Regarding driver retention, if there was business management lecture series for fleet operations managers titled “How to read driver’s damn minds,” it would likely be standing room only. Fortunately, or unfortunately there’s an app for that, and it’s being brought to you by the entrepreneurs at Work Hound, whose stated mission is “helping people love the work they do.” Wow, that’s a fantastic sentiment.
Driver Feedback Platform: Putting More Bite in Driver’s Bark
How they help do that, actually, is through good ol’ technology. According to the platform’s developers, Max Farrell and Andrew Kirpalani, Work Hound is a “custom-built, mobile-first anonymous feedback platform for the remote, distributed driving workforce.” On their web site the top dogs at Work Hound says since the commercialization of their offering “We’ve given thousands of drivers a voice,” a chorus amplified, they explain through insights drawn from the platform’s analytics that help companies of all sizes retain drivers, save money and support profitable operations.
What drivers are saying
Now an annual thing, Work Hound has released some interesting findings from the analysis of aggregated data gathered by its systems, implemented by their fleet customer base in 2018. In a call to investors, Farrell and Kirpalani offered those dialing in a glimpse of what drivers’ have been barking about with their presentation “What Drivers Said in 2018.”
A system based on feedback
Relying on speed-of-business commentary and the on-the-road thoughts and feelings from drivers, Work Hound prompts drivers on a weekly basis to share feedback anonymously. Based on a 90-second experience, drivers are asked to share open-ended feedback with the system about what’s (usually) bugging them, more or less, in the moment.
The link to share feedback is always live. According to the developers, this feedback is continuously reviewed by using keyword and sentiment analysis and then parsed and ranked among 12 standardized themes.
Surveys create bias
Much of any inquiry into the minds and hearts of workers in commercial industry is accomplished with online surveys. These queries and the conclusions drawn from the results, though conducted anonymously, are arguably less valuable and misleading, say Work Hound’s developers, because the questions predispose the answers the organization is looking for. So, by the time managers see any actual actionable information it’s likely too late and wrong.
Work Hound explains open-ended feedback shows what drivers want to/hope to discuss and having this “data” in a time frame when managers can actually do something before the driver leaves the industry or the carrier for peace-of-mind and greener pastures.
Feedback has to be addressed faster
Doing nothing with feedback is toxic to an organization and Farrell and Kirpalani are adamant that closing the feedback loop and getting into the heads of drivers is the key to managing retention and promoting driver performance and safety on the road.
With speed-of-business velocity managers can address urgent issues individually with drivers before they throw their company hat on the ground and storm off. The information also provides a handy guide to driver and operational pain points as they occur; knowing these can reveal new and sometime unknown opportunities for improvement.
“Enlightenment,” said Sammy Davis Jr. famously, “is so groovy baby.” Okay, so maybe he really didn’t say that but, saying it like him only makes the philosophy that much better. Of more obvious merit is the capability of having a list of “What’s Making Our Driver’s Howl This Week” and being able to refer to it say, during the weekly company-wide broadcast. This could be very effective, especially when the organization can respond or intervene in a timely fashion.
Here’s a scenario. A report the platform delivers shows commentary on an upcoming winter storm is on everyone’s mind. Imagine how much trust and good will could be engendered if during the webcast, the company GM offers safety notes, reaffirms company’s en-route emergency support, and considering the forecast, the operations managers announces that for affected drivers the company is issuing high-visibility cold weather gear and new easier-to-mount tire chains.
What drivers are barking about now
As mentioned, Work Hound guides feedback into 12 categories. For 2018, their hard-working algorithms crunched the list to find the “Top 5 Feedback Themes” (see below).
The Labradors behind the informatics say these statistics derive from 82% of mentions across the Work Hound platform.
Top 5 Feedback Themes
- 1. Equipment
- 2. Logistics
- 3. People
- 4. Pay
- 5. Communication
Profile of Work Hound drivers sharing feedback
- All drivers work with carriers with 60+ trucks
- Mix of tanker, reefer, dry van, flatbed, and expedited
- 77% Company Drivers
- 23% Owner Operators
- Average age ≈55
- 87% use smartphones daily
- ≈95% average annual driver turnover
- 50K+ driver shortage
Although the report’s presentation online (see link below) dives into each category, at Number 1 is Equipment. For this and the other Top 5 categories, Work Hound offers some keen insights. Overall, Equipment garnered 18.8% percent of mentions. Here, the report offers samples of the positive feedback and insight into how drivers feel about their rigs:
- Drivers appreciate up-to-date and well-maintained equipment
- They also appreciate quality facilities like yards and truck washes
- These folks take pride in their work and want their equipment to reflect it
And the bad:
- Other drivers failing to sweep trailers, a potholed yard, or the inability to run through a truck wash while out on the road.
- Quality drivers see the truck as a reflection on themselves AND the company
Feedback on equipment also revealed that drivers want to work but are limited by equipment challenges and feeling miffed because carriers are not involving them in making equipment decisions. The report also revealed further notes on equipment and some real pain points:
- Equipment decisions that appear to be made at the expense of driver comfort, safety, privacy and/or well-being and are perceived especially poorly
- Not being able to idle in the heat, no APU for CPAP, inward cameras, etc.
Not sure, but knowing that is true, and knowing equipment suppliers are game, an ops manager could certainly create a few programmatic elements that include drivers in the process of selecting and specifying equipment that they are tasked to drive and operate efficiently and safely during all legitimate operating hours.
Interestingly, at least with the professionals on the road right now, the Top 5 Feedback report revealed that even though automatic transmissions rarely get mentioned, when they do, the feedback is “overwhelmingly” negative. Drivers just don’t like them, claiming they don’t allow the driver the control needed to safely drive the truck. Who knew?
Work Hound is helping put more bite into driver’s bark by delivering those yelps and whines straight to management. But to the point, knowing what drivers need and want to keep them safe and behind the wheel is not automatic at most companies. This and IT platforms like it can potentially help companies become more driver centric--and lend real transparency to the issues that driver’s themselves articulate, and impart some real-time reality into their recruiting and retention efforts.