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Upgrading for independents

May 18, 2006
To retain owner-operators, trucking companies have emphasized tools and technology that help them work more efficiently

To retain owner-operators, trucking companies have emphasized tools and technology that help them work more efficiently.

Fikes Truck Line, a 100% owner-operator flatbed trucking company that operates about 500 trucks, has recently rolled out a customized GeoLogic application that allows owner-operators to query nearby loads and “dispatch themselves” to accept the loads 24/7 via a satellite-based onboard computer.

“It gives them the ability to work when we’re not here,” Jerry Davis, Fikes Truck Line’s vp-safety and insurance, told FleetOwner. “[The owner-operator] doesn’t have to talk to a dispatcher if he doesn’t choose to. It keeps him from being tied up on the phone.”

Just over half of Fikes’ owner-operators use the GeoLogic system, and that number would probably be higher if that breakdown excluded short-haul drivers, who are generally less likely to use a satellite system.

“The owner-operators leased to Fikes are generally very tech-savvy and quick to adopt the technology initiatives,” Davis said. “We’ve been impressed with them.”

Accelerated Freight Group, which offers long haul trucking and intermodal services in the Gulf Coast region, has focused on payment issues by encouraging a move to digital for documents and paperwork. About 10% of AFG’s driver population is owner-operators.

Scanned documents related to an owner-operator’s settlement are saved in the company database and made available to the driver via a “driver center” web portal designed by McLeod Software.

“Owner-operators are always concerned about their pay,” Robert Bowman, AFG president, told FleetOwner. “They could pull up all their paperwork history so they can go back four to five weeks ago and they can reprint their settlement history,” he said.

In addition, kiosks are available at truckstops that enable drivers to scan and send documents electronically as well as review and print their settlement status, Bowman noted. This allows drivers to check for mistakes “before the check hits the bank.”

“The number one reason they want to leave a company would be because there’s a mistake in their pay or they don’t understand,” Bowman said. “My mission is to make sure they get paid quickly and accurately and as long as they get communication then that relation will last.”

Barry Brookins, director of recruiting and retention for Tuscaloosa, AL-based WTI Transport told FleetOwner that it keeps a staff person available dedicated solely to driver services.

“A lot of that [retention is thanks to] the dispatchers and relationships with owner-operators,” Brookins said. “They feel comfortable with pay and loads and are able to talk to someone before pulling that trigger and making that move to another business.”

About the Author

Terrence Nguyen

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