The Tech-Enabled Truck Driver

Historically, in the commercial trucking and transportation industry, drivers haven’t always embraced new technology. And rightfully so. All too often, overly complicated programs or hardware devices have hindered drivers more than they’ve helped. What has been meant to boost productivity and increase operational efficiency has just led to more headaches: technical problems, long training periods, and complicated navigation.  

Times have changed, and the age of the technology-enabled, or dare we say tech-empowered, driver is here.  A high demand for drivers, coupled with a driver shortage, also means that it is critical for fleets to equip drivers with the right tools to do their jobs. By focusing on how they can improve the driver experience, fleets can also boost retention and attract new talent. The good news is that comprehensive, yet intuitive, tech solutions are finally available to make the jobs of drivers easier, more satisfying, and more successful. 

Driver-Centric User Experience 

Even the most powerful technology is useless to the average user if it is too complicated to learn and navigate. An intuitive user interface is essential. Drivers need to focus less on technology and more on driving.  

To empower drivers to do their best work, they need a unified and user-friendly mobile app that they can use on their phone or tablet for communication, documentation, workflows, HOS and ELD compliance management, and any other aspects of their jobs that benefit from (or require) digitalization. Simple app interfaces allow for less distraction and faster onboarding. A single, unified system is necessary for keeping drivers on task so that they can minimize multitasking and keep their eyes on the road.  

Visual elements like large buttons and icons that are color coded enhance a driver’s experience so that information can be easily viewed in a glance.  Drivers often listen to music while driving and face the challenge of “notification-overload” that dominates the modern-age of communication. This makes the combination of a visual notification, combined with an audio alert sound, more important than ever in mobile apps for truck drivers. 

Enhanced Communication & Imaging 

The technology-enabled driver no longer must rely on e-mail, text messaging, or phone calls. By integrating a messaging system into a driver’s mobile app, communication can be streamlined within the same solution where drivers can also view and edit their HOS, workflow, trips, and more.  

When considering solutions for drivers, fleets should look for more comprehensive apps that incorporate the ability to send one-to-one and group messages from managers to drivers. For instance, Maven’s solutions incorporate Maven Messaging for more efficient communication between drivers, managers, and dispatchers. With real-time data visibility on map views, a manager sees when an unexpected delay is going to impede a driver’s trip, and they can reach out directly to an individual driver or a group and alert them to take alternate routes.  

Document imaging tools eliminate the need for stacks of paper documents. For BOLs, receipts, accident reports, and other documentation, drivers can simply take a picture of the document and it instantly goes to the back office for expedited processing. Signatures can also be collected electronically. Before document imaging tools became widely available, it was not uncommon for a driver’s stack of documents to take more than a week to reach the office, and the paper documents were often lost or damaged.  

Route Planning & Optimization 

Route optimization capabilities that are built into unified fleet management portals and driver apps set drivers up for success. With optimized routes, drivers can take less time to complete all the deliveries on their route and miss fewer deliveries. It also means that drivers know the best times to arrive at a destination so they can spend less time waiting in line at loading facilities.  

Drivers can be automatically assigned to the ideal routes based on their skillsets. More experienced and skilled drivers can be paired with more complicated routes, while newer drivers can learn the ropes on easier routes; leading to increased driver productivity and safety. 

Smart Workflows 

“Workflow” may sound like a bit of a tech buzzword right now, but just about everyone, including truck drivers, can benefit from seeing pertinent information in an organized, sequential fashion. In trucking, each customer and destination are unique, so having a workflow process and a form for every stop can help drivers stay organized. Equipped with smart workflow solutions, the modern driver is automatically presented with customized, step-by-step workflows that supercharge a driver’s productivity and allow them to stay focused on driving.  

Improved Reliability, Safety & Compliance 

Real-time GPS tracking allows managers to view a driver’s progress in real time. By taking advantage of real-time visibility, managers are better equipped to provide accurate information to their drivers. With the right VDA, vehicle data can be recorded when a cellular connection is lost and sent when the connection is re-established.   

A secure and reliable connection ensures better communication and safety. For example, if a driver is in distress and not responding, reliable tracking could be necessary for locating and helping that driver. 

Something as simple and common as an LED flashlight head strap can increase a driver’s safety. Bluetooth, another common technology we may take for granted, enables drivers to use hands-free technology for less distractions. Many apps also provide safety alerts so that a driver receives warnings about inclement weather and other dangerous conditions. 

Through color-coded HOS information and possible violation alerts, drivers are more likely to remain compliant. And with the right ELD solution, drivers can quickly pass roadside inspections and get back to completing their trips.  

Optimal Off-Duty Time 

The life of a truck driver entails many hours away from home and lots of sleep and off-duty time in unfamiliar places without the comforts of home. But technology has gone a long way in enhancing the life of the off-duty driver.  

WiFi hotspots and satellites provide a fast Internet connection almost anywhere, allowing drivers to cut down on mobile data usage on their own devices. Apps that provide video calls allow drivers to see loved ones, no matter how far away. And there is certainly no lack of roadside entertainment with the overwhelming selection of games, streaming services, and other apps that keep drivers entertained and connected to life off the road.  

Truck Drivers Are Essential Workers

Drivers need tools that leverage the power of technology to make their jobs more satisfying, while also empowering them to do their best. Each individual driver’s success leads to the overall success and profitability of a fleet. Technology should be the driver’s friend, not their foe.  

Because truck drivers are essential workers, everyone benefits from technology-enabled and empowered drivers. If a driver is more satisfied with their work and continues to lend their accumulated experience to the industry, we all benefit. If drivers can make more accurate deliveries in less time, everyone reaps the rewards. Truck drivers keep our economy moving, and these days, so does the right technology. 

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