Truck drivers had a rich history of embracing new technologies that stalled in recent years. The most successful fleets have found ways to show drivers how technology makes them and their companies better.
There is no modern transportation without technology. In trucking, fleets can’t maximize their return on investment in the latest technology without their drivers. But how do you get drivers to embrace the newest tech?
“It’s really important that drivers feel like they’re a part of that and that they’re able to help your business be successful in applying those technologies,” according to Kem Wallace, McLeod Software’s senior solutions architect, who led a virtual session on drivers and technology during the 2020 McLeod User Conference.
Wallace said fleets that help drivers adopt new technologies — without getting overwhelmed — are the most competitive fleets. “What we know is that when you encounter resistance, it can be really catastrophic to the technology you’re trying to deploy because it can delay it or ultimately cause it to fail,” he explained.
He said the best foundation for a high-tech fleet is training. And for drivers, the training has to be convenient for their schedules. “Allowing access to digital content 24-hours-a-day is very, very important to let them have that information when they need it,” Wallace said. “It also allows you to make them a bit more accountable.”
Leveraging video and online training games that come with rewards can also go a long way with the modern driver, according to Wallace. “Everything from YouTube to the other platforms or videos are really the way that information is being communicated,” he said.
He also suggested that fleets train all employees on using newer technologies, which helps create more mentors within a company. “We want to eliminate where a driver calls in while struggling with an application or something new and gets a response of ‘I don’t know anything about it. Let me see if I can find someone that does,’” Wallace said as an example. “We don’t like it in our lives. Drivers don’t like it in their lives to get transferred around until you find someone who is able to help when they’re really just trying to get what they need to, to get paid… So train everyone so they can be a mentor. This includes the back office, fleet managers, safety managers — really anyone who comes in contact with the drivers.”
Wallace added that fleets should be recognizing drivers for learning and using new technologies. This could be through small financial incentives or simply public recognition. “Drivers, like many of us, like to be recognized — especially by their peers,” he said.
An added benefit of embracing technologies is it can help attract younger drivers, too, Wallace noted.
A history of early adoption
Today’s drivers have been getting a bad rap about embracing technology, but Wallace pointed out that hasn’t always been the case. “Drivers are not inherently resistant to technology,” he noted. “They actually can be early adopters when they understand the benefits.”
Truck drivers have traditionally been early adopters of technologies, Wallace said. He cited that drivers were among the first to start using CB radios in the mid-1970s. “It changed how things were done,” he said.
Drivers also were among the first to start using long-distance prepaid calling cards in 1980. By the mid-’80s, drivers were also using long-distance pagers. In the mid-1990s, drivers started using debit and fuel cards, which made their trips safer. “Being able to replace the cash — drivers were known for carrying literally thousands of dollars in cash to make their trips” — changed the way life was spent on the road.
Drivers were also among the first to jump on using early Internet systems such as AOL and CompuServe — and later email — to stay in touch with family and business on the road in the 1990s.
Truckers also were among the first to start using GPS in the mid-1990s. “Being able to use a GPS for navigation, understanding where you are in the world, and being able to use that information to give you some real-time telemetry” was another game-changer that drivers adopted earlier than most of the motoring public.
Drivers were also among the first to embrace laptops and wireless Internet access in the late 1990s when cell phones became a standard driver’s tool. “If you really look at these, you can see that as soon as they came out, drivers laid their money down, and they put this technology in,” Wallace said.
At the turn of the century, technologies such as satellite radio and TV helped give drivers more of the comforts of home in their cabs. Social media such as Myspace — and later Facebook — in the mid-2000s also helped drivers stay connected to family and friends.
“It’s really important to realize drivers really have the ability to learn and understand what they need to do to be able to use technology to the greatest extent possible when they’re properly motivated and perceive a benefit,” Wallace explained.
Many of these technologies helped relieve driver isolation on the road, thus improving their quality of life. “That’s what drives everything for these folks because they have a very unique existence,” Wallace said. “It was important to be able to shrink their world.”
While the drivers of the late 20th Century and the start of the 21st found the benefits of emerging technologies, there has been more recent resistance to trucking technologies, Wallace said. He noted the low adoption rates for recent innovations such as speed controls, voicemail, electronic logging devices (ELD), multiple work-based applications, document scanning, smartphones, and in-cab camera systems.
Until the federal government required drivers to use ELDs, it was one of the highest-profile technologies drivers resisted, Wallace noted. “Drivers would move from fleet to fleet, really trying to avoid ELDs because they just didn’t like them,” he said.
Wallace said that many McLeod fleet customers still have more than 30% of their drivers avoiding smartphones, which he said is surprising since the iPhone first debuted 13 years ago. One reason could be that many drivers are equipped with laptops or tablets.
By Josh Fisher
The audit is a key tool to know the overall status and provide the analysis, the assessment, the advice, the suggestions and the actions to take in order to cut costs and increase the efficiency and efficacy of the fleet. We propose the following fleet management audit.