Dock411 arms drivers with key attributes of pickup and delivery locations
Any trucker knows the importance of directions. Have the right ones, and there is a good chance you can arrive on time. But incorrect directions, and not only will you be delayed, but your employer may be out money for that late arrival.
A dirty little secret of truck drivers, though, is that late arrivals are not always due to bad directions; sometimes it’s a matter of a driver being unfamiliar with procedures at the facility. Are there multiple buildings at the same address? What door should the trucker enter through? What dock door should they back up to? Do they have to pass through security?
The answers to all these questions and more are rarely found on a bill of lading, leading to uncertainty in the driver’s mind. That uncertainty equates to time, which equates to money lost.
Dock411 says that 60% of truckers visit a new location each day and 70% have lost time because of unfamiliarity with a location. A full 91% would like to know key information about a facility before they arrive.
Dan Serewicz, co-founder of Saint Charles, IL-based Dock411, graduated from Bradley University in 2008 with a degree in advertising and marketing, but it was his first job in a warehouse that opened his eyes to problems that Dock411 is seeking to solve.
“Upon graduation, there were not a lot of jobs in advertising and marketing, so I kind of got thrown into warehousing,” he says. “Being new to the industry, I didn’t really understand why the drivers didn’t know where to go.”
But he quickly learned.
And it was a connection with software developer Eric Weidl that turned an idea into a service. A mutual friend connected the two and Serewicz explained what he saw as the problem. Weidl quickly agreed that a solution could be developed and so was born Dock411 in 2015.
“One of the first things we did was work with a magazine to send out a survey, and we got about 500 responses [from drivers],” Weidl says. “Our goal is to make drivers’ lives easier.”
The company just released Version 2 of its app in January and is beginning to ramp up marketing efforts.
“We’ve been holding back on the marketing side because we wanted to get the app right,” Serewicz notes.
“We’re just starting to shift from startup [mode] to revenue generating,” Weidl adds. “A lot of companies have some of this information in their systems, but it’s siloed. And even if the company has some of the information, it doesn’t always get out to drivers.”
Currently, the app is available for free (with ads) for iOS and Android smartphones and tablets. A desktop version is in the works. There is a paid version for a one-time fee of $19.99 that does not include ads. The founders say that eventually the app will include a monthly subscription, but anyone who signs up for the free version will always receive the free version.
“We definitely believe there is enough value there for a [paid subscription model],” Weidle points out.
“If we can save that driver an hour a month…and we know we can, it will prove its value,” Serewicz adds, noting that the app currently has 42 attributes available including actual dock address which is not always the same as the bill of lading address; local directions; best person to contact; check-in location; security checkpoints; backing and maneuverability concerns; lighting; best arrival time; typical load, unload times; hazards; and what type of equipment is onsite to assist in unloading. Also included is information crucial to drivers such as whether there is overnight parking and sleeping available; whether dogs are allowed, WiFi availability, access to a driver’s lounge, vending machines and restrooms.
The next update will include even more attributes, such as whether a washout is required and where the closest washout facility is, if the facility is smoke-free, has dock locks, barriers or levelers.
While not part of the focus of the app, there are some value-added features such as local restaurants and weigh stations, although Weidl says the idea is not to clutter up the app with too much data.
“Our focus on this dataset is what does the driver need to know about the locations he is going to,” he says.
All the data in the app comes from three sources: the shippers themselves who supply data on their locations; Dock411 staff that contact locations and collect the data; and drivers.
“What we really believe, and what drivers have told us they want, is information from other drivers,” Weidl says. “The most important source of information for us and the drivers - the information they value the most - is what that drivers tell us. That’s who the drivers trust.”
Serewicz does caution, however, that not every location in the app has all 42 data points included. There are gaps in information where it was not supplied for a given location, or the location may not have that attribute. But, both Serewicz and Weidl are always looking for new data points to include to make the app more comprehensive. Drivers can send feedback through the app and, as Serewicz says, “because we’re still a small startup company, the information goes directly to us.”
The key for the company has been building awareness and breaking through the clutter of startup trucking technology companies.
“I can honestly say there is only one person who has said this is a bad idea,” Weidl says. “One of the neatest things for me and Dan is when we get to a trade show and display it, [the reactions] are absolutely amazing.
“It may not solve a problem because if you have to back a 53-foot trailer into a bad spot, you still have to do it, but maybe you can prepare for it,” he adds. “More information is never a bad thing.”