By Aaron Huff
Tennant Truck Lines recently moved from an overcrowded family farmhouse in Orion, Ill., to a $3 million facility in Colona, Ill. Over the next two years, the open-deck carrier plans to grow from 184 to 250 trucks and add 50 new jobs that pay $40,000 a year on average.
“It was tough to invest in technology during the recession,” says Aaron Tennant, president. “We were watching every dollar that flowed out of here. Today, although our margins are not where we would like them to be, we are looking forward. We want to invest in any cost-savings technology to help improve on margins and to provide value and solidify our position with customers.”
We want to invest in any cost-savings technology to help improve on margins and to provide value and solidify our position with customers.”
– Aaron Tennant, president, Tennant Truck Lines
When revenues spiraled down in 2008 and 2009, Tennant – like most fleet executives – had to cut costs dramatically to survive. As business rebounded, fleets looked to technology to bring more discipline and stability to their operations and more value-added services to their customers. Investments in technology soared, compelled by a need to target and remove unnecessary work and waste from fleet operations while adding value to customer relationships.
Successful managers have accelerated their return on investment by engaging employees and drivers in the following areas.
Investing in technology to reduce fuel consumption has paid big dividends for Tennant Truck Lines and its drivers. Tennant created an automated scorecard system that captures data from various sources across its enterprise. The scorecard rewards drivers that meet performance levels in fuel savings, customer service, safety, compliance and other areas. Drivers that achieve all targets earn a monthly bonus of $0.06 per mile.
The fuel portion of the scorecard is worth $0.03 per mile. Tennant doesn’t tie this incentive to miles per gallon but to driving behaviors that impact mpg directly, which include overspeed, use of cruise control, time in top gear, idling and hard-braking incidents.
Tennant has established thresholds for each of these metrics according to equipment type and fleet assignment – dedicated and irregular route.
“Good quality drivers understand that now the responsibility is put back on them to earn more pay,” says Tennant. “If they want to meet these metrics, they will do the right thing and drive the right way. The guys we want in the fleet are those who succeed. They understand that it is something they can control.”
Drivers can view their current performance for each of these metrics in real time using the fleet’s onboard computers. They receive a full scorecard with their bonus check every month.
Old Dominion Freight Line implemented a new onboard computing platform in 2010 and has been saving more than $1 million per month in fuel costs. The less-than-truckload company uses information captured by its PeopleNet computing platform as part of a comprehensive mpg program. ODFL uses the PeopleNet data in an integrated fashion with “virtually every aspect” of its operations, says Steve Kane, telematics department manager.
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