Spurred by fast-growing interest in e-commerce shopping, many last mile logistics and transportation businesses are flourishing worldwide. While this is great news for business owners operating in these sectors, driver shortages can make it challenging for many logistics companies to meet growing demand. What can mobile technology offer to help transport and logistics businesses tackle this problem?
Driver Shortages – a Serious Challenge for the Industry
The transport and logistics industry is facing a major struggle in terms of the growing shortage of professional drivers and the challenge of attracting new drivers to meet rising demand. The National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) points out that, with less than 15 percent of truck drivers under the age of 30 and the road freight task set to double by 2030, the industry is justifiably concerned about the looming national driver shortage (which a lot of transport providers may feel has already arrived).
To provide some perspective on the significance of this – several large logistics providers are shifting their prime focus from customers to drivers. These companies have come to understand that happy and engaged drivers are a key factor driving customer satisfaction levels.
Money is Not the Only Factor…
While remuneration is definitely one of the major factors giving rise to the unpopularity of the occupation there are a number of other factors which have been identified as contributing to the poor external perception of the job such as:
- lack of respect towards drivers
- appalling conditions on the roads, in parking lots, and in sanitary facilities
- increasing qualification requirements, in part due to increased digitisation of the role
How Can Mobile Technology Help?
In recent years, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of technological advancements in the industry together with a rapid rise in the adoption of mobile technology among drivers. Not only are drivers using smartphones for daily activities such as making calls, sending text messages, using social media and browsing the internet, they are also using their mobile devices to look for work.
Innovative new mobile technology, such as guided workflow tools, provides opportunities to significantly change the scope of the work of drivers and how they find it. Intelligent mobile tools make it possible to remove certain tasks while adding others. These tools can drive efficiency, for example, helping to optimise loading, giving routing instructions and facilitating communication with both colleagues and addressees. While mobile tools take care of these tasks, additional new tasks can be introduced – these can include conducting surveys, reporting and taking doorstep payment. One concrete example is how Posti in Finland has expanded postal delivery employees’ tasks.
Lowering the Entry Threshold for New Drivers
One way new mobile technology can be used to facilitate the recruitment of new drivers is that the entry threshold (in terms of required skills/qualifications) for new drivers could be lowered by using mobile tools to reduce the skills and experience required to carry out particular tasks. Technology can be used to take care of or assist with a range of tasks (e.g. using mobile-guided workflows). In a controlled manner, it would also allow driver responsibilities to be extended to include more advanced assignments. It could mean, depending on the nature of the role, that in some particular cases the skills/qualification requirement could be limited to just a driver’s license.
A clear advantage provided by mobile technology tools in the plight to engage new drivers is improved measurability. Such tools can enable the collection of instant feedback allowing transport and logistics companies to evaluate employee performance and show appreciation accordingly.
Performance in terms of driver safety can also be effectively measured using mobile technology. Poor driving can lead to more accidents, larger fuel and maintenance costs along with higher insurance premiums. Mobile solutions can be leveraged to provide real-time data, reports and notifications about driver behaviour which can be utilised by management and the drivers themselves to improve safety out on the road. Good drivers can be rewarded with bonuses and other performance-based rewards, promoting employee satisfaction and retention.
Providing Greater Flexibility
Increased flexibility is often a key objective for companies in the transport and logistics sector. Mobile technology can be employed to implement a role-based system which can make it easier to quickly shift drivers by decoupling the role from the task. For example, two drivers could easily share the same route, offering them more flexible work schedules and give them the work life balance they desire.
Combatting Loneliness by Connecting Colleagues
So, what do we do about loneliness for a mobile workforce? Most drivers check their preferred social media networks on a daily basis using a mobile device, even during the work day. Why not allow drivers to participate in internal groups (which you have control of) and one-to-one instant messaging with their colleagues and even with management? By facilitating conversations during the work day about traffic, the best routes to take and any arising issues and how to manage them you make drivers’ jobs easier and give them a chance to form strong relationships with their team. Meanwhile, the same technology can be utilised as a means to praise employees for a job well done, announce team social events and celebrate team achievements.
Simplifying Onboarding and Training
Mobile software solutions can be used to simplify onboarding and develop skills by implementing online training courses for employees on-the-go. Mobile apps can assist new drivers with adopting company policies and procedures. Drivers can also use mobile technology tools to learn more about their vehicles and safe driving, or pick up customer service tips. With customisable courses and tools, certification programs can be established which add value for both the driver and the company.
PreCom: A Next Generation Mobile Logistics Execution Tool
PocketMobile’s PreCom mobile platform is a powerful, extendable and configurable software tool that is designed for business-critical work. Their solutions are extensively used by logistic service providers, postal organisations and other last-mile delivery operations. The PreCom logistics software acts as the mobile information hub for the enterprise, connecting with back end systems and delivering data to the mobile workforce.
PocketMobile, a leading provider of mobility solutions, is now part of the Trimble Transportation Mobility division of Trimble’s Transportation segment.
Find out more about PocketMobile’s Precom Platform along with Trimble Transportation’s range of technologies and transportation solutions at stand 250 in the Plaza at the Brisbane Truck Show.