As the truck driver shortage becomes more acute, trucking companies are increasingly turning to evermore creative ways to address the problem. From sign-on bonuses to better pay to more comprehensive training, trucking companies are doing everything they can to find people to put in the cab and different ways of keeping them there.
One such way is through better in-cab technologies that incentivize truck drivers. By giving truck drivers – especially long-haul operators – a more comfortable experience in the cab, trucking companies aim to not only ease the truck driver shortage but provide a far better experience for those currently operating under their purview. Today, we will look at some ways that trucking companies are addressing this problem and providing a far better experience for their truck drivers.
Getting Driver Buy-In for In-Cab Technologies
It shouldn’t seem too hard to get truck drivers to buy into in-cab technologies. After all, these technologies are designed to make their lives far easier, right? Sure, but still, when truck drivers are tasked with learning new technologies or adapting to different ways of operating, there are learning curves.
Even more, not all fleet executives have had the chance to look closer at in-cab technologies in the field. They may not be completely aware of all that is involved and be less inclined to put the necessary dollars into investing in these technologies. A way to combat this is to let truck drivers who don’t respond well to the new technologies to opt out, but to also give fleet executives solid presentations or examples of how these technologies can enhance their own fleet operations or increase truck driver morale.
Whenever a fleet implements a new technology, truck driver buy-in is incredibly important. It goes without saying that when a motor carrier invests in a new technological advancement, they often benefit. But management must also consider the impact these advances have on those operating on the front lines.
Fleets who adopt new in-cab technologies need to be aware that there is an emotional hurdle to truck drivers signing on to using them. What is the best way to ensure this emotional hurdle is overcome? Invest in technologies that directly benefit the truck driver!
New In-Cab Tech That Truck Drivers Love
With no end in sight to the ongoing truck driver shortage, fleets are looking to better in-cab amenities to ease the crunch. But what amenities could possibly turn the tide? Let’s look at some of the technologies fleets are employing to help counteract the trucking employment problem.
One way is to outfit new trucks with top-of-the-line interiors spec’d straight from the manufacturer themselves. Included in all the creature comforts a fleet might offer the latest in communication and factory-installed safety systems. While safety technologies are something every fleet manager wants for their own reasons, truck drivers appreciate them because they demonstrate a willingness on the trucking company’s part to keep their employees safe while out on the road.
Even little-thought of things like custom-paint jobs can go a long way to making a trucker happy. When a truck driver is operating a vehicle that looks unique out there on the highway, it gives them a certain sense of ownership. They feel special riding in a rig that looks good.
Of course, the cost of such refits and technologies add up, but so do the benefits of utilizing them. Many fleets consider it their corporate responsibility to keep their truck drivers happy. After all, aren’t these the front-line employees that keep the wheels of the company moving? Without them, there would be no bottom line.
While it is hard to measure the return-on-investment for safety related technologies, in many cases the benefits can be felt from talking to the truck drivers themselves. By asking them how they feel about the changes, they will often report increased motivation and greater morale.
In addition to looking at increased safety measures, technologies such as satellite television, radio, and in some cases, even in-cab microwaves go a long way to making truck drivers far happier when they are out there on the road. Even more, these amenities can also be tied to safety incentives.
As an example, if a truck driver incurs a speeding violation, the company-paid satellite service could be deactivated for a month. In this way, new amenities are tied to improved safety outcomes. If the truck driver who incurred the violation completes the next month with no violations, or even year, perhaps the service can be upgraded. When tying in-cab amenities to safety in such a way, trucking companies can see a marked improvement on their overall CSA scores.
Other in-cab amenities that may have once been thought of as inconceivable in a semi-truck include appliances, televisions, and even video game systems that can be used when the truck is not operating. These types of amenities also exist outside the cab.
Some trucking companies are outfitting their fleet headquarters with truck driver lounges with stainless-steel appliances, granite countertops, a theater room, giant televisions, gyms, private showers, dining areas, and much, much more.
Spec’ing In-Cab Batteries for All That Technology
One thing fleet managers struggle with is how to power all this new technology being packed into the cab. Whether truck drivers are watching television, playing a video game, or operating another piece of electronically-taxing equipment, the answer for many is in in-cab power converters and technologies.
But the question is, what kind of battery technology will do the trick with so many potential devices running off the battery? Many fleet managers and fleet technicians point to inverters as the way to go. When parked at a truck stop with electrified support, inverter/chargers help keep batteries topped off no matter what they are running.
AC power will remain available to any devices within the cab even with the vehicle turned off and not plugged into a direct power source. These devices also play an important role in safety technologies. With sleep apnea being a problem in trucking, some truck drivers operate with a CPAP machine in their truck. A power inverter will keep this device, and other essential electronics devices functioning.
Fortunately, with fuel economy on every motor carrier’s mind, many are looking to weight as a critical way to decrease the amount of fuel they burn. While inverters and chargers come in various forms, some of the better varieties have a lightweight footprint, coming a compact form that can weigh at, around or even less than 12 – 15 pounds. When it comes overall vehicle gross weight, 12 – 15 pounds is nearly negligible.
Even better, top-end inverters, batteries and chargers require nearly zero maintenance. If your fleet technician is changing the oil or doing some other form of routine maintenance, worry not, they won’t have to pay any attention to the power supply running the in-cab technology.
What Are Their Lifespans?
Typically, in-cab power sources come with 2 – 3-year warranties, but in reality, will run up to 8 – 10 years. Proper varieties will meet all safety and federal requirements for quality and reliability. They generally also have many redundant and safety features built in to withstand heavy operation cycles for more prolonged periods of time.
They can also resist power spikes and overloads, being able to shut down internal components before a catastrophic failure burns out a television or other vital truck driver amenity. These built-in power sources, complete with AC power conversion, can pass through shorepower as well.
A cab equipped with a battery source or power inverter/converter can power everything from a:
- CPAP machine
- Induction cooktop
- Gaming system
- Laptop charging station
- And more
Tracking Turnover as a Result
When better in-cab amenities are employed, trucking companies often see a direct impact on decreased truck driver turnover. When trucking companies shave even a small amount of attrition costs, it has a huge impact on the overall bottom line.
Trucking companies need to access all the tools at their disposal to counter truck driver attrition. Even more, they need to make their truck drivers feel like they have an invested future in the direction of the company. By focusing on their comfort and the levels of comfort, truck drivers feel like they are appreciated and desired by their company and are less inclined to look elsewhere for employment.
Even more, they contribute to the increased profitability of their company by feeling better, driving safer, and incurring less violations while out on the road. All of this represents a win-win for the truck drivers, their employers, shippers and everyone else along the supply chain.
So, next time fleet executives are tossing their heads together trying to figure out how to increase truck driver happiness, decrease overall turnover, increase profits and watch their clients’ happiness rise along with their profits, focus on what is happening in the cab. Keep your front-line truck drivers happy while they are out there on the road and your entire company stands to benefit.