As technology continues to envelop the lives of truck drivers within the freight ecosystem, it is vital for businesses that design the software and applications to be mindful of the people they are developing it for. The freight industry has been largely sluggish with technology adoption, with changes becoming apparent only over the last few years.
FreightWaves spoke with Layla Shaikley, the co-founder of Wise Systems, an autonomous dispatch and routing startup, to discuss the possibilities of smartphone applications within the trucking industry and the need for delicate designs that suit the needs of the people behind the wheel.
“What intrigues me the most about the world of trucking is to find that the large organizations that are on the cutting-edge of the market have technology that would take months to train the drivers to use,” said Shaikley. “As consumers of technology every day, we expect easy and smart experiences while engaging with applications. So it is a bit disappointing to see technology that isn’t really designed well or when the experience is not intuitive.”
To design a smartphone application that is both intuitive and useful to truck drivers, Shaikley said that it is vital to get their approval at every stage of the design process.
“While designing our application, we would hop into trucks with drivers and show them our designs to get feedback. We observe how they manage their day and based on their suggestions, we design our applications around their own processes to make the applications easy to use,” said Shaikley.
One of the major things learned through one such interaction was the occurrence of pop-up notifications on applications. When this was introduced to a trucker, he retorted back saying it would not be feasible for drivers to click on pop-ups when they are in the cab, because they have to concentrate on the road. Shaikley explained that though these are not strictly design issues, it is essential to address such elements based on the target audience.
“When drivers join a fleet, they get a roster of addresses and tons of products to deliver. They have to figure out information in terms of parking restrictions and customer restrictions like time of delivery, which is mostly tribal knowledge. Thus, the ‘how’ of design really comes down to understanding how drivers execute their day and trying to design around it,” said Shaikley.
For applications to work, designers need to start thinking of it from the perspective of drivers, as the fundamental aim of an application is to improve the productivity and efficiency of a trucker.
“The technology landscape is rapidly changing, and we’re right in the middle of it. You still see a lot of older software that is very hard to navigate, and you see circumstances where somebody leaves a dispatch office for two weeks, and the operation is turned on its head because people don’t know how to use this technology,” said Shaikley. “People are groomed into positions and about three months is spent learning how to use planning applications just for their fleet. However, I think that the space is changing very rapidly.”
On the other end of the spectrum, the industry’s recent overindulgence in technology might frustrate a percentage of drivers because they feel they are continuously monitored when they are at work, creating unease. Shaikley contended that though this might be a visible problem, it mostly occurs due to poorly implemented technology.
“For people who’ve worked in the industry for around 15 years or more, they started their career using pen and paper, but are now strapped to so many applications with every move of theirs being monitored and measured. Though this causes discomfort, I’d say it happens due to bad technology,” said Shaikley. “Ultimately, technology is present to reduce a trucker’s burden, and if the experience is easy and seamless, there would be no reason for them to hate it.”