Dan Symonds from Postal Technology International reports on the fourth installment of the IPC Drivers’ Challenge, taking place this year at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium
On November 16, 2016, the International Post Corporation’s (IPC) Drivers’ Challenge traveled to the world-renowned Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium. Now in its fourth installment, the two-day Drivers’ Challenge pits the best driving teams from global posts against each other to find out who can drive with the greatest agility, consistency and speed, while incorporating the most effective eco-driving techniques. Each team consists of two postal employees, a navigator and a driver, who switch places for various challenges. All participants are also paired with a mentor with experience in some or all aspects of the competition and with the necessary language skills to assist non-English-speaking teams throughout the two days.
This year saw the event’s biggest participation yet, with nine international teams, including the 2015 winner Posti from Finland. There were also entrants from An Post (Ireland), bpost (Belgium), Correos (Spain), CTT Correios (Portugal), Posten Norge (Norway), PostNL Mail, PostNL Parcels (Netherlands) and PostNord (Sweden-Denmark). As the event’s host and sponsor, bpost also conducted its own national eco-driving competition with 10 local teams taking part.
Day 1, November 16
The IPC Drivers’ Challenge is split into four components comprising a theory test, a daily driver check, a driving agility test with 12 separate tasks, and an eco-driving challenge with a combined customer service element.
Day 1 gave participants a chance to practice the 12 agility tests and daily driver checks, including performing a tire change in less than 10 minutes. The teams were also able to practice their eco-driving techniques at the circuit and on customer delivery route, which would take place away from the track in a local residential area.
“One of the most important things is to anticipate traffic,” said Pieter Reitsma, sustainability manager at IPC. “If you see someone stopping ahead, then you don’t hit the brakes but reduce your speed through gear changes. It’s the same for roundabouts and junctions. Tire inspections and other daily checks are also underestimated as they can save up to 10% in fuel.”
Later in the afternoon, the teams were required to sit a theory test, which would contribute 10% toward their final score. Questions were based on sustainability and driving techniques, and examined how well the teams had been listening to their mentors and paid attention during their training sessions throughout the day. Following the theory test, drivers were presented with a set of preliminary results that provided statistical data on key aspects of their performance and highlighted areas that could be improved for the competition the next day.
Speaking on Day 1, Damian Fox, a postal operative from An Post in Ireland, said, “We finished third in the preliminary scores so that’s a good start. We know what we did wrong so we should be a lot sharper tomorrow. We had to get used to driving on the other side of the road and changing gears with a different hand. Of course we’re aiming to win, but as long as everyone has fun that’s the main thing. If we don’t win we’ll still be happy with second or third. The Drivers’ Challenge is important because we can take back what we’ve learned to Ireland and pass it on to our colleagues.”
The team from Posti was also confident that they could use the preliminary telematics to improve on the day’s performance. “We finished fifth in practice, but we’ll be quicker tomorrow,” said Juhani Vuola, vice president of regional delivery for Posti. “The Drivers’ Challenge helps show what’s important when it comes to eco-driving. You then take these tactics away and apply them on a weekly basis.”
Day 2, November 17
For the main event, the teams were split into two groups of nine, with one group undertaking the eco-drive and another attempting the agility test. For the eco-drive, teams had to complete two laps of the racecourse, before switching drivers and completing another two laps. The team then heads out onto the local residential streets to perform a number of dummy deliveries, again switching halfway. Teams are deducted points for factors such as heavy acceleration and braking, which are monitored using a Masternaut telematics system attached to the diesel delivery vans. Teams also lose points for any missed deliveries. The two components count for 50% of the final score.
For the agility test, participants had 15 minutes to complete two rounds of the 12 tasks, again switching drivers at halfway point. Some of the more challenging events included a reverse slalom and performing a 360° turn within a confined space. Drivers were assessed on the narrowest of margins and were docked points for lateness and hitting the cones. The challenge contributed to 20% of the overall score.
Alongside the two challenges, teams would perform the four-part driver checks, which would also count for 20% of their overall score. Components included the tire change; performing daily checks such as checking tire pressures; loading a scooter with an optimum parcel load of 13kg per saddle bag without using weighing scales; and completing a European Accident Statement.
Advancements in alternative fuel vehicles
To promote the latest developments in alternative fuel, hybrid and advanced technology vehicles, bpost took the opportunity during the Drivers’ Challenge to showcase the latest models from a variety of vehicle manufacturers including Mercedes, BMW, Lexus and Tesla. As part of its own environmental efforts, bpost committed to purchasing 300 electric delivery vehicles, which it will incorporate into its fleet in 2017.
Speaking on Day 2, Thibault d’Ursel, sustainability manager at bpost, said, “bpost has become one of the greenest postal operators in the world. We achieved this by setting up a number of initiatives to reduce our environmental impact. We have adapted our processes and culture to meet our CO2 reduction targets and we want our stakeholders to know that when they send a letter or parcel with bpost, it’s done in an environmentally friendly way.
“We have 500 people present from bpost today, so it’s a good opportunity to share this agenda with our workforce. We also invited all of our vehicle suppliers, as well as some others, to demonstrate what is possible in terms of alternative fuel technology today and what we can expect in the future. This is because we believe that the future is electric, certainly for the smaller delivery vans.”
After a day of healthy competition, the results were in and Posti was crowned IPC Drivers’ Challenge champion for the second year in a row. Second place was awarded to the bpost team from Charleroi and third place went to the drivers from An Post, who also achieved a top-three finish for the second year running.
Among the celebrations and congratulations, it was important to note that the Drivers’ Challenge had a greater underlying purpose other than an international driving competition.
“The Drivers’ Challenge is about employee engagement, about people being motivated to do the right things in an enjoyable way at work,” said IPC’s Reitsma. “At the same time, it’s good for fuel efficiency, profitability and, of cours,e the environment. It brings in safety, efficiency and motivation. We are trying to get as many of the 1.8 million employees within our group to be as motivated and engaged as possible because of course we cannot put a manager next to every employee. It’s also important to repeat eco-driving training every couple of years to keep up good habits. Employees also take these skills home and apply them to their personal vehicles, so that saves them money and helps the environment.”
This sentiment was shared by Holger Winklbauer, who was appointed CEO of IPC in August 2016: “The environment is one of the most important things for mankind and we need to protect it. Logistics is one of the larger polluters in the world in terms of CO2 and that’s why the postal industry has to take responsibility. So how can we work on reducing CO2 emissions? One is technology and the second is avoidance, and avoidance can be implemented through behavior – how people act. The fleet is what generates CO2 and therefore it’s important to address the drivers and find ways to get them engaged. Every post has its own internal procedures and training around reducing CO2, but I think an event like this helps to present the subject in a positive, engaging and motivating way.”
November 24, 2016