Your EV fleet transition (through the eyes of your drivers)

Your EV fleet transition (through the eyes of your drivers)

By George Hobbs, eMobility Lead Product Manager, VEV

One of the most overlooked factors in fleet electrification is the drivers. Typically, fleet operators dedicate time to researching vehicle types, software, and infrastructure, while the needs of drivers can be overlooked.

However, not only is driver feedback essential to implementing an electric vehicle (EV) strategy, so is their advocacy. When your drivers are on board with your plans, you’ll find less resistance to change, making for a smoother transition.

Let’s take a closer look at the EV transition process from a driver’s perspective:

Why you need to plan for driver training

I often see fleet operators make the mistake of assuming that driving an EV is the same as driving an ICE vehicle. The reality is that EVs handle differently, and of course, they require charging.

Some companies mandate 3 hours of EV familiarity training before drivers can take to the road. And I know that others also require their drivers to undergo compliance-based training as well. As such, to ensure training programmes are rolled out successfully, fleet operators need to plan in advance.

When we consider that some fleets have 3 drivers to one vehicle, and some large fleets have up to 30,000 drivers, operators potentially need to plan for 90,000 hours of training across 10,000 vehicles – all without impacting operations.

For this to go smoothly, operators first need to have access to enough EVs and account for potential bottlenecks in vehicle supply (reports suggest that resources could be strained in the next few years).

What’s more, operators need to keep up to date with the latest training regulations. For example, the Department for Transport (DfT) recently removed the need for an additional five hours of driver training for electric vans weighing up to 4.25 tonnes.

Overall, this comes as good news to fleet operators who can now transition their fleets sooner. I know that some operators were delaying their van transitions due to uncertainty over driver training.

The need for a robust onboarding process

To ensure your drivers are on board with your transition, they need to be made aware of your plans early.

Fleet operators should communicate their strategy with all drivers internally, explaining why the transition is happening, and providing the opportunity for drivers to ask questions.

All it takes is one negative perspective to derail implementation plans. I know of one fleet manager in Europe that had to store their fleet vehicles because their drivers wouldn’t accept the transition. This adds additional complexity and costs to a transition through both asset management and poor public perception.

It’s therefore important to keep drivers informed at every stage and provide them with opportunities to provide feedback through survey portals.

Fleet operators also need to be able to perform digital pulse checks to gauge how drivers feel about the vehicles once they’re on the road. By analysing telematics data, operators can determine how long it takes drivers to get comfortable with the vehicle, which in turn, can inform future training plans.

Using this data, operators can also map drivers and cars to charge points to gain an overview of how the driver is progressing. For example, if the data shows that drivers are doing less mileage in their EV, it could indicate that there’s an issue, especially if the job load itself hasn’t changed.

Likewise, if drivers are leaving their vehicle plugged in for too long, it could be that they don’t understand the vehicle charging schedule or are preventing additional vehicles from utilising that charger

Easing ‘range anxiety’

Drivers also need to know how to drive EVs efficiently to maximise vehicle range and reduce any anxiety about running out of charge.

To quote my colleague, Mike Brown, VP of Product at VEV, ‘‘when driven well, an electric vehicle can typically increase its range by up to 20%, improving operational efficiency, and keeping energy costs down.’’

A good example of this is the Energy Saving Trust’s Ecodriving in EVs Programme. Back in 2017, 67 drivers received training over a three-month period, which resulted in a 16% reduction in energy consumption, and a 20% increase in vehicle range. 

Similarly, in 2021, construction company Willmott Dixon put its drivers through regenerative braking training and saw its EV range increase by 20%, with a 20% reduction in energy consumption.

Optimising EVs for driver safety

Likewise, optimising the vehicles themselves can improve efficiency and make the drivers feel safer. In an interview with Fleet News, Steve Winter, Head of Fleet at British Gas explained how the company worked with Loughborough University to re-design the racking in the back of their vans to improve driver posture and lifting habits.

The vans were also fitted with equipment that can perform blood pressure and body mass index (BMI) checks on drivers.

Such initiatives can make drivers feel like they’re being taken care of, and when coupled with a reduction in fumes and noise pollution, their general wellbeing can improve. They can also take pride in knowing their role is contributing to Net Zero.

Get in touch with one of our expert team and find out more about how VEV can help streamline your EV transition.

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