Communication analysis

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In this economy, if you’re a good driver getting OK miles, you’re not leaving your fleet – you’re sticking around. What fleets need to worry about is that, as soon as freight improves, these drivers will be the first ones out the door if they have issues with your company.” –Tim Crawford, president, Tenstreet LLC

In doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand why keeping good drivers long term saves fleets money across many different areas – even Tim Crawford knows this, and he’s never driven a truck, nor working in trucking operations.

Crawford (pictured below at right), president of software vendor Tenstreet LLC out of Tulsa, OK, is a numbers guy and worked for years at USIS, the company that produces Drive-A-Check or “DAC” reports that track a commercial truck driver’s work history. Now, a lot of drivers hate DAC reports, for like credit reports if inaccurate information gets in there – especially stuff that paints a driver in a bad light – it’s notoriously impossible to scrub that data out.

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Yet the flip side is that good, accurate data transferred quickly between drivers and fleets can benefit both parties in a lot of ways – and that’s one of the reasons Crawford struck out on his own to form Tenstreet. He figured that if fleets and drivers could move to an electronic-based hiring process – one that eliminates paper, faxes, as well as cuts down on application processing time – everyone would benefit; especially good drivers. That’s he then took things to the next level by adding in a standardized data-gathering system to aid with retention as well.

“I call it moving from anecdotes to analytics,” Crawford told me in a recent sit down interview. “You always ‘hear’ about grumbling, but what specifically is upsetting to your core of good drivers? If you can stay in regular contact with them and get information that identifies issues in detail so you can correct them, then you’re heading off turnover issues when freight volumes return.”

[Crawford explains this data-gathering philosophy in more detail below, both from a retention and recruiting perspective.]

Crawford’s system relies regular follow up calls with drivers once hired – every week for the first 30 days, let’s say, changing to every 30 or 90 days thereafter, however the fleets wants to structure it. Human resource personnel call the drivers and ask them a detailed series of questions – condition of equipment, night dispatch, weekly settlement issues, and fuel economy bonuses, among others – that are then “scored” to create a specific series of metrics a fleet can analyze to see if they have problems that need to be addressed.

“If you have drivers that feel that, rightly or wrongly, they are being cheated out of their fuel bonus – that the fuel efficiency calculations are rigged – you need to find out about that and address it head on,” Crawford says. “As you can imagine, conspiracy theories like that heat up and spread fast.”

The key through all of this however is to build accurate communication pathways to a fleet’s best drivers – to get crystal clear insight from them as to what is working and what is not. Because keeping good drivers on board saves fleets money – not just saving a carrier some $5,000 to $8,000 in recruiting costs when a driver leaves but also because good drivers have fewer accidents, post better on-time delivery rates, and generally demonstrate higher marks across a variety of metrics.

[Crawford goes into more detail here about why fleets need to keep good drivers.]

So to Crawford’s mind fleets need to merge an “aggressive communication” schedule with good data-gathering questions so carriers can more accurately track what’s going right and what’s going wrong out there among their driver corps.

“It’s getting a good ‘bird’s eye view’ of what drivers are specifically happy or upset about month to month, so a fleet can go out and directly address the issue,” he told me. “Recognize, too, that most of the time the changes that are required to address many driver issues aren’t expensive – indeed, regular communication with drivers alone and knowing their concerns are heard help build creditability. Because by reducing turnover, you spend less on recruiting. More importantly, you keep better driver on board – and that pays all sorts of positive dividends over time.

What's Trucks at Work?

Trucks at Work: Sean Kilcarr comments on trends affecting the many different strata of the trucking industry.

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