Let them watch TV: how fleets are using new technology to recruit, retain drivers

Fleet Manager

Dec 4, 2014

—Aaron Huff, CCJ Most jobs have a reward waiting at the end of the day: the chance to go home. During a meeting at its office in Salt Lake City, EpicVue demonstrated a satellite TV system installed in a truck from Pride Transport. Over-the-road truck drivers do not cross this threshold for days and weeks at a time. The truck becomes “home” for at least 10 hours a day while parked at a truck stop, a rest area, or other nondescript location that can accommodate 18 wheelers. Team drivers may spend all 10-hours of their off-duty time in the sleeper while the wheels keep rolling. The reward for working extra hard and driving 70 hours in a week? To stay parked for 34 consecutive hours to reset their clocks. The quality of life for drivers has always contributed to the turnover and shortage problem, but it has now reached a climax. The estimated industry-wide cost to replace a driver is $9,000 with an annual turnover rate at long-distance carriers at 112 percent, according to the American Trucking Associations. The ATA estimates that the industry could immediately fill 30,000 driving positions. With the rate of driver turnover and the expected growth in freight volumes, trucking companies will need to fill 100,000 positions every year for the next 10 years. To do this, everyone in the industry agrees that trucking will have to become a more appealing career choice for younger workers. A recent analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data by the American Transportation Research Institute revealed that trucking has a disproportionate number of employees aged 45 years or older. Over the past 20 years, the number of younger drivers that make up the industry — those 35 and under — has dropped sharply. Let them watch TV One way fleets are trying to improve the quality of life for drivers, especially for the younger generation, is to make their equipment as attractive as possible. Perhaps nothing brings the comforts of home closer than television. Several attempts have been made to bring television to drivers and fleets. The first company to try was Park ‘N View when it created a partnership with Travel Centers of America in 1996 to build a nationwide infrastructure to deliver television and telecommunication services.
“The dream was to improve the quality of life,” said Ian Williams, the founder of Park ‘N View, during a meeting with CCJ in Salt Lake City, Utah, Dec. 3. Williams is now president of EpicVue, a DIRECTV retailer that has created an all-inclusive television subscription service for fleets.
Park ‘N View was limited by the technology at the time. Williams said he wanted to build a wireless infrastructure to transmit TV signals to drivers. This required a license from the Federal Communications Commission. The agency denied its request and Park ‘N View had no other option than to install cables and ports in truck stop parking lots. Pride Transport has 24″ TVs in its trucks connected to DIRECTV with premium subscription that includes the NFL Sunday Ticket. CLICK on the image to view a photo gallery of satellite options for fleets. The company invested more than $220 million in infrastructure and Travel Centers of America received 35 percent of its gross revenues, he said. To expand the infrastructure the company took on a substantial amount of debt which became impossible to service, Williams said. Park ‘N View closed and many of its employees moved to a new startup called IdleAire in 2000. IdleAir was also plagued with infrastructure costs. The company created a service that connects to the window of a truck through a distinctive yellow tube that delivers TV, Internet, heating, cooling and electrical outlets. IdleAir filed for bankruptcy in 2008. Convoy Technologies has since purchased its assets and reopened some of its sites. Today, drivers can get a variety of on-demand entertainment using their own wireless subscriptions. This has filled a void in the market, but a smartphone or iPad does not deliver the same experience as holding a remote to watch your favorite shows, movies and sports games in real time — or better yet, recording them ahead of time to fast-forward through commercials. Some drivers have gone to great lengths to install satellite antennas and receivers that they use at home on their trucks. Home equipment is not able to withstand the rigors of the road, however. Until recently, satellite TV was out of reach for the industry at large. Original source: http://www.ccjdigital.com  
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.