Trip Planning for Driver Efficiency

In our latest episode of McLeod Insights, we sat down with Chris Powers, Implementation Trainer at McLeod Software. We discussed driver retention, technology for trip planning, how dispatchers and drivers can work together to better manage trip planning, and how to better address service incidents.

Why Are So Many Drivers Unsatisfied With Their Jobs?

According to Chris, many drivers in the transportation industry are unsatisfied with their jobs. As a result, the industry experiences high turnover rates among many companies.

Five major reasons why drivers leave their companies include:

  • They don’t log enough miles
  • They’re unhappy with how they’re being dispatched
  • Some drivers felt like they were set up for failure
  • Poor communication from the company
  • They feel underappreciated and overworked

In addition to the internal company issues that push many drivers to quit, drivers talk amongst themselves. They talk and share stories of companies they currently work for, or used to work for. Word gets around, and if your company isn’t on top of efficient trip planning, this could cost you your reputation.

How Transportation Companies Can Leverage Technology for Better Trip Planning

These days, technology tools open up all sorts of possibilities for streamlining and optimizing your trip planning, so your drivers can be efficient and productive. When Chris was a driver, he used a combination of Google Maps, a paper atlas (which he still recommends), and GPS.

Today, truck drivers have more advanced mobile communication devices and access to mobile apps on their phones that utilize GPS technology, like Trucker Path. These apps allow drivers to see parking and fuel stops along their route where they can take a break.

From a dispatcher’s perspective, they can view a map, location, and where the truck has been on its route, all on one screen. “Instead of having a dispatcher go from one screen to another, having to do his or her own calculations, we offer all that on one screen now,” Chris says. “It gives those visualization data points much quicker, instead of having to calculate it manually.”

In addition to giving location information, technology today promotes greater driver safety. Dispatchers can call drivers through the Bluetooth interface, rather than drivers trying to dial while on the road.

How Drivers and Dispatchers Can Coordinate Trip Planning and Management

In order to be successful, trip management must be coordinated closely between dispatchers and drivers. There are many factors to consider when planning your drivers’ trips, including:

  • What shipper co-signer are you with, and where are they located?
  • When is your expected arrival time?
  • Is there road construction on the route or destination?
  • What’s the weather like?
  • Are there traffic jams at certain times of the day?

Drivers must live by tight schedules – to the point that sometimes, dispatchers will need to create a breakdown grid of the driver’s day, down to the minute. It’s crucial to consider restrictions on service hours, as well as break requirements.

A driver is allowed 11 hours of drive time, with 14 hours of service per day. Additionally, they’re required to take a 30-minute break during their shift. They must plan ahead for their break and fuel stops. In addition to time, having a technology solution can help you better utilize available mileage.

Fleet managers who dispatch drivers must be able to analyze all their drivers’ availability against one another. That way, out-of-service ETAs, and PTAs are clearly displayed. Chris says that data is important for dispatchers who want to know where they can best utilize the same driver for multiple trips.

Because more and more companies measure velocity as the new capacity form, ETA is becoming much more important. And, it helps with determining driver hours and customer planning.

“It is important for ETA to be accurate to build trust with your dispatcher. But it’s also another way for a dispatcher to build trust with the customer,” Chris says.”

ETA also helps drivers determine whether they have enough available hours of service to take another load – or give one up.

How to Address Driver Service Incidents

When service incidents occur, such as an altered ETA due to a route change, drivers need a way to easily keep up with this information.

“The Trip Management software that we have, allows that update to show,” he says. “And it’s going to update the dispatcher side of things, like weather events, traffic events, etc.; plus, you can set it up with a Rapid Alert system to notify important customers when the ETA has gone off-route. It’s letting them know something has come up that’s going to keep that truck delayed, or delay that load.”

ETA for an upcoming trip will also be updated in the software based on current data. This allows for the dispatcher or planner to look at the upcoming trips and make adjustments, such as possibly using another driver if needed. Drivers can plan their own trips, which will allow them to save time if they are strategic about where they take breaks and fuel up.

In addition to effective technology, communication is paramount to driver efficiency and retention. It lends itself to greater transparency between drivers and dispatchers, since they’re both able to view and access the same data. Dispatchers can also leverage the technology to reserve stops on the driver’s route.

“Communication is everything,” Chris says. “It affects their pay and their confidence in the company if they don’t get what they were promised.”

To listen to the full episode of McLeod Insights featuring Chris Powers, click here.