New Technologies Help Level the Playing Field for Independent Truckers
Most truckers drive solo for hundreds of days annually. While being on the road so much can feel isolating at times, they are by no means alone. Qualified, professional truckers are part of an expansive and indispensable network driving commerce and the economy. Each day millions of Class 8 trucks move freight across our nation’s highways. Independent owner-operators and small fleets (<10 trucks) make up more than 90% of those drivers. Not only are they major stakeholders in the future of the industry, they bring an impressive track record. On average, independents have over two decades experience behind the wheel of a rig and are involved in fewer and less serious accidents than any other segment of the truck driving population. (Sources: OOIDA, https://www.ooida.com/OOIDA%20Foundation/RecentResearch/OOfacts.asp and https://www.ooida.com/MediaCenter/trucking-facts.asp)
Nothing can replace experience. However, even seasoned drivers stand to miss opportunities if they don’t keep pace with technological advances in the digital era. Technology is at the core of significant improvements in truck safety, in-cab functionality, driver comfort and bottom line profitability. Leading manufacturers harness proven technologies to design passive and active safety features, ergonomic seats and controls, and driver-centric dash layouts, infotainment and media modules in commercial vehicles and aftermarket electronic equipment. Following are some examples.
Safety & Security
Automatic emergency braking and air disc brakes on large trucks have lowered accident, injury and fatality rates. Safety cameras are being deployed for stock security, parking assistance and other advanced driver assist features such as adaptive cruise and lane departure warning systems. (Source: AAA, http://newsroom.aaa.com/2017/09/truck-safety-technology-can-prevent-63000-crashes-year/ )
Vehicle infotainment systems bring impressive functionality and features to the driving experience in personal and commercial vehicles. But they can also increase driver distractions by diverting hands off the wheel or eyes off the road to perform even simple tasks such as programming a navigation system, making a call or responding to a text message, resulting in potentially dangerous situations. Infotainment systems incorporating interactive touch and voice-command controls are especially advantageous for commercial drivers. Even the best designed systems can be made safer simply by following common sense practices, such as turning off text and social media notifications while under operation. (Source: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety)
Decades before wireless Internet access, truckers connected via Citizen’s Band (CB) and short wave radios. Now smartphones and tablets operating over 3G and 4G networks have become gold standard for OTR connectivity. According to a Sleek Fleet Owner Operator survey, more than 90% of drivers cite mobile devices as their preferred method of accessing the Web.
Major wireless carriers offer wide area coverage to support reliable GPS tracking, weather and traffic reports virtually anywhere in the country. In addition to providing a critical link in the event of an emergency, mobile devices with 24/7 cellular and Internet access are valuable lifelines to connect truckers with family, friends and colleagues. Online forums and chat rooms have become an online version of the truck stop—networking environments for drivers to exchange knowledge and get insider insights on weather conditions, roadside inspections, and regulatory changes coming down the pike.
“Fellow truckers on the frontline work independently, yet forge strong bonds built on trust and professional experience,” concurs Chad Boblett, Owner-Operator, Boblett Brothers LLC (@chadboblett). “Mobile technology makes it possible to communicate, educate and network on a broader scale—and access opportunities that can help us build more successful operations.” In 2014, Boblett founded the RPM (Rate Per Mile) Masters Facebook group which has grown to over 20,000 members.
In diverse industries—from retail to travel to taxi services—mobile connectivity technologies have ushered in dynamic new business models that are leveling the playing field for independent business people. Similar transformations are occurring in the trucking industry. Shippers, large asset-based carriers, brokers and third-party logistics providers (3PLs) all now have access to a wide range of tools and technology to streamline day-to-day operations, improve performance and increase profitability.
Thanks to recent developments in mobile transportation technology, independent owner-operators are no longer forced to work solely through carriers and brokers. Connected devices in conjunction with innovative applications (apps) are improving profitability and creating new opportunities for drivers. A mobile app from Sleek Fleet, LLC helps level the playing field by giving owner-operators direct access to haul freight for large shippers. The simple-to-use app streamlines bidding and load acquisition with full transparency and automates management of backend data.
Unlike other online load boards, Sleek Fleet focuses on the needs of independent truckers by working only with shippers handling at least 100,000 truckloads annually to ensure quality freight at a fair price. Visit the Sleek Fleet Drivers Page to learn how to leverage the mobile device already in your pocket to increase your competitive advantage.