It is the sugar beet harvest season and a hectic time of year for Vapas Fleet Manager Petr Šišlák and his drivers. For the coming three-month period, the company’s trucks need to be in operation 24 hours a day, often driving on unmade surfaces, such as fields and mud tracks, as well as narrow and often hilly district roads. “The nature of haulage in the Czech Republic imposes tough demands on fuel consumption,” Petr Šišlák says, as he fills up a truck at the company fuel station. He climbs into the cab and adds: “Today, fuel accounts for 40 per cent of our total costs and competition is fierce. We needed to get ahead of our competitors and saw an opportunity in better educating our drivers”.
Growing up, Petr Šišlák was always interested in transport and trucks and becoming a truck driver was his dream.
Today, more than twenty years have passed since he started his career as a driver at Vapas. In the past, he has also driven for two other Czech hauliers, but five years ago he came back to Vapas. Today he is Fleet Manager, responsible for lowering the running costs of the company’s operations. With half of the fleet now made up of Volvo trucks, Petr Šišlák spent the first year test-driving and evaluating the Volvo technology. This helped him gain a clearer understanding of why the figures in Dynafleet turned out the way they did and how he and the drivers could make better use of the technology.
“We need powerful trucks that not only arrive safely and on time but also offer low fuel consumption. We are always on the lookout for new features that can help us save fuel.”
“A Volvo truck these days is like a computer. It is capable of making maximum use of the lowest possible fuel consumption, which humans cannot achieve during an eight-hour work day. But our drivers need to know exactly how to use the systems. I’d say 80-90 per cent of our company’s success is reliant on that,” Petr Šišlák explains.
After the first year of evaluation, he decided to initiate weekly driver training sessions with instructors from Volvo Trucks. At the time, the Vapas drivers were in the red zone in Dynafleet, which Petr Šišlák considered a result of both his own and their lack of knowledge.
The Dynafleet fuel efficiency score
Ranking from 1-100, the score measures how efficiently a truck is driven. Three colours are used for measuring driver performance:
Red: 1-50 points: poor performance.
Yellow: 50-80 points: room for improvement.
Green: 80-100 points: excellent performance.
Today, all the drivers are in the green zone and are constantly following up their performance, asking their Fleet Manager for his advice and trying to improve on a monthly basis.
“Now we make 100 per cent use of the figures in Dynafleet. It’s like a driver’s birth certificate, where we can see their individual strengths and weaknesses and reward them when they improve in certain areas. Over the course of a year, I’ve seen individual improvements of up to 25 per cent less fuel consumption.”
It is clear that Petr Šišlák is passionate about his job and he explains that part of his engagement comes from his interest in new technology. Due to the tough driving conditions, Vapas only keeps its trucks for three years, but the upside is that it always has a new fleet. Petr Šišlák describes it as kind of a dream come true to be able to deal with the most advanced trucks in the world and he is constantly in discussions with Volvo Trucks regarding the latest solutions. He also carefully specifies each truck according to the conditions it will be operating in.
“The updated I-See turned out to be a jackpot win for me, as it enables better communication between me and my truck.”
“Basically, we need powerful trucks that not only arrive safely and on time but also offer low fuel consumption. However, as we have different types of job, we need different engine powers and gear ratios. Some of our trucks need air suspension on both rear and front axles, so that the vehicles can drive on difficult terrain without being damaged. And we are always on the lookout for new features that can help us save fuel,” he says. Two months ago, Petr Šišlák turned to Volvo Trucks and asked to test their latest fuel-saving feature. Since then, he and a few of the drivers have been test-driving two Volvo trucks equipped with the latest version of I-See, using map-based software, which retrieves data about the road ahead through a cloud service.
As the system knows exactly what is coming, running costs are reduced and, at the same time, pressure is taken off the driver. After approximately a month of testing, Petr Šišlák says that he saw an improvement of 9.9 per cent in overall consumption costs.
“I’ll be honest and say that I was shocked by that consumption figure. Because these days, to use 22 litres with an average 15-tonne loaded vehicle combination is amazing, he says, and adds: “What’s more, the drivers’ reactions to the updated I-See software have been great – they say they’ve never driven anything better. So it will be important for us in terms of consumption moving forward”.
One of the drivers who has been testing the new system is Josef Truksa, employed by Vapas for eight years. Today, he is picking up sugar beets in the Drnoholec region, to be transported to the local sugar refinery in Vapas’ hometown, Hrušovany nad Jevišovkou.
“The updated I-See turned out to be a jackpot win for me, as it enables better communication between me and my truck. It makes the driver’s job much easier! And, with this system, fuel consumption has been dramatically reduced,” Josef Truksa says.
For him, driving this particular truck has been advantageous, as he and the other drivers are given bonuses in accordance with their ability to save fuel. The bonus system has been popular among the drivers and Josef Truksa says this incentive, together with the driver training, motivate him and his fellow drivers to perform better. Some of them even compete against each other for fun and, when they need advice on the road, they call Petr Šišlák for help. This is something the Fleet Manager truly appreciates.
“In essence, I’m here as a trainer and the job makes me feel happy and fulfilled. I know I’m passing on my experience to others; that it’s worth it. It’s not only about haulage, it’s also about the drivers who are not as visible these days,” Petr Šišlák concludes.
Number of employees:
Number of trucks:
200, 100 of which are Volvos.
Vehicle combination weight:
Retention time (trucks):
Sugar beet, refined sugar, grains, sand, gravel (mainly loose material of any kind).