Trucking as a profession is changing fast. Although the concept of telematics has been around for a while, technologies surrounding it have been prohibitively expensive for smaller carriers. This has lead to the vast majority of trucking industry being slow to adopt new technologies. However, we are now entering a post-telematics age of trucking and about to see the rise of connected drivers.
For too long, the potential of drivers to act as more than just steering-wheel holders has been ignored. The truth is, truck drivers are critical to customer service as the face of the fleet and are quickly becoming knowledge workers too. Drivers are now armed with tools that enhance their critical role in the last miles of distribution and they are changing the value equation.
Having data at hand allows them to create more efficient use of time and better customer service; drivers are vastly improving their productivity. The result is empowered drivers delivering value and a much more rewarding skill set than simply operating the vehicle.
Possessing the right tools and information, connected drivers are able to elevate their role in the distribution value chain. These are the key tools they rely on:
- Smartphone/Tablet: Like the general population, drivers are using their smartphones as the “first screen” for content consumption and communication.
- Apps: Mobile apps for communication, planning and organization have become an indispensable tool for connected drivers to manage the daily rigors of the road.
- Mobile Messaging: Text messaging, social networking and email are the key methods the connected driver connects with dispatchers, customers and other drivers.
Trucking career paths in the past have been fairly exclusive with drivers staying as drivers and rarely moving into managerial roles. But with these new digital tools, drivers are becoming more ambitious and qualified to take on more responsibility in the delivery process.
The connected driver is a modern, well-tooled professional leveraging the latest information and mobile technology, while relying less on antiquated paper-based processes.
Empowering the Next-Generation Driver
The connected driver does more than hold a steering wheel. Utilizing drivers as a front line in customer service enhances their role, leading to a much more varied skill set. With widespread use of technology comes the removal of some of the more tedious aspects of the job, increasing the driver’s productivity while delivering better value to the customer. This augmented driver role makes for a much more satisfying work environment and could be a key to attracting young drivers into the industry.
With the mandated adoption of Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) expected as early as 2017. This will force small fleet owners and drivers to make an investment into some form of technology. Finding a cost-effective solution that can deliver enterprise-class value will be the key for small carriers with limited capital.
Technology could be one way to attract younger drivers (by removing some of the more tedious aspects of the job, for example) and combat the driver shortage.
As 90% of carriers are made up of 6 or fewer trucks, few can afford to be locked into the long-term contracts with proprietary hardware that’s associated with costly telematics systems. For most carriers, finding a better solution that’s cheaper and easy to implement is a must.
The spread and affordability of mobile technology allows the fleet owners to leverage the BYOD (“bring your own device”) trend that’s popular in many workplaces today. Mobile apps have created a major leap in professional productivity. Smartphone adoption among truckers has grown considerably in the last few years and this mobile revolution is the foundation of the connected driver and post-telematics era of trucking.