency scale (think locker room ragging).
About this time, Bob Wessels stepped in and pointed out something very telling to me when it comes to liability concerns. Bob explained that drivers with a bad history of fuel consumption have the following characteristics:
- They are always in a hurry
- They are paycheck takees (caring nothing about the company morale)
- They are typically mad at “something”
- They have no great interest in trucking
- They are aggravated by small “rattles” in the truck
On the flip side, Bob explained that the fix is fairly simple:
- Understand that fuel economy and saving on miles per gallon is not the driver’s primary job. Safety, undamaged cargo and vehicles, on-time shipments and happy customers are what they are focusing on. So help them worry less about fuel economy by implementing whatever technology is fiscally feasible for you.
- Know that drivers have tons of distractions (lack of home life, shippers harping on them, safe driving). The more the driver knows that a company understands, respects and sympathizes with these distractions, the more likely the driver is to care about you as a company and do everything they can to protect that.
Improvement in fuel economy, and all the benefits that come with fuel-efficient safe drivers, can result in a 10-20% improvement in your bottom line. And that doesn’t even take into account the greater improvement if you are self-insured or saving on your insurance premium deductibles with less crashes.
Drivers with excellent fuel economy miles-per-gallon numbers rarely get upset about anything and are never in a hurry, regardless of the conditions they are driving in. Regardless of their age, they drive like seasoned veterans and do it safely. And safe drivers means less accidents.
If you look at the characteristics of the drivers with bad fuel economy numbers, and compare those drivers to the drivers that have been involved in accidents over the years, it’s a pretty good chance that you are going to see a correlation. I would bet that you will see that the behaviors of drivers with poor fuel economy numbers are at an increased risk for accidents.
Accidents can never be predicted and I’m not suggesting they can. But if safety means something to you, and you care about your crash history and want to lower the bottom line numbers effect that crashes have, paying attention to fuel consumption and fuel economy may start meaning more to you than just cutting fuel costs.