Oct 12, 2015 | Articles

Is leverage good or bad?  Depends on who you ask, and which side of the leverage you’re on.  You cannot grow your business without leverage – time, money, and information.

Whether you own a trucking company or manage a private fleet – technology is leverage in your business.  Technology amplifies the good and magnifies the not-so-good.

What is leverage?  It is the ability to influence a system or an environment in a way that multiplies the outcome of one’s efforts.  We think of leverage as financial.  It is more than that.  It is your people, your systems, and the technology you and your company uses to direct your assets and people.

Do you have good systems?  Technology makes jobs easier, clearer, and allows more transparency.  Drivers know what to do and what’s expected.  Dispatchers can spend more time doing, and less time remembering or digging for information.  Managers and owners can clearly see what’s going on in all levels of their company.

Do you have bad systems – or no system at all?  If you do not have clear processes and expectations – technology will simply add tasks to a disgruntled workforce.

I have been fielding an incredible number of phone calls, emails, and requests for meetings because of the upcoming Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate.  We’ve talked to fleets, technology providers, and government agencies.  Some people are happy – for a variety of reasons.  Some are in panic mode.  Some are resigned to yet more government intrusion.

Many miss the point, so let’s create the scene that I see.  It’s the same scene that many of our customers see.  Technology is just a big lever that can solve or create problems.  It can expose opportunities or weaknesses more quickly than they’d surface on their own.

I was first exposed to telematics in 1988, and by 1991 I was implementing Tripmaster in CX Transportation’s fleet nationwide.  At the time I saw this system and its data as a tool to help us win business, manage customers, decrease variable costs, increase safety, improve compliance, and help drivers.  When I went to work for Tripmaster in 1994, I was surprised by what I saw with other fleets running this same technology.

Surprise number one – I was neither unique nor a genius.  We decreased accident costs by 75% and increased fuel economy by a full 1 MPG at CX.  But, so did other fleets.  What was common among the successful fleets?  We had a Standard Operating Procedure that clearly defined expectations and roles for everyone.  Data was visible and transparent throughout the business.   We clearly wanted to help two primary groups of people; drivers and local managers.

Surprise number two – misapplied technology did not create a better business.  Poor business practices and poor people practices are simply poor – with or without technology.  With technology added to a toxic workplace, the bad becomes visible to everyone.  If you believe drivers are a necessary evil and are always “out to get you”, technology is a baseball bat that makes everything worse.  If you have no improvement plan and see no need for standard procedures – you’ve created more work with no clear benefit.

I’ve seen fleets big and small do wonderful things with their fleet technology.  I’ve seen businesses saved.  I have seen driver’s lives improved.  I have seen managers grow, do more managing and less paperwork.

I have seen fleets use their telematics system as a battering ram – and for no good reason other than misguided egos and lack of true leadership skills.

So – what does this have to do with the ELD mandate?

Do you run a good, tight, company?  Do you have an economic and philosophical advantage in your marketplace?  And, are you worried that this ELD mandate will level the playing field – raising others up to your level and destroying your advantage?  Stop worrying.  From what I see – companies that have a “safety last” attitude now, won’t change because of a mandated technology.  They will buy the cheapest ELD device they can find and hope it doesn’t work all the time.  Companies that are a miserable place for drivers to work – won’t suddenly get better with ELDs.  If you run a good company and you are distinctively different – it’s your leadership and business philosophy that counts.  Your technology is your toolbox to do better planning and to keep it all running.

I encourage you to read “The Long Road to Success” by J.B. Hunt, you can find it here.  Not only will you learn how a great company was built, but you’ll see that clear application of technology as leverage.

Do you think you can improve your operations with the smart application of technology?  Do you need help creating a Standard Operating Procedure for your fleet?  Do you want to have a conversation about fleet technology?  Contact us here and let’s set a time to talk.

About the Author


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