Fleets can use data to better understand drivers, spot trends in behavior, and even know when to ask a driver “What’s going on?” - Photo: Skelton

Fleets can use data to better understand drivers, spot trends in behavior, and even know when to ask a driver “What’s going on?”

Photo: Skelton

As fleets turn increasingly to the use of real-time data, telematics, and artificial intelligence to run their businesses more efficiently and safely, does all this focus on technology and data remove the human element?

In fact, if used properly, it can be the exact opposite, says Michael Lasko, vice president of safety for Boyle Transportation and sister company Skelton.

“When you have a driver who's normally outstanding, leading the fleet in every category, and then all of a sudden you see their numbers fall off a cliff, you call that driver and ask what’s going on.”

Often managers discover that a driver has a personal challenge of some sort – a sick child, a death in the family, health issues.

“We had a driver whose house was severely damaged by a tornado,” Lasko says. “This gentleman didn't tell anybody and wasn't looking for sympathy.”

But the data showed something was amiss, so Lasko’s team reached out to talk to the driver, and once they discovered the problem they were able to help.

“We want to make sure all of our professional drivers are successful. Part of that is getting to know each driver individually,” he says.

In larger fleets, that can be more difficult than in smaller fleets. But Lasko says having this data at your fingertips makes it easier to meet that challenge.

“I guarantee at the end of the day, your driver walks away feeling like they work for a company that cares and values them,” he says.

Responding to a Driver’s Needs

“I absolutely hate a cookie-cutter approach to a driver interaction,” Lasko says. “Drivers don't like it, either. And when I was a driver, I hated it.

“All this data enables us to have a more meaningful personal interaction with professional drivers about issues that they have.”

For instance, without this kind of data, fleets have been known to decide that because one driver had a backing accident, the whole fleet needs refresher training on backing. But the other drivers who don’t have any problems with their backing skills may not be too happy about having to take extra training.

“Now you can get very specific on training, and the coaching and the mentoring that you need to do with a professional driver, because of all this data,” Lasko says.

At Sun Logistics, which handles first- and last-mile freight for major less-than-truckload customers New York and Miami, the payback in becoming more data-driven has been measured not only in cutting waste, but also in employee morale.

“Our team’s morale went through the roof,” says COO Nathaniel Klein. “Now everyone is measured, and they know they’re being measured. They know what those results are and how they can affect it and how they’re part of the team and their purpose — and they’re incentivized on it. Every person here can make a bonus every single month.”

About the author
Deborah Lockridge

Deborah Lockridge

Editor and Associate Publisher

Reporting on trucking since 1990, Deborah is known for her award-winning magazine editorials and in-depth features on diverse issues, from the driver shortage to maintenance to rapidly changing technology.

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