Incentivizing Drivers to Conserve Fuel – Bob Stanton, Polk County Florida
Bob Stanton is one of the most forward-thinking fleet managers in the country. He runs the Polk County, Florida government fleet, and has been referenced here in Fuelishness! and BrightFleet.com several times for his experience implementing a highly successful eco-driving program in Polk County. Today he gives a insight into his motivations and successful execution of his program in an article published at Government Fleets called “Incentivizing Drivers to Conserve Fuel“.
By only reading industry publications, one might presume fuel conservation success can be achieved by technology alone through the use of alternative fuels, hybrid, or all-electric vehicles. The Clean Air Act of 1990 certainly steered governments in that direction and now, 20 years later, it’s clear that legislation failed to achieve tangible results. Governments at all levels nationwide have collectively invested billions in technology, which at best has yielded marginal fuel conservation success, and at worst, the technology, hardware, and vehicles have been scrapped at enormous cost. A negative return on investment (ROI) is certainly hard to justify for any organization, public or private.
Mr. Stanton makes a great point, that the focus on a technology-based approach to fuel efficient fleets has nearly completely ignored the contributions of the vehicle operator to the safe and efficient use of the vehicle.
…In summer 2008, Polk County went where few other fleets have gone — to its drivers. All studies show the largest single contributor to fuel use and/or conservation is the driver. Polk County decided the quickest route to meaningful fuel conservation was to target driver behavior and modify it where possible.
A three-pronged approach was used to modify driver behavior. First, the maximum travel speed of the County’s on-highway vehicles was limited to 55 mph. An in-house Eco-Driver training program was developed to train, reinforce, and promote driving habits proven to reduce fuel consumption and assure driver buy-in, and the County added an incentive program to allow employees to share monetarily in their own conservation success.
There are numerous studies, from reputable government and industry sources around the word, that have shown a direct relationship to operator performance and fuel efficiency, with additional benefit to driver & general road safety.
As noted above, the driver is the greatest single factor influencing fuel economy. According to Bridgestone’s Real Answers magazine, up to 35 percent of a vehicle’s mpg is directly attributable to the driver.
The County endeavored to modify behind-the-wheel driver behavior by developing an in-house “Eco Driver” training program to educate drivers about the simple driving techniques that result in tangible mpg improvements.
Bob Stanton’s own project has netted Polk County significant benefits in fuel efficiency and accident reductions:
Over the two years since implementation, Polk County achieved the following results:
- Fuel consumption reduced by 13.4 percent, or 436,000 gallons.
- Reduced 6.2 million lbs. of carbon.
- Reduced preventable accidents by 22 percent.
- Crash damage severity reduced by 35 percent.
These results are irrefutable. The overall hard dollar savings seen by Polk County due to these incentives have exceeded $1.5 million. The cost of the program is minimal. Beyond the $800 decal cost and the one-hour training time, the program has cost the County nothing.
Even the incentive payouts came at little cost. The incentive payouts originated from dollars saved versus dollars spent.
As a result of its success, the Polk County School Board adopted the 55-mph restriction in May 2010 and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is currently studying the program for statewide adoption.
As oil prices continue to rise to pre-economic-collapse prices at the same time austerity measures are being discussed at state and federal levels, eco-driving is a proven method that fleet drivers and average motorists can take immediate action to see real reductions in both fuel consumption and accident rates.