Drivers are increasingly looking for more frequent and more accurate communications from their employers, according to findings from an analysis of driver comments on the WorkHound platform.
WorkHound, which offers a mobile anonymous feedback platform for drivers, presented an analysis of driver comments to its platform in 2018, summarizing the most popular topics on which drivers commented. The presentation was made during a Stifel conference call on Friday.
“The things that were prevalent in 2017, those were still popular,” Andrew Kirpalani, co-founder and CTO, said, “but what we saw in 2018 is communication grew by almost 5.5 percent.”
Communication actually came in fifth of the most-commented on topics on the list, with equipment, logistics, people and pay topping the list.
“While there may be more trucking-specific categories that we might think are the things that drivers are concerned about most, like home time or miles … drivers are actually surfacing these [top five] more frequently,” Kirpalani said.
WorkHound gathers the anonymous feedback through weekly prompting, asking drivers to respond. It takes about 90 seconds, the company said, to do so through the app. WorkHound categorizes the comments into 12 standardized themes before sending the information to the fleets, usually within a day. Drivers have the option of allowing the fleet to contact them about their comments, but if they decline, the comment will always remain anonymous, WorkHound explained. Fleets are able to use this feedback to recognize potential issues and respond quickly to address driver concerns.
All the drivers in the WorkHound survey work for fleets with 60 or more trucks, with 77 percent company drivers and 23 percent owner-operators. The WorkHound customer fleets are a mix of tanker, reefer, dry van, flatbed and expedited.
Equipment was the most often commented-on item on the list, with 18.83 percent of all mentions focused on assets. This is up from just over 15 percent in 2017. Logistics (17.94 percent), people (16.92 percent), pay (15.55 percent), and communication (13.24 percent) also were most commented on. In total, these five categories represented 82 percent of all mentions on the WorkHound platform.
The introduction of electronic logging devices appeared to cut into the number of miles individual drivers traveled in 2018, but the WorkHound data didn’t show a significant uptick in mentions about miles, with that category comprising just 7.48 percent of all mentions. That is up slightly from 2017, when it was about 6 percent.
Benefits, though, made an appearance on the list this year with 2.58 percent of mentions after not appearing in the top mentions in 2017.
Because the feedback is in the form of open-ended discussion, drivers often provide more in-depth information beyond just complaints. Among the takeaways in this analysis is that drivers appreciate up-to-date and well-maintained equipment, as well as quality facilities. In general, drivers also feel like they should be consulted on company equipment decisions, especially decisions that adversely affect a driver’s comfort, safety or privacy. These include cabs without APUs to power CPAP machines and no-idle policies when idling is necessary in excessive heat.
“Frequently drivers were mentioning that they appreciate quality facilities like yards or truck washes because they take pride in their work,” Kirpalani observed. “The quality drivers are the ones that care about the equipment; they are the ones sweeping the trailer. The negative part of that is nothing frustrates them quicker than those drivers who don’t share that same pride.”
Drivers also had opinions on automatic transmissions; while not mentioned often, when they were the comments were overwhelmingly negative, explained Kirpalani. Driver concerns were about safety and loss of control over the truck. Automatic transmissions are now the dominant specification for most fleets.
Cameras are another negative for drivers, especially driver-facing cameras, as drivers see them as an invasion of privacy.
Electronic logging devices (ELDs) were not a significant issue for drivers, based on comments on WorkHound’s platform, but when they were mentioned, it usually centered around a driver’s ability to work and limiting flexibility/hours.
“There were not a lot of mentions, which we were surprised at,” Kirpalani said. “When we did get feedback on ELDs, and we [dug into the comments] it really seemed to be a training issue rather than the ELD itself.”
Within the logistics mentions, drivers are frustrated by inefficient use of their time and feel marginalized by shippers/receivers. Delays are frustrating as well, especially chronic delays that drivers perceive to be avoidable. Drivers also noted that fleets that tolerate and placate problem customers can have a corrosive effect on driver morale.
“If you can’t make money in trucking you should get out of the business of making money, because this is the most motivated workforce I’ve ever been [involved with],” Kirpalani said. “Drivers want to be moving so anything you can do to keep them rolling” is positive.
The WorkHound analysis also found that drivers are willing to recognize and praise office staff when the system works, and companies should create mechanisms to provide this feedback, but rude dispatch, constantly being placed on hold, or staff members that don’t call back drivers create increasing levels of frustration.
Drivers also appreciate when the company checked in with them during difficult times such as a death in the family, but overall, drivers continue to seek more understanding from office staff about what life is like on the road.
As expected, pay also was among the top five mentions, but Farrell noted that the talk around pay was often more nuanced than simply how much money drivers were making.
“It’s not always about making more money,” he said, pointing out that “misaligned expectations” between recruiter promises and actual work is often a problem. Pay volatility was another big concern as drivers worry when the paycheck isn’t consistent.
“It was heartbreaking to read the comments of drivers who think this is not worth it because of the volatility of pay,” Farrell said. “We know that net pay under $1,000 a week leads to emotional reactions … Continuing to improve the communication of how the pay structure works in your company is really essential.”
Companies should address pay concerns immediately, he said, and ensure pay packages are not confusing to understand and that pay is accurate, timely and competitive.
Rounding out the top five issues was communication, which saw a 5.5 percent increase over 2017 mentions. Kirpalani said that driver commentary throughout the year showed that “drivers appreciate those [in the company] that communicate respectfully and effectively.” It’s important to get the communication process correct, he added, as poor communication can “tank a driver’s morale in short order.”
Comments around communication tended to trend more negative than other areas, with missing or incorrect data that makes the driver’s job more difficult a major theme.
Farrell summed the year in comments by noting that drivers are really looking for a balance in their quality of life.
“The companies that are winning with drivers are taking care of their well-being,” he said. “We know there is a value in the perspective of drivers because this is their life. The smartest companies out there realize that frontline feedback is a goldmine.”