Driver issuesTechnology

Mobile solutions support drivers’ well-being and carriers’ profitability

The supply chain depends on truck drivers – and not just for their ability to deliver freight from point A to point B. When fleets place drivers at the center of their operations and leverage their expertise, efficiency and profitability follow. It is becoming increasingly important to provide tools to drivers while balancing health and safety concerns.

The COVID-19 pandemic is adding to the complexity as organizations adapt to social distancing measures throughout the supply chain process. Even though volumes are on the rise, insurance costs are still high and pricing power is in the shippers’ hands. In that environment, carriers must find ways to remain profitable. They must also onboard new drivers and retain their existing fleet. 

Mobile solutions are becoming a key tool for carriers to consider as they evaluate strategies to improve both growth and profitability. And, at the same time, they must protect their drivers, which is imperative in a changing industry landscape. 

“In today’s environment, a company’s bottom line is going to be impacted more by the way they can improve efficiencies rather than top-line growth,” said Cindy Nelson, vice president of marketing, recruiting and on-boarding solutions at EBE Technologies Inc, a transportation technology company focused on workflow solutions. “Companies traditionally look at their dispatch system as the hub of the organization, but now they are looking at ways to leverage that information and focus on the data that can be provided to, or from, the driver through AI- driven interoperability, to improve profitability.”

Serving like a personal assistant, integrated mobile applications help drivers manage their workload and take ownership of their responsibilities.  

Drivers can capture documents and photos with their mobile phone or tablet at the point of service, eliminating potential delays in processing. If documents have errors, are missing or late, drivers are immediately notified, avoiding problems with settlements and invoices later.

Whether on the road or at home, technology can also keep drivers up to date on receipt confirmations, compliance alerts, maintenance schedules, settlement history, company information, training content and performance data. 

The newest application, partially driven by the need for social distancing, is to provide carriers with the ability to offer contactless electronic bills of lading (eBOL) and electronic proofs of delivery (ePOD). Drivers deliver electronic documents, gather signatures and then submit them through their mobile device, without ever touching a piece of paper. Not only does this support the health and wellness of the drivers, carriers, shippers and consignees, the efficiencies gained in productivity, accuracy and invoice cycle times offer a compelling ROI.

The management of Solar Transport, an Iowa-based carrier with 225 trucks and 400 employees, recognized how technology can boost profits and meet driver and customer needs. 

Before 2017, the company was using a manual indexing method to handle transactions for over 25,000 loads. The company was unable to grow and meet customer demand until it equipped its drivers with EBE’s mobile capture solution, SHIPS Mobile

This all-in-one mobile solution allowed its drivers to easily interact with dispatchers and back-office systems, as well as scan documents, eliminating 150 manual indexing hours per week and saving the company more than $100,000 per year.

“Supporting our drivers is important to us as a company, as they are the backbone of our organization,” said Jason Jones, IT manager at Solar Transport. “SHIPS Mobile allowed us to take the fleet scanners, fax machines and mail envelopes out of the equation. Most organizations will have an ELD platform, a separate process for paperwork, and binders to look up loading numbers. We want drivers to have everything on the iPad and keep it simple.”

In a time when drivers might be cautious about entering the industry, companies like Solar Transport can use EBE’s workflow solutions like SHIPS Mobile to improve work-life balance, and retain their workforce. After implementing the SHIPS Mobile app, Solar Transport improved payroll deadlines by one day and reduced the driver turnover rate from 60% to 30%. 

“We wanted to eliminate the need for drivers to scan their paperwork from home when they completed their shift,” said Jones. “Drivers now scan from their iPads in the truck immediately after delivery. That not only speeds up the data flow for the back office, but also gives the drivers more quality home time.” 

Drivers using the SHIPS Mobile app can scan other back-office documents during their shift, including expense reports, fuel receipts and rental paperwork. The app’s Settlement Assistant empowers drivers by alerting them to payroll cutoff periods or late paperwork.

As the COVID-19 pandemic is requiring businesses across the supply chain to consider social distancing measures, Jones highlighted Solar Transport’s push toward EPOD using the SHIPS Mobile app.

“The EPOD will be helpful with social distancing as it will eliminate the need for a hand signature and be handled by the acknowledgement of the delivery by the store associate,” Jones said. “The EPOD will be sent to the store electronically with the rest of its paperwork. Our customers are excited about the EPOD for the same reason, but also for how it will help them eliminate steps in their back-office scanning.”

Corrie White

Corrie is fascinated how the supply chain is simultaneously ubiquitous and invisible. She covers freight technology, cross-border freight and the effects of consumer behavior on the freight industry. Alongside writing about transportation, her poetry has been published widely in literary magazines. She holds degrees in English and Creative Writing from UNC Chapel Hill and UNC Greensboro.