5 Ways Carriers Overpower Tough Market Conditions with Custom Driver Apps

The freight market is like a seesaw boxing match, with cycles of “boom” and “bust” happening more frequently. When capacity grows tight, carriers take swings to increase rates. Shippers strike back to lower contract prices as soon as they gain the upper hand.

For much of 2023, carriers have been enduring plenty of punches.

The looming threat of a recession is curbing consumer spending. Production volumes are down across many industries. Inflation and fuel prices remain high. The usual summer volume spikes driven by produce harvests and construction have been low, leaving spot and contract trucking rates substantially below previous years.

The soft freight market has carriers experiencing hard times; many feel stuck in a corner.

Fleets must run lean and drive efficiencies to conserve cash in this tough market. Luckily, SaaS-based custom driver apps provide new ways for carriers to stay in tip-top shape. Below are five innovative examples of fleets using their own apps to throw hard punches at current market conditions.

Match #1: K&B Transportation Vs. Lumper Fees

Nearly every load for refrigerated carriers has a lumper fee. Approving, paying, and getting reimbursed for lumpers is challenging. Plus, the fees are a prime target for fraud. When Nebraska-based K&B Transportation wanted a trackable system to automatically process lumper payments, it quickly implemented a new feature in its custom driver app.

Before adding the new feature, drivers had to call dispatch to request a payment. This usually happened between the hours of 1 and 6 a.m. A driver manager (DM) would issue the payment via an in-cab mobile system or over the phone. The accounting team would sometimes wait weeks to receive the receipt from the driver to seek shipper reimbursement. The process was far too complicated and manual for something required with nearly every load.

K&B designed its custom driver app available on a personal smartphone or tablet to streamline work to process lumper payments. For lumper fees, drivers can now hit a button in the app to request payment. The request is approved using predetermined criteria within the system, which issues an immediate response and payment if the criteria are met. The app files the receipt in the paperwork system for easy accounting access and fraud prevention.

Today, K&B has transitioned from an almost 100% manual process to a place where 70% of lumper fees are processed instantly through the app. Countless hours of frustration and weeks of waiting for payments have been eliminated. The company calls the feature “universally loved” for the time savings it generates for drivers and DMs.

Match #2: Napa Transportation Vs. Drive Time Delays

Maximizing driver clocks is one of the best ways to improve revenue. The trucking industry only averages 6.5 driving hours per day of the available 11, leaving significant money on the table. Research from MIT indicates that adding only 18 minutes of productivity daily for every professional driver would be enough to overcome the current 80,000 driver shortage in the U.S.

NAPA Transportation decided to give drivers more time on their clocks by eliminating wasteful trailer searches.

The Pennsylvania-based carrier customized its mobile driver app with a  “find my trailer” feature. With a simple click, drivers receive the location of their assigned trailer with near-pinpoint accuracy. Rather than search drop lots for a trailer number, drivers head to the equipment’s exact location. The company estimates the feature saves drivers up to 30 minutes per day at large locations like Walmart distribution centers.

NAPA also took aim at delays that drivers experience when trying to connect with busy driver managers. The company gathered feedback from drivers and DMs to determine what prompts a call. Armed with this information, it added items to their app that give drivers direct access to information, including better load details and site instructions. NAPA credits its comparatively low 55% turnover rate to asking drivers for feedback and responding with new, valuable app features.

The safety department has benefitted as well. Addressing log compliance was consuming 40 hours per week for one employee. In an effort to become more efficient, NAPA began analyzing data directly from its in-cab telematics devices to quickly identify drivers who had not verified their logs. By feeding this information into the app, NAPA prevented drivers from accessing load details until they verify their logs. The company experienced a dramatic turn around in their log compliance (from 30% compliance to almost 100%) and was able to reallocate the full-time staffer to more strategic work.

Match #3: Ezzell Trucking Vs. Communication Delays

For Ezzell Trucking, delays in dispatch-driver communications were causing major problems. The North Carolina-based bulk carrier used an ELD system that sent and received messages to its transportation management system (TMS) in batches. The two systems took up to 30 minutes to sync, wasting valuable time for drivers who were forced to wait for information to complete tasks.

Ezzell looked at several options and made the decision to implement a custom mobile app as the quickest and best solution to resolve these issues. Plus, the flexibility of the custom app platform ensured Ezzell could meet the evolving needs of drivers and office employees.

The custom app gives drivers real-time communications inside and outside the cab. Ezzell developed a workflow with load-specific delivery information customized to meet individual customer requirements.

The app’s user-friendly interface simplifies hours of service (HOS) management for drivers and office staff by pulling HOS data in from the fleet’s ELD platform. In addition, the app gives drivers the ability to scan paperwork using their phones or tablets, saving time and improving accuracy for the office to accelerate billing and payroll.

Ezzell’s driver app makes a difference inside the C-suite by providing real-time updates of load information. Leaders have up-to-date performance indicators on loads moved during the past week, day, and hour to determine where they need to focus their efforts.

The custom app delivered immediate benefits for Ezzell following a successful launch within 30 days of starting the project. Ezzel credits the project’s speed to leveraging pre-built components in the custom app platform and customizing features to meet its specific needs.

Match #4: K&B Transportation Vs. Severe Weather

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, weather or environmental issues cause 3% of large truck accidents annually in the U.S. While that number may seem low, the nuclear verdicts they often generate inside the courtroom are not.

K&B Transportation used its mobile app to minimize Mother Nature’s impact on drivers.

The carrier created geographic zones and tracked each truck through its in-cab Geotab device. The team paired the data with weather monitoring services to identify existing or forecasted inclement weather based on each truck’s location. K&B now sends relevant information directly to the driver’s app using a separate news feed. The information included road conditions, the expected duration, when drivers must shut down, and when they can safely return to the road. The carrier also has the ability to take over the application dashboard to instruct the driver to take action on a weather situation. This take-over requires that the driver acknowledge the message before they can continue to other features in the application and helps ensure the driver remains safe. 

K&B also added links to SafeTravelUSA in the app and a dropdown media library with weather alerts for the 20 most frequently traveled states. Driver feedback has been positive for the improved communication and active efforts to keep them safe.

Since adding weather features to its app in 2022, K&B’s recordable DOT accidents and insurance claims are down 80% year to date.

Match #5: Knight-Swift Vs. Driver Routing

Fleets can easily send drivers route plans for loads with fuel stops and turn-by-turn navigation. Yet unless drivers comply, the anticipated cost savings quickly vanish.

Knight-Swift is known for using technology to create efficiencies. Like all fleets, the nation’s largest truckload carrier is fighting rising fuel costs. The Phoenix-based company uses a custom app with an intelligent trip planner to maximize driver route compliance to save time, fuel, and unbilled mileage.

Knight-Swift configured the app to give drivers the power to choose route options that satisfy company policies for in-network fueling, out-of-route mileage, and compliance with hours-of-service (HOS) rules. Drivers can choose fuel stops based on their personal preferences like cleaner showers or restaurant menus. The trip planner also shows drivers how far they can go with available HOS to plan fuel stops and rest breaks that will ensure safe, on-time deliveries.

This trip-planning feature helps boost driver satisfaction while reigning in fuel costs and out-of-route miles. Knight-Swift’s driver turnover rate is among the lowest of the top carriers in North America, sitting well below the national average of 89%.

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Get off the Ropes and on the Road with Eleos

Working in trucking is not always a fair fight. Are current market conditions backing you into a corner? Eleos doesn’t let you roll with the punches. Our SaaS-based custom driver app platform helps you regain control and win every match. Fleets highlighted in this article have found ways to increase efficiency and boost their performance by using custom apps to save drivers time, improve communication speed and accuracy, and enforce compliance with company policies. In short, they are giving drivers everything they need to do their jobs as safely and efficiently as possible, within the palm of their hands.

Contact Eleos to discover how we help fleets create their own custom apps.



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