Letter to the Editor: Technology and Training
This Letter to the Editor appears in the June 8 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.
Where would the trucking industry be without technology? Consider for a moment the vast array of technology available to carriers and the benefit each provides. Here’s a partial list to help illustrate my point:
• Engine-control modules provide driver and idling statistics.
• Turn-by-turn navigation systems eliminate miles and time associated with getting lost.
• Auxiliary power units reduce idling costs.
• Tire sensors monitor and inflate trailer tire pressures.
• In-cab communications provide instantaneous contact between drivers and driver managers.
• Routing software improves laden mile performance.
• Driver scorecards provide clear data and visuals regarding employee performance.
The range of technology alternatives available to truckers is almost overwhelming. Therefore, carriers looking to capture the benefits of technology must choose which alternatives provide the most opportunity to improve their operations.
Because technology often has a high price tag, that decision involves a rigorous return-on-investment analysis that incorporates the unique needs of their specific operations and the limitations of their capital budget.
Regardless of how effective the ROI analysis is and which alternative is finally selected, carriers need to understand — fully understand — that technology by itself is often of little benefit.
Technology provides information, and it is often the carrier’s ability to act upon that information that brings the value. For example, driver and
idling statistics are meaningless if not acted upon. APUs won’t provide the full benefit if their use isn’t monitored and enforced. Driver scorecards won’t improve performance without driver managers reviewing the results and coaching their drivers.
There is frequently a significant gap between the expected, prepurchase value of a new technology and the actual, postimplementation value received. That gap is usually the result of a carrier not providing adequate training to field personnel in how to apply the new information.
Technology providers usually fulfill their training obligations. They demonstrate to field users how the technology works, how to call up reports and how to read the results. The carriers, however, often fall short of their obligation, which is to train their employees on applying the results to improve performance.
Let’s return to the driver scorecard example: After the technology provider has trained field personnel on how to use the new tool, the carrier should provide training focused on how to apply the data to im-prove operations by answering the following questions:
• Against which goals should individual driver performance be measured?
• Do we post scorecards so all drivers can view each other’s performance?
• How are overperforming drivers recognized?
• How do we coach/discipline underperforming drivers?
• What types of records do we keep to document our coaching sessions?
• Should new drivers be allowed lower performance than experienced drivers?
• How often do we review results with our drivers?
The solution to bridging a value gap from purchased technology is usually found through employee training. Even years after a technology is in place, auditing how employees are currently using the information and defining new standard operating procedures to improve how that information is used usually will improve performance significantly.
Carriers purchasing technology need to understand that the value of their investment comes not just from the tool purchased but also from the ability of their employees to use the new information and apply it to their operations. With every technology analysis and decision, carriers always must be mindful of the training obligation that goes with it.
Chief Executive Officer