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Even great drivers need training

19 NOVEMBER 2018

Finnish forester’s dedication to continuous improvement sees it using Scania Suomi’s driver training coaches.

Finnish forestry transporter Puukuljetus Vesala’s drivers are well known in the province of Ostrobothnia for their excellent fuel-saving efforts behind the wheel. Despite those good reputations, the company decided to use Scania Suomi’s driver training coaches.

“I wanted to see if we could save fuel,” explains Managing Director Jarkko Vesala. “Our drivers’ fuel consumption performances varied and we wanted to identify individual strengths and weaknesses. The training allowed each driver to identify which aspects of their driving habits they needed to improve.”

You never stop learning

Of course, Vesala was aware that professional drivers might be sceptical about the need for further training.

“One might think that after 20 years of driving a driver knows just about everything. I am no exception myself; I used to think that way. However, over the years the vehicle technology has developed enormously, and I need to know more to get the full benefit of all these new features.”

After consulting with his drivers, Vesala found that most welcomed the chance for some coaching. So they and the company’s entire fleet of five four-axle timber trucks arrived at Scania in Kokkola to take Scania Driver Training. First they drove their trucks, then they studied driving theory and then they went on a test drive, making use of their newly-acquired skills.

How to achieve a lasting improvement

However, the training did not end there. Over the next year, each driver received a bi-monthly report outlining their driving habits, along with suggestions for improvements. Each driver was assigned a personal trainer who discussed the results with them.

“Everyone can drive well for one day, but a good driver performs at a consistently high level, month after month. That’s why a full year’s training is important to achieve a lasting improvement,” says Vesala.

All five of Puukuljetus Vesala’s trucks are made by Scania. That means they are similarly equipped to enable drivers to easily switch from one truck to another. Jarkko Vesala is the third-generation owner of the family business. With more than a quarter of a century of experience, he was loading timber trucks when some of his colleagues were riding mopeds. Did driver training help him?

“Absolutely. The biggest surprise was how much of the time we spent idling. Before training, idling was at between 15 and 18 percent and now it’s down to between five and seven percent. Today, it feels bad if someone leaves the ignition on at a petrol station. That’s equal to a very expensive cup of coffee!” 

Making a safe and sustainable difference

Before training, the company lacked guidelines for driving speeds. Since the training these have been set at 80–82 km/h. Previously, speed was unnecessarily high when driving without loads.

The company’s drivers are also planning ahead more often now, and according to the Scania Fleet Management system hard braking has significantly declined. “When driving a 76-tonne tractor and trailer combination, which is permitted in Finland, it’s important to know when to start coasting. Anticipation also increases safety,” says Vesala.

Overall, the training scheme has evened out the drivers’ fuel-saving performance, which Vesala appreciates.

“Traditionally, continuing education isn’t common in the transport industry, but those that invest in coaching tend to be more successful, with greater employee commitment as well.”