You’ve probably heard someone refer to their cell phone as an "electronic leash."
It’s a funny line, but it betrays the still very strong desire among us for independence and freedom that seems to be especially prevalent among those drawn to the truck driving profession. Understand that concept and you can understand the reluctance and disdain for electronic logging devices and other logistics and truck operations management systems.
For many drivers, this new technology is little more than a massively powerful "electronic leash" on their professional lives.
Recognizing that potential resistance to in-cab technology is a starting point to successful implementation of ELD systems for trucking companies. So, let’s assume you have that basic understanding of driver reluctance regarding in-cab technology. How do you meet and overcome that barrier?
Three words: Engage. Educate. Explain.
When moving to in-cab technology systems, too many carriers fail to engage drivers from the very start of process.
Wayne Brown, vice president of information technology at Maverick Transportation in North Little Rock, Arkansas, says that his company’s early engagement of its 1,700 drivers was critical to a successful move to in-cab tech systems five years ago, before the ELD mandate was passed by Congress.
Successful engagement, he says, begins with a complete and transparent organizational commitment to operational safety. That requires communicating frequently and consistently with drivers to understand what their needs are in their working environment. It’s listening to drivers’ concerns and desires. All that needs to begin before the technology systems are selected and installed.
A system that looks good to the folks at headquarters may or may not be as warmly received by the folks in the cab. Part of that is related to a very real understanding of how drivers operate—what they do and don’t like to do as part of their jobs. And another part is simply responding to human nature: Drivers, like everyone else, want to feel as if they are being heard and their wishes are being given serious consideration before they’re handed new tools to operate and rules to follow.
Brown says, "You’ve got to communicate to your guys and train them for a lot of reasons, including retention and optimization. We had that commitment."
This one seems like a no-brainer, but it’s really easy to skip. That’s especially true when training a large contingent of drivers spread out across the nation will cost a lot of money and result in a short-term reduction in productivity. In Maverick’s case, they brought all 1,700 drivers into the headquarters for a couple of days of training.
That training included lessons on how to operate and trouble shoot the system as well as training drives with instructors onboard. Not only were the instructors making sure drivers knew how to turn the new technology systems on, enter data and understand what the systems were telling them, they also were helping ease drivers’ anxieties over dealing with the new technology.
Too often when companies go to new systems or technologies they forget one critical task: to answer the "why" question for their employees.
Adding a new ELD system or a more powerful suite of technology tools to a truck is about more than simple compliance with a federal mandate. It is a move toward a more efficient operating environment that should benefit the driver as much as it benefits the company.
But if drivers never get past the point of seeing in-cab technology as anything more than an "electronic leash," the full benefit of that technology will never be realized. But when they come to understand that entering data properly and on time will eventually lead to their being assigned schedules that maximize their earnings without making them spend more time away from home, they will be highly motivated become proficient in managing those in-cab systems. When they come to understand how something as simple as braking system monitoring not only can improve their driving skills but enhance company profitability and growth—and therefore their own compensation and career opportunities—they are far more likely to buy in to the effective use of those systems.
Thus it is critical for trucking companies now considering how they will implement new ELD systems to focus as much on their drivers as on the technologies themselves. Engaging the drivers even before the technology is bought, educating them in the proper and effective use of those systems, and explaining to them (continuously) how those systems will make both the company more profitable and their lives better are absolute essentials to any successful in-cab technology deployment.
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