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How Trucking Companies Utilize Technology to Manage Capacity Problems

Did you know that it is easier than ever before to leverage simple-to-use technology to elevate driver and asset utilization? Fleets deal with every day, technological solutions to ensure fleets can capably clear their capacity problems. The question is, are they using these methodologies? Let’s take a closer look at this issue and why it is such a pressing problem for fleet managers.

Why Does Truck Driver Turnover Occur?

Inefficiency is the root cause of driver turnover. Whenever truck drivers waste precious time, such as having to search for a trailer or wait on a message from dispatch, it has a negative impact on pay and quickly leads to frustration and distrust in management. Starting with the rear of a vehicle and moving forward, trailer tracking systems can be used to eliminate delays and driver frustrations in the following ways:

  1. Adding certainty to dispatch. Fleets can provide truck drivers with the exact location of trailer assignments and verify the status of cargo and equipment to utilize driver time effectively.
  2. Using smart sensors to proactively monitor the health of trailer components, such as tire pressures and brakes. With this data, fleets can prevent scenarios where drivers are assigned to trailers that are not road-ready.

Likewise, instant dispatcher-driver messaging can remove uncertainty, drive efficiency, and improve driver job satisfaction by eliminating communication delays. Truck drivers already use instant text and chat message features on their smartphones. They can see when messages have been received, and when the other party is in the process of responding. This familiarity adds to the frustration drivers experience when using onboard ELD and telematics devices that lack a real-time communication option.

Many ELD and telematics devices, particularly legacy systems, cause drivers to wait five minutes or longer for dispatchers to receive messages and respond. The delay is caused by ELD and back-office management systems that use “polling” technology to manage communications in queues.

What Should You Look for in an ELD Communication Platform?

Look for a vendor who offers communications platforms that enhances the driver experience with fast, modern messaging capabilities. Fleets should be able to use cloud-based systems which integrates with fleet telematics, workflow, and transportation management systems, to replace outdated messaging tools in the mobile and office environment. You also want to partner with a vendor who syncs with current hardware and software offerings.

Fleet managers should be able to connect dispatchers with truck drivers in the same way office workers connect to tools like Microsoft Teams and Slack, only with specific fleet communication features enabled. These systems should also provide a personal touch by getting reminders to recognize drivers for birthdays, and work anniversaries, and by using photos to help personalize the communications.

Fleets should also be able to manage truck drivers in groups and send messages based on geography, such as weather alerts, or driver classifications, among other criteria. They should also have instant visibility of truck driver status including available hours of service and dispatch assignments. This eliminates the need for dispatchers to reference different systems. Interoperability should be a must when selecting systems like these.

Finally, systems of this type should be able to flag high-priority messages such as breakdowns and other events to get a dispatcher’s attention and take immediate actions. And they should maintain communications even when on-premises systems are down. They should accomplish this using robust, cloud-hosted systems.

Combine Truck Driver Safety and Retention Efforts Utilizing Advanced Technologies

Truck driver retention and fleet safety are intertwined. Safety managers can positively impact retention and productivity by helping truck drivers improve their professional skills. They can also contribute to turnover — in a good way — by terminating the employment of unsafe drivers before they cause accidents.

Camera-based safety systems give safety personnel critical information to evaluate and coach drivers. Recent technology developments automate the coaching of drivers with real-time in-cab feedback that lightens the management workload and improves driver engagement, safety, and productivity. Still, legacy camera systems have limitations.

Legacy camera systems require safety managers to manually review records of safety events and coach drivers. When safety events are triggered by harsh braking, swerving, and other G-forces alone, managers’ views of driver performance are limited to only these negative behaviors. Data shows that truck drivers are more accepting of computers judging a wide spectrum of their driving performance, rather than human evaluations.

Advanced camera vision systems that use artificial intelligence (AI) can give drivers proactive alerts when they exhibit risky behaviors. Drivers are given enough time to address the problem, such as speeding or following distance before an alert is tripped and the behavior negatively impacts their driving scores.

By capturing and analyzing the entire driving day, AI-based camera systems provide a complete view of road safety by evaluating truck drivers’ performance at stop signs, traffic signals, and around pedestrians and other objects. With a complete assessment, managers can view a performance report and confidently recognize positive driving and balance it with constructive feedback.

Behind the Gamification of Truck Driver Performance Evaluations

Collecting an abundance of driver safety data can be a rewarding experience for drivers who work at fleets that use gamification features to increase job satisfaction and improve performance. Studies show that when companies use gamification features, they see a 60 percent increase in employee engagement.

Gamification can be as easy as allowing drivers to see how their safety scores rank in a peer comparison and to the fleet average. Beyond giving truck drivers visibility, fleets can reward positive behavior to motivate and celebrate success. As truck drivers see the results of their efforts, they will develop a sense of autonomy and control of their careers. This leads to higher productivity and saves fleet managers time and effort.

When truck drivers see their companies use video in a positive manner, they embrace it very quickly. When they realize what fleet managers do is to enhance them as truck drivers and protect them and their safety — it is really a little bit of a game-changer from a performance perspective.

Evaluate Trailer Usage from a Capacity Standpoint

Trucks and truck drivers have always been the kingpins of fleet management. But trailers have traditionally been a secondary concern since fleets could rent, lease or purchase equipment to meet immediate or seasonal needs.

With the logjam in trailer manufacturing, fleets must focus on ways to get more utilization from their existing trailer assets. By using trailer tracking systems and smart sensors, fleets can maximize utilization by automating “yard checks” and reporting idle times and other key metrics for each location where fleets have trailer pools.

Having visibility of assets and utilization trends at each location helps increase truck driver productivity and move assets to where they are needed most. Fleet managers can also use cargo sensors to gain visibility of when assets are loaded and ready for pickup or empty and available for use.

Using Cargo Sensors to Increase Trailer Utilization Efficiency

Cargo sensors that use ultrasonic technology report binary empty or loaded status by detecting the presence (or absence) of a single pallet of freight. This can result in getting a “false empty,” where a trailer is not actually ready for use by having empty pallets or dunnage inside.

A smart camera solves this problem by accurately detecting and reporting trailer and cargo status. The device scans the full length of the floor and report trailer fullness in terms of the percentage of cube and floor space utilized.

With this information and supporting images, fleet managers know with certainty the status of trailers at each location — loaded, and unloaded, and what percentage of capacity is available to optimally match equipment with loads.

A smart camera also mitigates the risks of cargo claims by capturing high-definition color images at critical periods of a shipment. Managers can view images of a load before a driver picks it up and at the point of delivery to assess where, when, and how the damage occurred.

Share Trailer Capacity When the Need is Great

Another strategy that can boost trailer utilization for carriers is to rent or “share” equipment. They do this with other third-party carriers during certain periods or one-way moves that help to reposition their assets. Freight brokers and motor carriers also use trailers equipped with trailer tracking systems to expand capacity. Some brokers have purchased or leased trailers to offer shippers more capacity powered by third-party carriers. The brokers can offer third-party carriers the convenience of drop-and-hook operations.

Large carriers with brokerage operations have created freight marketplaces with power-only options for fleets to pull their trailers. As trailer sharing continues to grow, asset owners continue to benefit. They do this through trailer tracking systems. These systems automatically verify the right tractors are hook up to the correct equipment.

With so many technological options available to help trucking companies improve trailer capacity, there really is no excuse to not utilize them. Vendors have spent a long time fine-tuning these systems. So, why not put them to use for the benefit of your fleet? Anything less could cost you money in the long run.

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