What do they say when you ask, "How's my driving?"
Ed Koch, perhaps New York's archetypal mayor (who now rides the TV-judge circuit), was fond of greeting his constituents with a question as straightforward as Gotham itself: "How'm I doin'?"
President Clinton may be fond of reading polls like tea leaves, but Hizzoner took his political pulse by directly measuring the impact he had on the man and woman in the street.
And so it goes with fleets that have the nerve to ask the motoring public to tell them how they're doing by providing a number to call below the question "How's my driving?" carried on the rear doors of their equipment.
It would be nice to think this has done some good for the industry's image and highway safety in general. But I doubt it. Because, to date, I know of no fleet manager who has claimed any success in any manner with such a direct communications program.
Judging by the number of numbskulls I see piloting everything from big rigs to delivery vans, familiarity may already be breeding contempt for the little messages displayed on their tails for all they've cut off or otherwise irked to see.
Sort of how the "Have a nice day" mouthed robotically by fast-food servers and store clerks across the land has been robbed of any value through overuse.
Even the most abrasive New Yorkers would have hesitated to tell Mr. Koch what they really thought of him face-to-face. The mayor's query was an excellent way to demonstrate how loved he was - and in public no less.
But I doubt it works that nicely for truck fleets. You don't have to be a sociologist to figure out few people will bother to phone in a complaint, especially when an offending truck blows by them too fast or with a number printed too small for them to take down. I'm willing to bet that even fewer people will take the time to dial you up with a compliment.
I'll grant it's possible the growing use of cell phones by motorists means fleets are getting more calls than ever. Of course, if someone's ticked off enough, they'll get a hold of you even when there's no phone number anywhere on your truck.
Or your fleet could be like the tire dealer in Pennsylvania whose truck I once encountered on the highway in Connecticut. The driver was barreling this truck along I-95 at midday in a manner that was at once aggressive and haphazard. There was no "How's my driving?" sticker on it, but the sides of the truck were emblazoned a yard or more high with a toll-free 800 number.
Whatever it was, it was easy to remember so I called the firm up when I got to a phone. I told them I wasn't trying to make trouble for their driver, but I just had to know how he could drive that brazenly with a phone number that big on his truck. They said they didn't know. But they knew which driver it was - before I told them where the incident occurred.
So, how are these phone-in campaigns doing? I, for one, would really like to know. So would fleet managers wondering whether such a program would be worth the crank calls, expenses, and general bother of instituting. Managers of fleets already putting their number out there also would surely like to know if similar efforts are paying off or not.
How about letting the rest of us in on the successes achieved or of the failures incurred by boldly asking the public what they think of you?
If you send in your experiences with "How's my driving?" messages, I'll be sure to present them here for the benefit of all your fellow FLEET OWNER readers.
Thanks in advance for playing. And, while we're at it, have a nice day.