Everywhere you look, you can see the effects mobile technologies have on our lives. According to Business Insider, two-thirds of the world’s population regularly uses mobile devices to communicate, play games, and pursue a variety of hobbies. Additionally, more and more companies are allowing their employees to be mobile-based. By 2023, experts project that nearly half of the U.S. population will be taking advantage of advanced technologies to work outside of an office — and virtually anywhere.
Mobile innovations are impacting the trucking industry, as well. Drivers have long used cell phones for basic needs such as staying in touch with family during long drives or finding the best pizza shop on a route. But in recent years, fleet management apps have gotten smarter and more powerful, helping trucking companies become more productive, customer friendly, and responsive to their staff.
Let’s take a closer look at how fleet managers are using mobile applications to improve their business processes in four key areas:
Understanding the behaviors and inefficiencies that increase organizational costs and weaken productivity has been a constant struggle for transportation managers. Utilizing typical back-end systems to execute tasks — like plotting out optimal routes for drivers to follow — provides minimal certainty that routes are being executed according to plan. Without access to advanced technology, managers calculate costs per mile and costs per stop by hand, without knowing whether drivers veered off of their routes to hit a favorite lunch spot or visit a friend a few towns over.
Tools such as Omnitracs’ mobile dispatching can help improve operational efficiency by allowing drivers to input data from the road and managers to track actual routes against prepared plans, monitoring costs, and driver behavior.
In today’s competitive business environment, customers expect vendors to not only deliver products on time but to offer alerts and mobile minute-by-minute tracking features. Consumers, especially around the holidays, want and need to know the exact location and status of their order to determine if it will arrive on time. Businesses of all types expect the same sort of transparency in their own ordering processes.
To facilitate this knowledge, customer service has never been more important. Microsoft’s 2017 State of Global Customer Service Report found that 54 percent of all customers and 66 percent of customers between 18 and 34 had higher expectations for service in 2017 than in 2016. And it pays to keep customers in the loop. In 2017, U.S. companies lost $75 billion from customers switching to competitors because of poor customer service.
Order tracking applications are removing the confusion from the delivery process and keeping customer service levels high. Trucking companies use the apps to track drivers’ progress and head off a problem before it surfaces. Customers can utilize the apps to gain comfort that deliveries will make it on time. They also can check in to determine if an order might come in early to ensure their receiving depots are sufficiently staffed when orders arrive. Tracking apps can also help companies give time back to management, sales, and customer service staff that is typically spent handling customer inquiries related to their deliveries.
Transportation managers have long struggled with poor visibility into the status of their fleet operations. With dozens — if not hundreds — of workers out in the field at the same time, it can be difficult to keep track of productivity and operational efficiencies. Using mobile dispatching or telematics tools, managers can measure how routes are executed against scripted plans and access potentially unsafe driver behavior information.
These applications can track lane departure warnings to determine whether a driver often drifts, hugs the shoulder, or changes lanes without signaling. Managers can use the frequency of hard braking alerts to find out how aggressive or attentive a driver is on the road.
Instead of just counseling drivers on general ways to deal with these situations, data gives fleet managers the ability to get ahead of future problems. Managers can use data from mobile software as teaching tools. Rather than standardizing their training programs, managers can set up customized, consistent coaching techniques for every driver, focusing on areas of improvement and continuing to monitor subsequent driving behavior.
Worker productivity and engagement
Managers in the trucking industry are constantly looking for initiatives to help workers become more productive. Common strategies such as working longer hours, optimizing vehicle fleets and transport routes, and improving data collection and administration are options to improve productivity, but may not be the best solution.
Another solution is, simply, to engage with workers more. A recent Officevibe Employee Feedback study shows engaged employees are 27 percent more likely to perform well than those who are not. The same study found that a key way to engage employees is for managers to provide regular feedback. This can be done successfully using mobile tools.
How important is feedback? The study cited above shows workers are twice as likely to be actively disengaged if they’re ignored by their manager. Four out of 10 workers are actively disengaged when they get little or no feedback, nearly two-thirds of employees want more feedback, and 82 percent of employees appreciate receiving feedback, regardless if it’s positive or negative.
When drivers are off on routes, it’s easy for managers to slack off on the process of communicating and offering regular feedback. Mobile applications can provide a solution to this issue. Modern apps can be configured to provide guidance on the completion of tasks — verifying order quantities, collecting signatures, logging data — and offering feedback on how they’re performing relative to the day’s plan.
Mobile applications won’t solve every issue in the trucking industry, but they are providing helpful connections for companies looking for an edge. As technology continues to develop, management teams need to make mobile a bigger priority going forward.