Driving School Offers 'Simulated Daydreaming'
Century Driving Group's fleet includes Mazda3 sedans. Photo courtesy of Century Driving Group.
In Dave Muma’s driving school, clients are assessed for internal and external distractions and an ability to multitask in low- and high-complexity environments — including simulated daydreaming. For Muma, that means a fleet vehicle that offers the best driving experience for novice and remedial drivers.
“We have found that Mazda vehicles are designed well ergonomically and are easy for people to adapt to,” says Muma, referencing the ease of use of Mazda’s dashboard controls.
Equally important, when acquiring his Mazda3 models Muma opted for an accessories package that includes safety features such as a rearview camera and blind-spot monitoring. “Our intent is to teach our drivers in a high-quality vehicle with updated technology,” he says. “We want to teach drivers how to appropriately use the technology and when the technology is beneficial.”
With several locations in Michigan, clients at Muma’s Century Driving Group vary from novice (teens and adults) drivers to corporate drivers in commercial fleets or law enforcement. Muma is also a member and past president of the Driving School Association of the Americas (DSAA).
Mazda offers DSAA member companies discounts on Mazda vehicles, and it also gives a $500 coupon to DSAA program graduates that can be redeemed in addition to a negotiated price with a local dealer.
Muma runs a fleet of 55 vehicles, on the larger side of DSAA member companies, the majority of whom run five vehicles or fewer. Century’s fleet includes Mazda3, Toyota Prius, Ford Focus, Toyota Corolla, and Chevy Impala models.
Traditionally, Muma prefers to own vehicles, and he started by buying used Toyota Prius models. “I have some vehicles with 250,000 miles, and you can’t tell,” he says, though he’s had to balance the new car cost savings with higher maintenance and downtime.
Currently, Mazda makes up almost a third of the fleet. “With our special program with Mazda, the price for a new Mazda3 is basically at the same price point as a used Prius,” he says. “And the Mazda3’s residual is so much higher than what the majority of our industry uses. That lowers our cost per mile significantly.”
Today, he’s in the process of a major fleet refresh. To mitigate the capital outlay, and for tax benefits, he’s trying leasing through Enterprise Fleet Management.
Annual miles vary from 10,000 to 30,000, depending on the type of training route. The goal is to turn the cars over at around 85,000 miles, which keeps the vehicles within a residual value sweet spot while reducing the need for major maintenance repairs.
Some fleets come to Muma’s driving school to get their drivers assessed. According to Muma, by assessing each driver, his company can give a cumulative result for the fleet as a whole.
“This assessment can help companies see where they need to focus their driver training,” he says. “We mainly work with companies that have analyzed their fleet safety and risk mitigation.”
Fleets also use Century Driving Group during the pre-hire process.
“If a driver doesn’t fit a fleet’s standards, but the company believes the person would be a good team member, we will assess the candidate and try to get him or her to a level that will help reduce risk for that fleet,” he says.
Though instructors are riding with novice and remedial drivers, actual crashes in fleet vehicles are minimal. “From a crash mitigation and crash incident perspective, we’re very low,” Muma says. “When they do occur, they’re low impact, low speed, and no bodily injury.”