Like any business, a motor carrier can develop Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to define and measure progress toward organizational goals. But what’s more, according to Randy Seals, McLeod Software’s customer advocate, KPIs can drive decision-making for daily fleet operations in real time via specific software tools.

Spears moderated a panel on the topic of strategically leveraging KPIs in real time at the Business Process Excellence Conference hosted by McLeod Software last week in Lake Geneva, WI. The panelists use McLeod’s LoadMaster enterprise software system to access KPIs and other critical information in real time.

“By closely tracking KPIs you can quickly change the direction of where your operation is headed,” remarked Houston Vaughn, COO of P&S Transportation. “[These measures let you] look at the activity in your operation and then you can ask why you didn’t make [a specific goal].

“What’s happening with your KPIs also allows you to show people what they have actually done—as usually there’s a reason why something happened as it did,” he continued. “To do their jobs, people need to know the percentages [goals] and the expectations that go with meting them.”

Regarding using KPIs to measure driver performance, Brad Jones, president-- operations for Florilli Transportation, pointed out that his operation “doesn’t use them as a termination tool, but as an educational tool” to help drivers improve their safety and customer-service performance.” He added that Florilli works to set KPIs that can be presented as “bullet items” that workers “can understand and act on.”

“The first thing we had to do was identify the KPIs that would enable us to track goals vs. the actual difference from each goal,” advised Mike Marquart vp of Birchwood Transport. He explained that Birchwood uses KPIs to measure revenue per mile, revenue per truck, percentage of deadhead miles and asset utilization. “We find that Monday through Friday we are hitting our revenue goals. But even though our trucks do not run as much on Saturdays and Sundays, we still have goals set for them as well.”

Another session delved into using Business Intelligence (BI) strategically. Per a CIO.com post, BI can be defined as “an umbrella term that refers to a variety of software applications used to analyze an organization’s raw data. BI as a discipline is made up of several related activities, including data mining, online analytical processing, querying and reporting.”

P&S Transportation’s Vaughn said his fleet “got into Business Intelligence by accident” but the upshot is that he now defines BI as having access “at one place to all the information coming in from different systems. We then look at what we have to consider from the top level down. That helps us make sure each group in the company is operating in unison.”

“We want to know if we are getting where we want to be and at the speed we want to,” said Ramona Hood, managing director of FedEx Truckload Brokerage. “We use BI to get a high-level view of the internal and external influences on our operation.  BI enables us to see if the plan and the resources [assigned to it] were effective to attain the results we were seeking from a given project.

“For example, if we were targeting a service for a specific market or industry,” she continued, “we’ll set the criteria for success and then review the data after completion.  We use BI to determine our product offerings. And we use it to determine when to launch such and such a project.”

Speakers on another panel agreed that the times have changed markedly when it comes to hiring and retaining drivers.  “Our best tool is our drivers,” stated P&S Transportation’s Vaughn. “And the ways of recruiting and retaining them in the past are no longer effective. You, as a company, have to set yourself up as a place where drivers want to work—it’s not about sign-on bonuses and the like. It all comes down to making what your company offers stand out above the others. Ask yourself, what are you doing to put yourself above the competition so drivers will want to work for you?”

Since Birchwood relies on owner-operators, Marquart said keeping them onboard “comes down to having basic business discussions with them.  McLeod [software] gives us access to the data so we can sit down with an operator and show him how he could run some more miles or get higher fuel mileage and how those decisions would increase his revenue. And it’s amazing the number of guys who act on the information we can provide— because they want to succeed.

“Safety discussions with them are also important,” Marquart added. “All in all, we treat our operators like businessmen and they appreciate that.”

“We feel The time we spend with drivers and the attention we pay them are key ,” said Florilli’s Jones.  “In fact, the greatest number of drivers we hire are actually re-hires, who had gone out and looked for that greener grass.

“Often, we discover it is a small issue [that’s disconcerting to a driver] that can be resolved quickly by our taking the time to listen to drivers and to respond. It’s all about attention to detail,” Jones added.