Driver Communications – Is There a Better Way?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

What did truck drivers do forty years ago, before Qualcomm, modern-day telematics solutions, and mobile apps? It’s an entire lifetime for some, but there are drivers still on the road today who remember when the only way to speak to a dispatcher, a shipper, or a receiver, was to hit the wall of payphones at a truck stop. Can you imagine?!

Today’s truckers have numerous ways to communicate with dispatchers, shippers, and receivers, and vice versa – no more payphones! In fact, it’s so easy to communicate with people today, we rarely give it any consideration. Communication should be at the forefront of your drivers’ experience.  Here are three reasons why you owe it to your drivers and your business, to implement a well thought out, formalized communications strategy. 

#1 – Safety, first!

We talk to plenty of fleets who communicate with their drivers via text messages to drivers’ personal mobile phones, even though they acknowledge they know it’s a bad practice. It’s a bad practice for multiple reasons. For one, it’s illegal and has been since the FMSCA’s ruling in 2013. For two, drivers caught texting are fined heavily and so are their employers, not to mention the trickle-down costs of higher CSA scores. For three, it’s dangerous. Text messaging was directly linked to 400 fatal US car accidents in 2022, a statistic that’s thankfully improving, albeit slowly.

Many of today’s fleets message their drivers through telematics solutions. This is definitely a step up from text messaging since any telematics solution worth its salt has intelligent in-motion locking to prevent the driver from messaging while the truck is moving. 

But let’s be honest, sometimes you need to be able to communicate with drivers while the wheels are turning… maybe because the wheels are turning. Shippers have high expectations and margins are tight. You can’t afford messaging lag times and you can’t wait until a driver stops for fuel to tell them they have the wrong trailer or their next stop is canceled and they’re headed to the wrong destination. Maybe you pick up the phone and call them, but that’s also dangerous, and what if you need an audit trail? 

A custom driver app enables you to deliver messages to drivers real-time. Urgent messages can be differentiated from all the other messages drivers receive, for instance, they could have a specific notification sound to alert them of an issue. Drivers can listen to these messages without risking safety and without pulling over to the side of the road.

#2 – Message fatigue

Speaking of all those other messages… 

There are so many reasons fleets reach out to drivers – dispatch updates, hometime requests, driver training, HR deadlines, company announcements, settlement info – the list is endless. Drivers are inundated with messages, and when too many of those messages aren’t relevant to a particular driver, you run the risk that they tune out and avoid reading messages altogether.

With a custom mobile app messages can be segmented based on any variety of characteristics – driver, customer, location, equipment, etc. For example, there’s no need to share updates on company benefits with owner-operators. Drivers in Arizona probably don’t need to know about temporary weather-related closures in Minnesota. There’s also no need to share news specific to flatbeds with reefer drivers. Why bombard your entire fleet with reminders to verify logs when you could instead message only your chronic offenders? When drivers consistently receive messages that are relevant to them, they’re far more likely to read them.

Another way a custom mobile app enables you to tailor messages is by delivery mechanism. For instance, drivers can chat with different company departments in two-way threaded chat streams. Company news can be delivered in a news feed. Important tasks can be assigned to the driver via a To Do list. Weekly videos from Safety can be posted to temporary home screen announcements and also saved to a media library for future retrieval. Settlements are delivered in their own designated section of the app. When drivers intuitively know which messages require action, which don’t and where to find the information they need, they’re more efficient, more self-sufficient and better able to serve the business.

Lastly, another compelling reason for a custom mobile app is the ability for drivers to access messages and content outside the cab. A custom mobile app for Android and iPhone means your drivers are no longer chained to the cab of the truck when it comes to messages – whether it’s reading the company news, completing a request to scan a missing proof of a delivery document, watching the latest safety video, or messaging their driver manager to request hometime. When drivers can do business from the counter at the truck stop or the comfort of their living room couch they’re more likely to get things done and are much happier.

#3 – Driver satisfaction matters

The result of a poor communications strategy can be costly. Given the challenges fleets have in attracting and retaining quality drivers, driver satisfaction is more important than ever. According to a 2023 Workhound Annual Trends Report, poor communications rose from 6th place in 2021 to 1st place in 2022, as the most important concern facing drivers. At the end of the day, we all want to reverse this trend and one way to do that is by improving driver communication and helping drivers feel better about their jobs. You want a communications strategy that makes drivers’ lives easier:

  • Urgent messages should be easily identifiable and safely accessible 
  • Messages should be real-time and relevant 
  • Messages and content should be well-organized and easily retrieved
  • Drivers should be able to read and respond to messages anytime, from anywhere

Don’t make them wish for that wall of payphones! Or worse yet, another fleet. 

A custom mobile app is the ideal solution to enable your comprehensive communications strategy – and a powerful way to make a difference for your fleet and your most important asset – your drivers.

Photo credit: Wisconsin Historical Society

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