Cowan Systems says the new messaging app is good for both drivers and dispatchers.

Cowan Systems says the new messaging app is good for both drivers and dispatchers.

Photo: Cowan Systems

Seeking a quicker way to zip messages between dispatchers and drivers, Cowan Systems turned to a new cloud-based messaging system that delivers real-time communications back and forth between the dispatch desk and driver’s cab.

With its substantial operations, messaging is a critical lifeline for Halethorpe, Maryland-based Cowan. The company offers dedicated truckload and intermodal service as well as warehousing, brokerage, and driver staffing services. It operates in some 40 states, serving a customer base that includes many Fortune 500 companies as well as small businesses.

The fleet employs 1,900 drivers and fields over 2,000 company tractors and 6,000 trailers. It supplements its operations with owner-operators. The company delivers truckload freight across most of the country. Driver communications is key to running the business cost-effectively AND providing on-time and error-free service, says Joe Cawley, Cowan senior vice president and chief technology officer.

Cowan turned to Motorcity Systems to integrate that firm’s Relay instant-messaging platform with the fleet’s new electronic logging and telematics devices.

Fleet Snapshot

Who: Cowan Systems

Where: Baltimore, Maryland 

Fleet: 2,500 tractors, 1,900 drivers

Operations: Dedicated truckload, intermodal, warehousing, and brokerage services

Fun Fact: In 1954, seven Cowan trucks conveyed the 100-ton Iwo Jima statue that is atop the USMC War Memorial from New York to Washington

Challenge: Implement a messaging app that is more efficient for dispatchers and user-friendly to drivers

“The goal was to provide modern messaging capabilities to our drivers and to sharply improve the productivity of our dispatchers to receive and respond to messages.”

Unlike instant text and chat messaging that drivers already had access to on their smartphones, according to Motorcity, many ELD and telematic devices make drivers wait five minutes or more to hear back from dispatchers.

Tablet Access in the Truck Cab

By contrast, the Relay platform integrates with ELD and back-office dispatch software. Outdated messaging tools in the dispatch systems were removed, and Cowan drivers now access the new cloud-based messaging system on new tablet devices in their cabs.

“We rolled out Relay in 2022,” says Cawley. “At the time, we were migrating to a new telematics system and found that Relay was tightly coupled with our new system.” Cowan opted to deploy Relay with a customized Eleos mobile app for drivers.

“Relay is integrated with the mobile app,” he explains. “Drivers found the messaging easy to use and the training was straightforward. The app enables drivers to message back to the Motorcity Relay cloud for delivery to our dispatchers, without leaving the Eleos app. They work within the app seamlessly.”

According to Cawley, the productivity boost Relay delivered to drivers is even more pronounced on the dispatch side.

“Dispatchers find it user-friendly and versatile,” he says. “Along with messaging, the Relay system can issue alerts to dispatchers on ‘events’ completed as a driver completes a delivery sequence.

Dispatchers can choose to message drivers within a geographic group or any driver within a geofenced area or any individual driver.

Sending messages through in-cab ELD and telematics devices can take too long.

Sending messages through in-cab ELD and telematics devices can take too long.

Photo: Cowan Systems

“Also, the system makes it easy for a dispatcher to take on a different terminal’s driver group after hours,” Cawley says.

Cawley adds that Relay’s message priority can be filtered by dispatchers so that only priority messages from their specific driver groups come through.

“That cuts down on the ‘background noise’ that dispatchers deal with, keeping them organized and engaged with the drivers on the road.”

Watch this video from Motorcity about how Relay works:

About the author
David Cullen

David Cullen

[Former] Business/Washington Contributing Editor

David Cullen comments on the positive and negative factors impacting trucking – from the latest government regulations and policy initiatives coming out of Washington DC to the array of business and societal pressures that also determine what truck-fleet managers must do to ensure their operations keep on driving ahead.

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