Increasingly, fleets are deploying their own custom apps to improve the driver experience. The limitations of electronic logging devices (ELDs) and telematics products have ignited this trend and driven fleets to look for more comprehensive solutions. An online search of the 20 largest fleets, by truck count, shows that 14 are using custom-built apps. Next-generation ELDs and telematics systems make it easier for fleets to run third-party apps and utilize tablet devices. Likewise, many products have a consumer-style user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) that help simplify work for drivers. No ELD and telematics product offers a one-sizefits-all solution, however.
Pre-packaged features and functions are either too sparse or cookie-cutter to meet every fleet’s unique specification.
Creating out-of-cab mobility
Fleets can untether drivers from the cab by deploying custom apps that run safely on personal Android and Apple devices and give them all the tools needed for the job. TMC Transportation — the nation’s largest privately held flatbed carrier — created a custom app to simplify tasks and improve driver communications. Drivers can access real-time dispatch information, two-way messaging, truck-safe navigation, training videos, pay stub information, and more from any location.
“Prior to having the mobile app, our drivers were kind of restricted to having to wait in the trucks for the load information to come through or for any kind of communication from the fleet manager,” says Travis Johnson, executive vice president of operations of the Des Moines, Iowa-based fleet. “The mobile app has really advanced our thinking and put us leaps and bounds ahead of our competition.” Besides out-of-cab mobility, the experiences of top fleets using custom apps show the most beneficial paybacks come from five distinct areas:
Trucking can be a 24/7 job for drivers when on the road. Miscommunications and delays, such as waiting on load information, subtracts from productive drive time and creates flashpoints for turnover. Studies show turnover risks are highest during the onboarding period. Only 69% of drivers hired by fleets in the first quarter of 2022 lasted beyond the first 90 days, according to Tenstreet. Below are three ways fleets use custom apps to improve communication speed and accuracy for drivers:
Communication is often the root cause of drivers quitting WorkHound’s 2022 Trends and Pay Report shows that 20.2% of the critical comments fleets received from drivers were about pay.
No more surprises. Fleets are using custom apps to ensure drivers are paid on time and in full. Mobile document capture, done through a custom app, can be enhanced with automated alerts that keep drivers on top of paperwork and submitting images without delay. Also, fleets can push detailed pay stub information to drivers in the app to answer questions and reduce calls to the office.
“Our custom app has really improved our efficiency,” said Cory Nakvinda, IT Director of Groendyke Transport, a top tank carrier based in Enid, Okla. “The paperwork is submitted in real time, and we’re able to accurately match up the data in our TMS and kick off our back-end billing and payroll processes.”
The ability to decide what to display and communicate to drivers is another reason fleets use custom apps.
Step-by-step instructions. Groendyke Transport uses a messaging feature in its custom app that gives drivers an organized list of tasks they need to complete each day. With this clarity, drivers aren’t left wondering what they need to do to complete a delivery. Groendyke can track when a driver has completed tasks or viewed content.
No more trailer searches. NAPA Transportation, a 400-truck fleet based in Mechanicsburg, Penn., added a Find My Trailer feature to its custom app. The feature routinely saves drivers 20 or 30 minutes a day searching for trailers, explains Jim Brighton, IT director at NAPA. The app displays the GPS locations of trailers on a digital map through an integration with the fleet’s transportation management system (TMS).
Working for a common mission or purpose is a key factor in employee engagement. Fleets that use custom apps can take advantage of rich media formats to bring corporate news and watercooler talk to drivers.
Keeping drivers connected. Groendyke uses the messaging capabilities of its custom app to deliver regular “GTI Mobile Minute” videos. The short video communications from company executives help drivers feel more connected to the company.
Tracking engagement. Paper Transport, a 950-truck carrier based in De Pere, Wis., uses its custom app with a social networking feature to send drivers a monthly video message from CEO Ben Schill. The same message is also sent to all employees. Sending content through the app has made it possible to track who watches the message, and engagement has improved vastly compared to previous methods like email.
Unique newsfeeds. Prime, Inc., one of the nation’s largest truckload carriers, gives drivers a curated news experience. The Springfield, Mo.- based company built more than a dozen unique news feeds in its custom app. Each feed provides drivers with information pertaining to their needs in refrigerated, tanker, flatbed, and other divisions
The ELD mandate made it necessary for fleets and drivers to consider hours-of-service and other variables more carefully in route planning. With custom apps, fleets can bridge the gap between planning and execution. Integrating driver trip planning tools in custom apps with ELDs and back-office systems makes this possible.
Putting drivers in control. The nation’s largest truckload carrier, Knight-Swift, built a custom driver app that gives drivers greater control over many aspects of route planning. Drivers can adjust routes by using the company’s app on personal devices or the fleet’s in-cab tablets. Drivers can update fuel stop locations, add points of interest, and make other route changes. The system instantly analyzes the updates to make sure they meet the company’s allowance standards
Calculating arrival times. Paper Transport’s custom app has a proprietary smartETA system that shows drivers where and when they will arrive at planned stops. The trip plan includes customers, fuel locations, and rest breaks. The system displays a simulated plan with travel and dwell times for every trip segment based on current and future load assignments. As drivers progress on a route, smartETA continuously updates arrival times. After a trip is complete, the app shows drivers how they performed according to the plan.
Like the spokes of a wheel, fleets need to regularly adjust driver behaviors to keep them aligned with safety policies and government regulations. Custom apps give fleets the ability to improve driver workflows using prompts, checks, forms and other safeguards to close gaps left by ELD telematics solutions.
Creating awareness. Paper Transport’s custom app gives drivers a daily scorecard of safety and performance metrics. Included is a daily report that shows drivers if they violated posted speed limits from the day prior. The violations are marked on a map for reference. Previously, the company sent printed scorecards to drivers with information that was 30 to 45 days old.
“We saw a dramatic improvement in adherence to speed limits,” says Paper Transport CEO Ben Schill. “If you show something that happened 30 days ago, drivers will not know what you are talking about.” Preserving on-duty time. NAPA Transportation’s custom app integrates with its ELD platform. Drivers can take themselves off duty while outside the cab. This feature preserves time that might otherwise get lost if drivers exit the cab and forget to change duty status. “Now, instead of having to traipse back to the cab, they can fix it in five seconds on their phone,” Brighton explains. “We hear these types of stories almost daily. They love the app.”
Increasing compliance. Before having a custom app, NAPA had an issue with drivers not verifying logs within the required time frame. By using data from its telematics system, the app removes upcoming trip details for drivers who have not verified their logs within 48 hours. Once drivers submit logs, the trip details reappear. This feature increased driver log compliance from 25% to more than 93% overnight and cut 40 hours of weekly administrative work.
Every customer has unique requirements. In-cab fleet mobility systems typically lack the level of customization it takes to create unique screens and forms to meet specific customer needs.
Cherry-picking metrics. One way Paper Transport meets customer needs is by scoring and incentivizing drivers for key customer service metrics. By creating a custom app, the company pulls data from different sources and uses unique scorecard metrics to account for nuances for dedicated operations and each customer.
“Our custom app allowed us to provide metrics that made sense for drivers. They can directly influence how they are performing in areas that matter to each account,” Schill says.
Trucking is a dynamic, fast-paced business. Fleets cannot afford to wait weeks or months for software vendors to release updates when they need to solve pressing operational challenges.
With a custom app, fleets can edit or modify features they need to resolve current issues and proactively create new solutions. Fleets can also choose what features they present to drivers and turn off the ones their organizations do not need.
Using driver feedback. NAPA lets drivers shape the evolution of its app. “Every month, we do a new release with a lot of the stuff that our drivers had asked for. Seeing their suggestions come to light in the app really makes them feel like they are part of the development,” says NAPA’s Jim Brighton.
The flexibility of using custom apps also proves advantageous when fleets need to update or replace in-cab or backend systems. While the data comes into the app from a different source, the experience for drivers does not change on new in-cab devices and their personal smartphones.
Custom driver apps are saving top fleets significant time and money compared to using off-the-shelf fleet mobility systems. They also help to significantly increase driver productivity, safety, and retention. The technology is now within the reach of fleets of all sizes, regardless of their technical ability. New SAAS platforms offer prebuilt components and extensively tested integrations that take the guesswork, expense, and frustration out of building or maintaining an app with in-house developers and IT resources.
If you’d like to see how we’ve helped other fleets create their own custom driver app, simply contact us.
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