The evolution of driver scorecards

by James Menzies

Driver scorecards became prominent in the late 2000s as a means to measure a couple of key metrics: fuel economy and safety. However, many carriers – and vendors – have greatly expanded the way telematics can be used to provide a much more comprehensive look at a driver’s performance.

“Scorecards are progressing from a statement of a driver’s performance and a basis for bonus pay, to an ongoing discussion with drivers,” said Jane Jazrawy, CEO of CarriersEdge, which administers the Truckload Carriers Association’s Best Fleets to Drive For competition. As part of the fleet evaluation process, Jazrawy is privy to how fleets are using driver scorecards, and she’s seeing much more creativity than in past years.

“We didn’t see many companies using driver scorecards before CSA launched in 2010,” she said. “After that, commercial scorecards started appearing on the market and companies realized they could take advantage of the data to more objectively measure driver performance using CSA BASICs as a starting point. And they have evolved significantly since then. Companies now routinely use both commercial and internally-developed driver scorecards to measure mileage, fuel compliance, on-time performance, customer service and productivity, as well as safety metrics.”

Bill Wright, president of PeopleNet Canada, agreed that fleets are using scorecards to look beyond pure fuel economy.

“What we’re seeing in the industry today, is many of those trucking companies are tracking more stuff with respect to driver scorecards,” he said. “At one point, it used to be just fuel. Now they’re tracking more safety-related things as well as predictive analytics. They’re trying to track what’s going to happen in the future. Now they’re saying if they can identify drivers that are a risk, or factors that are a risk, they want to capture that and work to improve safety more proactively.”

One trend Jazrawy has noticed, is a shift from incident-oriented scorecards to those that are more behavior-based. And fleets have begun analyzing traits that go well beyond fuel economy and hard braking. Ohio-based Motor Carrier Service, for example, developed its own scorecard that includes an “Agro” factor – or anything that aggravates other drivers, such as leaving dirty trailers for others to clean.

Nussbaum Transportation developed a “Habit Rating,” which scores how a driver moves the truck, rewarding smooth, easy, efficient driving, Jazrawy noted. Winnipeg, Man.-based Bison Transport, for its part, has separate safety and operational performance metrics, which include effective communication.

“They use a driver utilization scorecard that allows the company to benchmark drivers against others doing similar work,” Jazrawy explained.

In some cases, fleets are using scorecards to measure the performance of managers – not just drivers.

“FTC Transportation has used management scorecards for a long time, and we are seeing an increase in scorecards for other roles,” said Jazrawy.

Carriers are also increasingly providing real-time visibility into driver scorecards, so they can modify their behavior on the fly.

“Many fleets have mobile apps that allow drivers to access their performance data without having to contact their fleet managers,” she said.

Jean-Sabastien Bouchard, vice-president of sales for Isaac Instruments, agreed that the effective use of driver scorecards means looking much deeper than simple mpg.

“There are so many variables we can’t control, is it fair to judge someone on miles per gallon?” he questioned. “This is the heart of the problem – you can’t really analyze a truck’s fuel efficiency performance unless you get rid of the other variables.”

Isaac Instruments got its start in in-cab coaching in 2008 when approached by Groupe Robert to help the company identify best driving practices.

“They approached us saying, ‘We have a problem. We put a truck on the road today and it gets 6 mpg and I know my best driver gets 7 mpg and I don’t know what to tell the 6 mpg guy what they’re doing wrong,’” Bouchard recalled.

Isaac Instruments drilled down into three key areas to measure driver performance: acceleration; speed maintenance; and deceleration. The system provides feedback to the driver in real-time on when they are using too much pedal, or are in the wrong gear. It also helps them understand how to better use the truck’s momentum to maximize coasting and improve fuel economy, ultimately creating a better driver. Drivers are assigned an “Isaac Score” that takes into account all the different variables measured by the system.

The Isaac Score, according to Bouchard, is a fair way to compare drivers as it takes variables outside the driver’s control out of the equation.

“If a guy has a 95% Isaac Score, I can guarantee you he has the best miles per gallon he can have with the truck you gave him,” Bouchard noted.

If two drivers with the same Isaac Score have a significant variance in fuel economy, Bouchard said it’s time to look at the trucks themselves to see if there is a fault. Bouchard said to get drivers to accept this level of scrutiny and constant oversight, a proper incentive program is crucial.

“You have a good reason to do better today, if you’re going to make more money,” he reasoned. “It’s very important to incentivize drivers. We have a huge driver shortage today, it’s probably not going to go away. Every decision we make around this should ask, what can it do for my driver? At the end of the day, they’re the ones you want to have a smile on their face. The bottom line is, if a driver feels there is something in it for them, they will accept it.”

PeopleNet’s Wright has also noticed a greater acceptance among drivers, especially when it comes to video-based telematics.

“In many cases, drivers are installing their own,” he said of dash cams. “They’re going to Best Buy and purchasing their own in-cab video systems because it’s all about exoneration, and many of the events that happen in trucking are not the fault of the truck driver.”

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