Over the past few months, the UK government and the haulage industry have stepped up efforts to improve the ongoing driver shortage. From investments in online resources and learning materials, to funds for training veterans, it’s clear that steps are being taken to overcome the problem at hand.
But what can fleet organisations do themselves to help to retain and attract top talent to the frontline? The answer — in part, at least — lies in the adoption of smart technology some of which is powered by artificial intelligence (AI).
Despite its somewhat futuristic title, AI is essentially when a machine mimics human cognitive functions, such as recognising patterns, problem solving and learning. It’s used in everything from banking apps and online retailing to cyber security and navigation.
Or to put it another way, AI helps everyday technology that little bit smarter.
So, while we’re not going to see drivers replaced by AI or autonomous trucks coming into force any time soon, we should expect to see AI augmenting the roles of our frontline workers.
This could be as simple as installing dashcams into vehicles to improve driver safety or adopting digital processes to remove hours of time spent on administrative tasks, like processing delivery notes or job forms.
Smart technology isn’t the only solution to overcoming the driver shortage. But it is making an impact.
For instance, while technology has modernised the employee experience in many sectors, drivers in fleet-related industries have been largely underserved when it comes to tech innovation. That is until recently.
In contrast to office-based staff, drivers are constantly on the go. And this means they need to be able to rely on technology that works alongside their unique working environment.
By automating workflows, companies can remove the burden of manual and paper-based processes from day-to-day tasks. In practice, this means drivers can provide updates on successful deliveries or customer visits in real-time, process documentation in their vehicle (while stationary) and streamline communication between the road and the office.
Real-time communication also makes it possible to enable SMS notifications or alerts when drivers need to change a route or avoid traffic, making the time spent on the road as efficient as possible.
Onboarding new drivers at speed
At the same time, by removing some of the more laborious tasks, the job becomes more appealing not just to existing drivers, but to new recruits as well. And again, technology can play its part by creating an engaging onboarding experience that lasts beyond the first few days.
In fact, wherever you look, the digital transformation of fleet-based operations allows companies to simplify often tiresome, but necessary tasks, with the introduction of advanced, easy-to-use technologies that have the look and feel of technology we use in our everyday lives.
By modernising the workplace — whether that’s in the depot, office or driver’s cab — fleet companies can remove the administrative headache that often results in high turnover rates.
Samsara’s recent Connected Operations Report shows that 54% of operations leaders agree that easy-to-use technology is a key factor to recruiting and retaining employees. By simplifying the onboarding process and delivering a modern approach to work, fleet managers can go some way to ensure that drivers spend their time on what they signed up to do: drive.
Improving driver safety
Naturally, any employee looking to go into a driving role is likely to appreciate an employer with a good safety track record. Having documented evidence in this area can help fleet organisations showcase just how seriously they take the safety and wellbeing of their employees.
In fact, according to Samsara’s report, half (51%) of operational leaders said improving workplace safety was the most influential factor in recruiting and retaining drivers.
And one of the most visible areas this can be do in the use of dual-facing AI-enabled dashcams that can detect potential safety risks while on the road and instantly alerting the driver. Should an incident occur, real-time footage can be instantly accessed and reviewed, and used to help exonerate drivers from false claims.
Rewarding great performance
All of these things — and more — are possible because more and more firms are introducing technology into the workplace. This isn’t just technology for the sake of it. It’s about using smart technology wisely and making best use of tech to make life simpler.
In some cases, tech is used to replace paper-based processes that need people to sign dockets and chits before they’re returned to an office to be manually processed and filed. In other cases, technology can remove some of the hassle out of driving by planning routes or adjusting journeys in the event of last-minute delivery scheduling.
And when it comes to safety — arguably, one of the biggest differences technology can make to the working life of drivers — there is plenty of scope to make a difference. Indeed, some firms even base reward and recognition schemes on the data collected by in-cab safety systems.
Wherever you look, technology is making an impact on fleet managers and their drivers playing a vital role in helping to recruit and retain those people responsible for keeping business moving.