The Best Thing We’ve Ever Done For Our Drivers

NAPA Transportation

Founded in 1991, NAPA now hauls for some of the largest companies in America. Their competitive nature and think-outside-the-box approach give them the ability to adapt and thrive in an ever-changing industry. A key part of this approach is finding creative solutions to problems that mobilecomm simply cannot solve.

The problem

In early 2016, one of NAPA’s top priorities was deploying a mobile app to simplify drivers’ jobs and attract new talent. But finding a good solution proved difficult.

“It was surprisingly disappointing as far as what was out there commercially,” IT Director Jim Brighton says. “Most of them had lackluster offerings, or felt too cookie-cutter for some of the customizations we were looking for.”

Like TMC Transportation, NAPA could not justify the enormous administrative overhead and development cost of building their own app. “We wanted our time internally to be spent more on building business logic to improve functions, and features that really make a difference to both our drivers and internal staff,” Brighton says. “But I was at a point where it wasn’t looking good as far as what our third-party options were.”

Fortunately, that is when NAPA discovered Eleos.

The solution

With their mobile app project having been stalled for a year already, NAPA was happy to discover that building with Eleos is very easy. The platform’s developer-friendly design gave them the confidence to accelerate their timeline and get a minimum viable product rolled out quickly.

“Our approach was to get it out as soon as possible without trying to bring in every function and feature,” Brighton explains. “We wanted to get this in the drivers’ hands and let them be the ones to give us feedback for developing it further.”

Within six months, NAPA was able to roll out an initial offering featuring the basic functionality that drivers needed day-to-day.

“We took the approach of a kind of agile concept, where we would do these sprints,” Brighton says. “Every month, we would do a new release with a lot of the stuff that our drivers had asked for. They saw it come to light in the app, so they really felt they were part of the development.”

Telematics & HOS

NAPA’s app was powerful from the very beginning. But it was originally just a companion app, rather than a full mobilecomm replacement. NAPA wanted to change this, giving drivers the ability to manage every part of their jobs from a single, unified interface.

The most important piece of this puzzle was workflow. They had spent nearly a year and a half trying to implement workflow with their existing mobilecomm solution, but could not get it to work the way they needed.

“The folks we were working with on the mobilecomm side, said that’s just not how their functionality worked, and we just had to accept it,” Brighton remembers. “The frustrations were such that you couldn’t even say workflow without having to brace yourself. It’s such a bad term internally that we decided to call the Eleos workflow something else. We call it automated trip management.”

In the end, NAPA dropped the mobilecomm vendor and switched to Geotab for a pure telematics solution that would integrate seamlessly with Eleos. Compared to the debacle of trying to implement workflow—er, automated trip management—with their mobilecomm provider, NAPA was able to develop a solution with Eleos and Geotab quickly and easily.

This spurred a fundamental change to some of their processes, both internally and on the drivers’ side. “Eleos quickly proved to be a valuable investment,” Brighton says.

Eleos quickly proved to be a valuable investment

Using Eleos and Geotab, drivers no longer worry about problems with hours of service. Managing this is built directly into the app—a feature that has received widespread acclaim because it means drivers no longer need to be physically in their cabs to take themselves off duty.

“Often they would forget, and only realize once they were eating their lunch or whatever,” Brighton explains. “Now, instead of having to traipse back to the cab, they can fix it in five seconds on their phone.” He adds, “We hear these types of stories almost daily. They love the app.”

15 minutes saved per trip

While Eleos helps drivers to save HOS time, it also helps them to save time simply waiting for data.

Before Eleos, thousands of man-hours were disappearing every year into unavoidable downtime, as NAPA’s mobilecomm system struggled to relay messages to drivers. It would typically take 15 minutes between a load being sent out, and it showing up on their mobilecomm devices.

NAPA has about 400 drivers, so this equated to around 100 man-hours per load, per day.

With Eleos, every update goes through within a couple of seconds. “I mean immediately as it’s entered in our system, it’s available on the app,” Brighton says. “Drivers noticed that. Especially when they’re looking at things side by side.”

New frontiers

Having now learned what can be done with Eleos’ platform, NAPA’s app has developed into something truly impressive. “We really have something that is incredibly powerful, with functions and features that we didn’t even expect,” says Brighton. “We have yet to hear someone say, ‘Hey, could you do this?’ and not be able to—even if it’s really creative and out-of-the-box. Eleos gives us the creativity that we did not have before.”

A simple example of this is NAPA’s Find My Trailer feature. Many fleets have a system to help drivers find their trucks. “We said, well, if it could find a truck why can’t it find a trailer? We were able to leverage the functionality that was there, and use it for something that our drivers were sometimes wasting 20 or 30 minutes on before.”

Eleos’ remarkable flexibility is also helping to automate compliance with complex regulations. For instance, when the Department of Agriculture mandated inspection forms for any truck entering or leaving areas affected by the spotted lanternfly pandemic, the administrative burden looked enormous. Drivers had to do inspections, make notes of any flies spotted, dispose of them correctly, look for hatchlings and eggs—and then NAPA had to compile these into a report every month.

In the old days, NAPA’s Safety Department would have had to provide every driver with a form, and made Driver Managers responsible for checking that they were filled out.

But Brighton had other ideas.

“We said, maybe we could do something on the app.”

Knowing where the affected zip codes were, NAPA simply added some lookup tables to fluidly manage these zones through the driver app. Any driver dispatched to an affected zip will automatically get the inspection form added to their workflow. Once it is filled out, it goes into their database.

“We use that to pull the report out, and it becomes available to the Department of Agriculture,” Brighton explains. “There’s no work involved. It’s simple. It’s just a creative way of solving something that no doubt other carriers in Pennsylvania, specifically, are probably doing very manually.”

With their creative approach to development, NAPA has now built a driver app that is perfectly customized to their business needs. They have multiple custom workflows, easy access to dispatch information, two-way messaging, custom forms, exception reporting, and more.

Drivers love the app for making their lives easier, while executives love the platform for improving profitability and efficiency across the company.

“Our owner has repeatedly said that this is probably the best thing we’ve ever done for our drivers,” Brighton says. “And I agree.”

This is probably the best thing we’ve ever done for our drivers.
Ron Accomando

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