What readers have to say about "How's my driving?"
Last time out in this space, readers were asked to let us know about their experiences using - or responding to - "How's my driving?" slogans on trucks.
The good news comes first. Most of the responses in this decidedly unscientific survey indicate a strong degree of satisfaction with the results from plastering a "How's my driving?" message, replete with toll-free number, where the motoring public can't help but see it.
According to Dave Poff of Orange Park, Fla.-based Poff Systems Inc., "The number system works exceptionally well with my trucks." He reports the results last year for his six tractors, eight trailers, and twelve drivers: "Nine phone calls - two complaints and seven compliments."
Mr. Poff offers some free advice as well. He says he follows two equipment rules. First, the numbers on his trucks must be eight inches high. Second, the truck number and phone number must be "one above the other, easily found."
He also has an inviolable rule for drivers. "Drivers must report any numbers that are missing before leaving with a load." The consequences for violating that requirement involve an altogether different phone number. "In the case of any numbers missing (and not reported), drivers will be given the local phone number for the unemployment office."
When you get good news first, you know what follows. Here's the bad news. Several replies mentioned how these programs don't always work.
For example, Alan Carter, an engineer with Heil Trailer International, and thereby an interested party in trucking's success, reports getting only a 25% response rate to the phone calls he's made to fleets.
"I have called the 'How's my driving?' numbers on various trucks approximately a dozen times over the past few years, twice to compliment drivers after having seen them get out of a nasty situation without killing themselves or anyone else," Mr. Carter relates.
"I generally leave my name and number and have received replies from the company involved three times," he continues. "Unfortunately, the majority of the time what I get is the message 'This mailbox is full' or 'This number is no longer in service.'
"When people not associated with the transportation industry get messages like this," he points out, "is there any wonder that the industry's reputation suffers?"
Apparently, I'm not the only one who wonders the same thing. Not so much to protect the guilty as to avoid a libel suit, I will dispense with the name of the fleet discussed in the following excerpted e-mail received from Don Lasee, co-owner of Krakow Wis.-based Bulldog Express & Bulldog Design:
"As part of the motoring public, I thought that was a great program to keep management informed as to what goes on when their trucks are out of sight. How wrong was I!"
Mr. Lasee goes on to say that after having a "bad experience" with a driver for a major carrier, he got nowhere with the letter he wrote to the fleet's chairman & CEO.
Usually, going to the top guy is the best way to complain. But by the time this fleet owner contacted us, he'd already waited over a month for a reply.
"When drivers know that nothing will happen," Mr. Lasee rightly asserts, "I guess they don't have to care how their driving is."
Driving his point home, he says if any of his drivers handled themselves that way, "He/she would be an ex-driver who need not ask for a recommendation."