FreightLoad1 Photo: Sean Kilcarr/American Trucker

What Drivers Want: Part Two

Sometimes equipment specification decisions can end up turning off drivers, feedback research shows.

A compilation of feedback from 8,500 truck drivers in the TL sector via an electronic platform developed by WorkHound finds that fleet management decisions regarding equipment specifications can end up being a turn-off, especially if the reasoning for those decisions isn’t shared across a motor carrier’s workforce.

In a conference call with reporters hosted by research firm Stifel Capital Markets, WorkHound’s Max Farrell and Andrew Kirpalani, respectively CEO and co-founder and chief technology officer and co-founder of the company, said that drivers responding via its “instantaneous feedback” platform often don’t feel consulted in regard to some of the equipment spec'ing decisions that are made by the fleets they work for.

“Motor carriers usually have strong reasons as to why equipment decisions are made but drivers don’t often understand the thoughts behind those decisions,” Farrell explained.

He added that issues with equipment ranked second on the list of top four concerns, according to WorkHound’s research.

Take, for the example, making the switch from manual gearboxes to automated manual transmissions (AMTs).

“This issue is typically raised by veteran drivers,” he said. “As many companies start to explore the move to an automatic, this frustrates veteran drivers. In a world of constant change, the manual shift [transmission] provides a sense of familiarity and drivers often point to the fact that the manual shift gives them more control of the truck.”

Drivers also said they feel and AMT or fully-automatic gearbox actually “limits their control of the truck,” and a similar feeling is expressed in regard to speed-limiting devices.

“Drivers actually see [engine speed] governors as a safety risk, which may be counter-intuitive to how a company sees governors,” Farrell noted. “The drivers often plead that their experience and skill level are being discounted if the truck is being ‘handicapped’ or governed, if you will.”

Ultimately, he said there “seems to be a lack of understanding” around why the company speed-limits its trucks, whether it’s to make fuel economy gains or for safety reasons.

Stronger negative feelings arose when the subject turned to driver facing cameras. “The overwhelming consensus, as you all can imagine, is that drivers feel like they’re getting spied on,” Farrell stressed.

“The detail around that is that drivers feel like they’re being spied on in their home, because for the majority of the drivers that we are engaging [with], these are over-the-road drivers,” he emphasized. “[To them] these are not simply cameras that are activated only by [traffic] incidents. There is the concern that they are always being watched and so as a result drivers feel that their privacy is violated – and that there’s not much trust as a result.”

Farrell noted that while many fleet decisions are made with cost, safety, or fuel efficiency in mind, drivers often don’t see any direct benefit to those changes.

“Ultimately the truck is the driver’s home and it’s their tool to do their job, so when the tools are changed, this creates frustration because these changes are really personal to drivers,” he stressed. “It’s like changing a carpenter’s tools; yes, the carpenter can still do the job, but there’s frustration around the lack of choice and a lack of understanding about whether the new tools are helping them improve the job.”

Still, Farrell noted that the motor carriers WorkHound consults with are starting to change their approach in this arena.

“There’s a move [by] companies to improve communication here and we’re starting to see more of the explanation around why things are the way they are,” he said. “Still, there’s always room for improvements.”

In part three tomorrow, WorkHound delves into feedback data that illuminates what upsets drivers the most when it comes to pay and bonus packages.

TAGS: News Trucks
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