Max Farrell is spending this week sitting on the passenger side of an 18-wheeler traveling from Des Moines to Los Angeles, hoping to gain insights for a phone app he believes will help trucking companies better communicate with and retain their drivers.
Farrell, a 20-something owner of the corporate consulting firm Create Reason, said his new company, WorkHound, will help drivers share their concerns and ideas.
“Not a lot of people think about the driver as an innovator, but they’re the ones that are closest to the customers and have plenty of time to think through ways to maximize and optimize their experience,” he said.
Farrell said he is moving his focus from Create Reason to WorkHound in part because it’s easier to scale a product than a service. He is starting the company with a partner from Des Moines and with help from an Omaha-based startup accelerator, Straight Shot, that has a logistics focus. Straight Shot invested in the company in return for a small piece of equity.
How is it going to make money?
The plan is to introduce a “minimum viable product” by the end of July that drivers can download. The app initially will feature open-ended questions that will help Workhound spot trends and evolve the product so that it can be made simpler and easier to use. Data from the anonymous responses will be aggregated and a snapshot provided to motor carriers for free. If they want access to more information, they can pay for it. WorkHound will team with companies to roll out the app to the entire fleet instead of having drivers sign up individually. Eventually, the information may go straight to the companies.
Farrell said such employee engagement tools have worked in other industries.
The app will help drivers alert motor carriers to dissatisfactions with pay, home time, communications with dispatchers, and other daily frustrations that can build over time.
He said giving drivers a greater voice in their companies will improve retention in an industry with a 97% turnover rate and high costs for replacing drivers and for idle trucks.
“The thing that excites me the most is the opportunity to solve urgent problem in an industry,” he said. “In trucking, there’s an extreme urgency around keeping drivers.”