Superior Plus Propane is a US-based energy distribution business, offering delivery, wholesale procurement and retail marketing of propane-related products. It services over 890,000 customer locations in the US and Canada, which is supported by its extensive network of drivers.
Superior Plus has a driver turnover rate of just 15%, which is six times below the industry average in the US. At a time when there’s a shortage of drivers available, this is a competitive advantage for Superior Plus.
The company is achieving these industry leading figures by placing a strong emphasis on driver safety and experience, supported by Samsara’s in-vehicle technology.
Samsara essentially provides in-vehicle dash cams that collect driver footage and then uses AI to give drivers prompts about when they aren’t driving as carefully as they could be.
Speaking at Samsara’s user event in San Francisco this week, Shawn Quagliaroli, Operations Manager at Superior Plus Propane, said:
We use the cameras to help coach the drivers, to really protect and engage with them. The data that we get helps us have positive conversations about safe driving habits that we want to implement in our company.
Tony Lampley, Health and Safety Specialist at Superior Plus, added:
It’s a competitive industry. We all know this. We are seeing more and more companies lean towards technology in order to get that competitive edge, while keeping the drivers behind the wheel. One thing that technology like Samsara offers, is leading indicators. Something that we didn’t really have a lot of at the time. By having those leading indicators, that really allows us to identify risk and then proactively manage behaviour. Samsara is really the missing piece of that.
You can’t talk about leading indicators without talking about lagging indicators. When I think about lagging indicators, I think about cause and effect. Lagging indicators are essentially a negative event. Leading indicators are those predicted behaviours that cause an event. So an example of that would be a [vehicle] rollover, right? That’s a negative event. Things like rolling stops, driving too close, speeding, distracted driving, are all leading indicators, predicted behaviours, that could cause an event. We can now measure those using the Samsara system.
Getting driver buy-in
Superior Plus wasn’t oblivious to the fact that implementing cameras to watch drivers may not go down too well with the drivers themselves, initially. However, the company embarked on a programme that sought to get their buy-in, but showing them the system and how it works - calming apprehensions by letting them know no-one would be sitting and watching all the time and that the sound in the vehicle wouldn’t be recorded.
Stephanie Ornelas, Manager and Coach at Superior Plus, said:
My initial reaction was that I liked the idea. But I did know that our drivers were probably going to have issues with it. Talking with them, the feedback I got was that they didn’t mind the outward facing cameras, but the inward facing ones were the issue that they had. They felt like a sense of their privacy was being taken away.
The thing I heard most was that they didn’t want somebody sitting there watching them stuff their face while they’re eating lunch in their trucks. So being able to get the feedback from them and go over it with them, telling them how it was going to work, is really what we did to get some kind of buy-in from them.
Superior Plus also created a driver safety committee, which gave the leadership of the company direct dialogue with the drivers. Lampley said:
The committee is really there to eliminate the signage of ‘us versus them’, right? It gives drivers a platform to solicit information and ideas that go to leadership and decision makers. It allows management and drivers to work cohesively together.
So I think one of the key things is communication and transparency through the whole process. We had a lot of support from Tony and Shawn and the rest of the gang, in terms of how to roll it out. One of the biggest things was being able to let the drivers kind of see what we were seeing.
So they actually got the live camera feeds that we were looking at, and I was able to show them, they can see that their sound is not and is not being recorded. No one is just sitting on the desk looking at what they're doing all day long.
Ornelas spoke about how she has been able to work with drivers to change their behavior, as a result of having the Samsara video footage and alerting in place. Speaking about one of the company’s top drivers in the Bay Area, Ornelas said:
So there have been a couple of instances. There's something called a California stop where you don't actually fully stop at the stop sign and roll through it. And I got a notification one day that this driver had run a stop sign, I gave him a call, we kind of went over it. I ended up bringing him in because he didn't believe that he had done that. And at that point I was able to kind of coach and mentor him, give him some pointers.
There was another thing - a lot of people have Apple watches or and they notify you all day long. And he did not even realize that he was constantly looking down at his watch when he was driving, which became distracted driving at that point. He didn't even realize it and I didn't know until I saw the camera.
So it's really something that could have you know, just kept going on and on without anyone knowing without that footage. And so I was able to show him that and get both of those behaviours corrected.
This same driver also got into an accident one day, which was entirely not his fault. He was doing some paperwork in his vehicle, when another vehicle reversed into his side door. The driver of the other truck tried to blame it on him - but thankfully it was all being recorded and Superior Plus’ driver was able to be quickly exonerated.
Speaking about the insurance claim process relating to this incident, Ornelas said:
I think I spent more time just waiting for people to call me back, to get all the details worked out. The manager at this location called me, I told her I had everything on camera. I told her that it visually shows that their driver was at fault, that my driver wasn't even moving. He was parked. And after that conversation she said ‘okay, thanks, I'll call my insurance agent’ and we were pretty much done.
In the past, this type of incident could have taken days, maybe weeks, just to get everything sorted out. So it was super helpful.
Superior Plus is also using Samsara’s driver recognition programme to gamify safety within the company, whereby drivers are given a driver safety score out of 100. If the drivers get a score above 95, they then become eligible for company incentives too. Ornelas said:
Everyone wants to be top dog. So when the scores are posted, they take a look at them, and if they're not the top dog, they want to know what they've done wrong and what they need to do to fix it. So it makes it very competitive. My guys love it. They love to see their scores and figure out what they can do to be better if they aren't the top dog.
Since implementing Samsara, Superior Plus has seen a 52% reduction in on road incidents and a 50% reduction in vehicle rollovers, which directly translates into cost savings for the company.