COMPANY: Sietsema Farms, Allentown, MI
OPERATION: Family-owned business runs a contracted network of farms that raises some 1.3 million turkeys and 800,000 swine each year. Sietsema operates about 20 trucks delivering bulk feed and feed commodities to its grower network.
THE CHALLENGE: TRACKING ITS TRUCKS AND DRIVERS BETTER
Sietsema Farms believed it had a complement of safe drivers and was already running telematics and fleet management systems in its trucks, but wanted a system that would do more. The company needed better tracking and time management for trucks and wanted to keep an eye on driver behaviors. It also needed a positive way to motivate drivers to do their best performance.
Those were the goals, as well as to remove the need to call drivers to check on their locations and progress at delivery stops. The new telematics and truck/ driver behavior tracking system also had to integrate with Sietsema’s existing software and hardware. Underscoring the new system upgrade was the company’s desire to drive more efficiency—and have the data and results to show for it.
THE SOLUTION: INSTALL A FLEXIBLE TRUCK/DRIVER TRACKING SYSTEM
The company selected the telematics and fleet tracking system from Azuga, which included hardware that Sietsema found installed easily into its trucks. The Azuga software platform was a good fit and provided the tools Sietsema had on its checklist.
“It was seamless to implement. It was a 10-minute install, and we’ve had no problems,” said J.R. Michaels, dispatch manager at Sietsema Farms. “Our main challenge was to keep things efficient and increase efficiency, starting with knowing where our guys were at. Our drivers understand that in the transportation industry, being efficient and productive is the key to survival.”
The heart of the Azuga system is fleet vehicle tracking, which solved the issue of having to touch a phone to monitor truck location and driver time at each stop. Sietsema’s drivers quickly took to the system, since “it takes them having to call in—that responsibility—out of it,” Michaels noted. He added that the company understands that drivers do face obstacles and can get hung up making deliveries, and “the Azuga systems simplify all that.”
The technology also monitors trucks for adverse driving incidents like speeding, harsh braking or hard acceleration and creates a scorecard based on driver behaviors. That wasn’t a universal hit at first; some of the company’s drivers were skeptical of the scorecards, but interestingly, Michaels pointed out it was only a few who were considered among the best and safest in the fleet.
“It wasn’t like it was a bad driver who was worried that now we’d know they weren’t the best driver in the world,” Michaels quipped. But it was likely just a bit of resistance to change, since the few skeptics quickly came around and have been top-scorers since the company began the program.
Sietsema goes beyond the Azuga driver scoring and folds in certain reports the system makes available.
“Those are part of the platform we use, and we incorporate those into our driver rewards program,” Michaels said. “It’s more backing up what we already knew: We’ve got a fleet of very safe drivers.”
Sietsema has been using driver scorecards for about a year—and got some additional validation at the end of 2016. Azuga named the company its “top fleet” for the fourth quarter, and Ananth Rani, co-founder and CEO of Azuga, explained that it’s a difficult designation to come by, since you’ve got to be selected from a population of about 35,000 vehicles and 100,000 drivers using the software.
“Whoever bubbles to the top—the top 10 drivers and the top 10 fleet managers—we award them, and it’s very selective,” Rani said. “It’s a huge deal with the population we have. You have to have really excellent performance.”