Can truck specs improve rest and sleep?

Truck Drivers

Jun 4, 2015

—   Here’s a thought: can you spec your way to better rest and sleep on the road? It’s a question both fleets and independents alike might ask themselves. Of course, one reason I’m asking it in this space is that I recently wrapped up an article addressing efforts to improve the quality of rest and sleep for drivers on the road.
And as part of my research for that story, I talked with James Sorrels (on the right in this photo, with Dennis Jones on the left) to get some insight into how truck specs can play a big role in helping drivers get better rest and sleep after rolling down the asphalt all day (or all night, depending on their schedule.) Sorrels will tell you he spent several decades behind the wheel of a big rig, pounding out long miles and then sometimes sleeping lengthwise across the driver and passenger seats in his daycab tractor. Thus when he became director of transportation of the private fleet operation at Heartland Catfish in Itta Bena, MS, over a decade ago, he intimately understood the critical role truck specifications play in helping commercial drivers obtain good rest and sleep. “We’re not a fleet that sits around a lot; we’re loading and unloading and doing quick turnarounds,” he explained to me. “So we wanted to reduce the daily ‘wear and tear’ on our drivers from physically operating the truck as well as providing them with a sleeper where they can get the best rest possible.” That’s why, when Heartland purchased new Kenworth T680s (seen below) for its 22 tractor fleet, two key specs included automated manual transmissions (AMTs) and the “Diamond VIT” premium package for its 76-inch and 52-inch sleepers.
Sorrels made that determination in part after clocking in a 1,336 mile test drive with one of Heartland’s veteran drivers,Dennis “Pops” Jones. “At first we both had problems, because we both wanted to shift – but there’s no [traditional] shifter or clutch pedal with an AMT,” Sorrels told me. “But we both felt so rested after that run after making that one trip I was totally sold. Also, it allows the driver to keep both hands on the wheel 100% of the time and we got really good fuel economy, too.” The “Diamond VIT” package Heartland spec’d for its sleepers includes a refrigerator, TV package, rotating table, and microwave. “That cab is a driver’s office and home away from home; they need to be able to climb in there and easily relax,” he says. “That is what helps them feel rested for the next haul.” Lance Platt, CEO for in-cab satellite TV system provider EpicVue, stressed a similar view of such “relaxation” needs for drivers in an email to me, though he emphasized it is very important to differentiate rest from sleep.
“In my estimation, television plays an important role in a driver’s ability to get the rest they need in a couple of ways,” he explained. “First, driver experience shows that the ability to watch television during [freight] drop-off and pick-up periods helps them reduce stress levels. Second, drivers are reporting that their ability to watch television at the end of a long day helps them to wind down in preparation for a good night sleep.” In either case, Platt told me that drivers are using television as a way to help obtain the rest and relaxation they need while on the road. “I understand it may be argued that television viewing could negatively impact a driver’s sleep,” Platt pointed out. “To that I note that we install a DVR [digital video recorder] for this very reason. The driver is able to record his or her shows while they are sleeping that they can watch at a later time.” Holland Enterprises, Inc. – a Fargo, ND-based refrigerated carrier operating 220 tractors – recently installed 175 EpicVue satellite TV systems in its trucks for some of those very reasons. “As a 48-state, long haul trucking company with an average length of haul of 1,550 miles, we need … drivers who are willing to be on the road 14 to 21 days at a time,” said Brad Schemel, Holland’s VP. “Satellite TV gives them the option of sitting in the comfort of their truck and doing things there that they may otherwise do inside a truck stop. It gives them the flexibility of watching what they want, when they want. It’s a definite creature comfort for drivers and provides a greater level of satisfaction with the job.” Something to think about when the time to consider buying a new or used truck for your business comes around again. Original source:
Quality truck fleet management with a good strategy is a vital element for success in the trucking industry. These systems are necessary for communication, and processes are sure to succeed. There’s no doubt that the best semi-truck fleet teams are those that are effectively and efficiently managed, making a great fleet manager worth their weight in gold — and then some!  But what is it exactly that makes a fleet manager great? It all comes down to a solid fleet management strategy and reliable semi-fleet processes. In fact, these are essential to finding both short- and long-term success. If you’re in charge of a semi-truck fleet and are looking to build a fail-proof truck fleet management strategy, you’re in the right place. We’re here to give you some tried-and-true tips and tricks for developing a solid plan. With a little hard work and the right strategy, you will surely see increased profits, fleet growth, and a happier, healthier, and more productive crew. Keep scrolling to learn more.

5 Things to Consider When Developing Your Truck Fleet Management Strategy

If you want to develop a quality truck fleet management strategy, make sure to consider the following:
  1. Invest in a Fleet Management System — You could be the most experienced and focused manager, but you will still have difficulties staying organized and productive without a quality truck fleet management system in place. Managers of old used to rely on elaborate systems involving paper spreadsheets, filing cabinets, and more to run their business, but there are simpler ways to get the job done. Join the digital age by digitizing your workflow and operations; you’ll find that processes are optimized, and your team’s performance is improved! A good system will allow you to keep track of the best routes, maintenance schedules, driver and vehicle efficiency, automating various tasks (such as routing and scheduling deliveries, billing and invoicing, sending jobs to drivers, etc.) and more so you can maximize the potential of your fleet.
  2. Find Ways to Cut Maintenance Costs — It’s no secret that the economy is in an exciting place right now. Inflation is on the rise, and maintenance costs are not exempt. A solid semi-truck fleet manager must prioritize finding ways to reduce costs. Taking a defensive, preventive approach to maintenance is key. Improving fleet efficiency and ensuring that your rigs and necessary equipment are in tip-top shape and ready to go can help you stay ahead of maintenance issues. Consider utilizing a good fleet management system that can tell you about the vehicles’ engines and other diagnostic features to help extend the life of your trucks. These tools can help you quickly identify any problems with your trucks and avoid issues down the road when they become more serious, thus cutting maintenance costs. Another way to reduce maintenance costs is to base your trucks’ service schedule on accurate engine usage hours instead of an arbitrary calendar. This helps to eliminate unnecessary repairs and potential hours and revenue lost, allowing you to make the most of your fleet while still taking great care of them.
  3. Find Ways to Save Money on Fuel — As a fleet manager, it almost always comes down to budget. And one of the biggest portions (we’re talking between 50% and 65%) of overall operating costs is dedicated to fueling costs. As mentioned above, having a good management system and GPS tracking in place can help you develop an excellent management strategy. You’ll be able to monitor your drivers’ driving performance, habits, and behavior and monitor fuel usage, which directly affects fuel consumption. By tracking and analyzing this information, you’ll be alerted to issues sooner than you may have been otherwise. Moreover, tracking this info will keep you apprised of any safety concerns, such as aggressive driving. Addressing these issues will help you reduce operational costs associated with your fuel budget.
  4. Perfect and Optimize Your Drivers’ Routes — Customers and clients demand quick and on-time deliveries, so taking the perfect and optimal route is absolutely crucial. Your business’ reputation counts on it! Inaccurate arrival time estimates, delays, and inefficient routes will only lead to frustration. Hiccups and issues along the way are bound to happen and are an inevitable part of any industry, including trucking. But, by automating customer notifications and other processes, fleet managers can experience a lot less stress, allowing them to spend time and put their focus elsewhere.
  5. Prioritize Your Drivers’ Health and Wellness — One of the biggest parts of developing a good truck fleet management strategy is prioritizing your team’s health and wellness. Feeling isolated on the road comes with being a truck driver; it’s part of the territory. So fleet managers who promote a healthy work-life balance and positive mental health are typically much more successful.

Here are some ways managers can prioritize employees’ health:

Include EpicVue in Your Truck Fleet Management Strategy

Developing a truck fleet management strategy is essential to the success of your business, and EpicVue is here to help make it happen. EpicVue will outfit your fleet with premium in-cab television so your drivers can enjoy a bit of home on the road and catch up on their favorite shows. Contact EpicVue today to learn more.