Kevin Survance, CEO of Eleos Technologies, shares three ways fleets can update their communications strategy and technology, - Photo: Eleos Technologies/Canva

Kevin Survance, CEO of Eleos Technologies, shares three ways fleets can update their communications strategy and technology, 

Photo: Eleos Technologies/Canva

Roll back 40 years. Qualcomm had not yet pioneered in-cab satellite communications and interstate drivers had to contact dispatchers, shippers, and receivers the old-fashioned way — by payphone.

Older drivers remember the days, but most Gen Xers and millennials do not. Technology has made it so easy for fleets to communicate with drivers, and vice versa, that the greater challenge is preventing deadly distractions.

Ensuring safe driver communications and improving their work experience are two of the greatest needs in the trucking industry today. Below are three ways fleets can update their communications strategy and technology to address these challenges.

1.  Messaging in Motion

Few, if any, fleets routinely communicate with drivers by sending text messages to their personal phones. Yet it happens, even with rules in place to prevent it. Drivers caught texting can be fined up to $2,750 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and fleets found responsible for drivers texting face fines of up to $11,000, and their FMCSA Compliance, Safety, Accountability scores take a hit.

More concerning to fleets is the accident risks of text messaging. FMCSA crash statistics show that truck drivers are 23.2% more likely to be involved in an accident while texting or using a cell phone.

Many fleets are following strict protocols, such as messaging drivers through an electronic logging device telematics solution that prevents them from responding to messages while in motion. Some mobile apps also have functions that allow drivers to safely receive messages while keeping their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.

Sometimes, fleets must send urgent, real-time communications to drivers while they are in motion. Such is the case when a driver hooks up to the wrong trailer, goes in the wrong direction, or is running out of hours and putting a load in jeopardy.

Gaps in communications and lag times can be extremely costly in such situations. Calling a driver and hoping that he or she answers with a hands-free headset also poses a risk. If an accident were to occur, the audit trail will show the driver received a call from the office. A plaintiff attorney will strike gold in discovery.

An effective communications strategy for relaying urgent messages is to set up different message channels in a custom mobile app. Fleets can give urgent messages a specific notification sound, and have their custom app use a text-to-speech function to read messages to drivers in motion.

2. Segmenting Messages

Fleets have various reasons to communicate with drivers at all times of the day. Besides urgent operational messages, they may have company announcements, driver home time requests, human resources deadlines, and settlement information, among other possibilities.

Drivers can feel inundated by messages, especially those that don’t pertain to them. Owner-operators do not need to get messages from HR about benefits for company drivers, for example. Similarly, drivers in Arizona do not want to receive a message about a temporary weather-related road closure in Minnesota.

Besides risking distraction, non-relevant messages cause drivers to tune out important communications. The solution is to ensure drivers consistently receive messages that are relevant to them.

Segmenting messages based on characteristics — company drivers, owner-operators, location, equipment type, fleet divisions — and more will increase the relevance of messages. Fleets can do this with their custom mobile apps. They can also share group-specific news with drivers by division. As an example, drivers that pull reefers could get a separate news channel from drivers in a fleet’s dry van division.

Similarly, a fleet could target a message to certain drivers who are having a common issue, like not being current on verifying their logs. This strategy will avoid the unnecessary risk of irritating drivers with messages when they are doing things correctly. 

Choosing a Delivery Mechanism

Besides segmenting messages, fleets can use their custom mobile app to create separate delivery mechanisms. The type of mechanism a fleet chooses for drivers to communicate with company departments, like maintenance and HR, could be a two-way threaded chat stream. Another possibility is having dedicated sections in an app’s menu for drivers to receive company news and announcements, view pay information, and see their own daily “to-do” task list.

Certain types of communications may need extra visibility. A weekly video from the safety department could be delivered to drivers as a temporary home screen announcement. The video could then automatically save to a media library for future retrieval.

The convenience of doing business with a mobile app outside the cab makes drivers more likely to use the tool to experience the benefits of the technology. As the philosopher Marshall McLuhan famously said, “The media is the message.” In the case of custom apps, the media — a personal Android or iPhone — sends a clear message to drivers: “This is a tool that will make your job easier.”

From a personal phone with a custom fleet app, a driver can read company news, scan a missing proof-of-delivery document, watch the latest safety video, message their driver manager, request home time, and more – from anywhere.

3. Simplify Drivers’ Work

Research shows that driver job satisfaction is directly linked to the quality of fleet communications. Based on driver survey data in the 2023 Workhound Annual Trends Report, poor communications became drivers’ top concern in 2022, rising from sixth place in 2021.

To reverse this trend, fleets will need to improve the driver experience by using communication strategies and technologies to make their work easier. Driving is stressful enough without dealing with the additional challenges of communication delays and guesswork.

In summary, fleets can use modern technology, like a custom app, to simplify work for drivers and improve their safety and job satisfaction by:

  • Making urgent messages easily identifiable and safely accessible.
  • Delivering relevant messages, hands-free, in real-time.
  • Ensuring messages and content are well-organized and easily retrievable.
  • Letting drivers access messages outside the cab, anytime, anywhere.

Fleets using custom apps can update their communications strategies with tools that keep drivers connected, from any location, with everything they need to do their jobs as safely and efficiently as possible.

Kevin Survance is chief executive officer of Eleos Technologies, based in Greenville, S.C.  Eleos helps trucking fleets create custom driver apps. This article was authored and edited according to HDT editorial standards and style to provide useful information to our readers. Opinions expressed may not reflect those of HDT.