WorkHound provides voice for truck drivers, opportunity for carriers to address issues

by Jeff Della Rosa (JDellaRosa@nwabj.com) 150 views 

WorkHound wants people to love their jobs, and with its focus on the trucking industry, it seeks to reduce the driver turnover rate, which is about 95%, said Max Farrell, CEO and co-founder of WorkHound. The company offers carriers a web-based platform for drivers to provide anonymous feedback, and 81% of the 8,500 drivers who use it are over-the-road drivers.

The platform offers drivers an opportunity to provide open-ended feedback, and in 2017, the top four topics drivers mentioned were people, equipment, logistics and pay. The topics represented 64% of all topics discussed on the platform this year. On Monday (Dec. 4), John Larkin, trucking/transportation analyst for Stifel, hosted a conference call on the feedback the platform received in 2017.

Each week, drivers receive a text message prompt from WorkHound to provide feedback, and it takes about 90 seconds for drivers to give the feedback. The platform was built to give workers “a voice anywhere, anytime,” Farrell said. Drivers access the platform via smartphone or tablet, and feedback is anonymous to prevent drivers from facing retaliation. The platform isn’t set up to integrate with a carrier’s in-cab computer equipment.

The platform collects open-ended feedback because it shows what workers want to discuss, as opposed to surveys, which don’t tell one anything they don’t already know, said Andrew Kirpalani, chief technology officer and co-founder for WorkHound. Surveys confirm or deny information, while “open-ended questions can surprise you.”

Carriers who subscribe to WorkHound can review the anonymous comments and decide whether they want to reach out to a driver to address critical issues. If drivers choose to not remain anonymous, they can work with the carrier to resolve the issue. If the issue is more widespread, the carrier can respond by sending a message to all drivers to let them know the company understands them, Farrell said.

The majority of carriers who subscribe to WorkHound are medium and large carriers with at least 100 drivers. Most drivers are company drivers, and only 11% are owner-operators. Nearly 90% of drivers are compliant with the ELD mandate, and 87% use smartphones daily. Of all the topics drivers discussed on the platform, 17.1% were about people.

“Trucking is still a people business,” Farrell said.

Drivers want to be treated well. While feedback on people was mixed, the biggest positive that stood out was the family atmosphere. Negative comments centered on rudeness and office staff not understanding driver concerns. Coaching drivers and office staff on their unique perspectives might help to reduce the lack of empathy.

Next, 16% of the topics drivers discussed on the platform regarded equipment. Some executives believe drivers don’t want to work, but drivers do want to work, Farrell said. However, they are limited by equipment and industry challenges. Experienced drivers often bring up the transition to automatic transmission trucks and say manual shifting allows them more control of a truck.

Regarding truck governors, drivers see them as a safety risk by prohibiting them from driving up hills. Ultimately, drivers don’t understand why companies govern trucks. With in-cab cameras, drivers feel as if they are being spied on in their homes, Farrell said. Drivers feel their privacy is violated and have a lack of trust for companies. Drivers see equipment changes as forced rather than collaborative, and don’t see the benefits in the changes.

Third, 15.9% of feedback on the platform was on logistics. Drivers understand their hours of service are “always ticking away” but don’t think office staff understands this, Farrell said. When a driver drops off one load, they are ready for the next as quickly as possible.

“Drivers like to run West Coast routes,” he said.

Drivers also show gratitude for when their company goes “above and beyond to help them out.” But sometimes drivers incorrectly blame them in response to incorrect information.

“Inefficiency is a driver’s worst nightmare,” he said. Often, the issues drivers face are costing the carrier money.

Finally, pay was mentioned in 15.3% of driver feedback on the platform.

“The biggest challenge we see on the platform is how they are paid, not just how much they are paid,” Farrell said.

Drivers often calculate their own miles but are a paid in a separate way such as practical miles, and drivers don’t feel they are being paid correctly. When drivers aren’t paid what their recruiter promised, it creates mistrust between the driver and carrier.

“Drivers often have to fight for their correct pay weekly. … It’s the little things that matter in this business,” Farrell said.

While the trucking industry has been focused on autonomous driving technology, drivers aren’t. Few drivers mentioned the technology on the platform. Instead, they are focused on day-to-day challenges of the job. Regarding mergers and acquisitions, drivers feels as if they are left in the dark during changes, Farrell said.

“Mergers do create an additional layer of uncertainty for drivers.”

Much can be learned from drivers, who are on the front lines of the industry, he said. Carriers must check in with their drivers regularly and listen to them. Be proactive as possible with drivers and explain company positions, repeatedly if necessary.

“Show drivers you are listening, working to get better and that their voice matters.”

When asked how much staff a carrier with a 1,000 truck fleet would need to oversee the WorkHound platform, Kirpalani said the carrier would need one to two “quarterbacks” reviewing the feedback daily. The WorkHound team works with the carrier to assess feedback and help respond to widespread driver concerns. A carrier this size also would have between five and 10 director-level positions involved in platform oversight.

When asked about bonuses, he said the feedback on the platform regarded bonuses being taken away. When a bonus is taken away because the driver didn’t attend a safety call, it creates frustration. Drivers expect to receive bonuses if they are promised.

Subscriptions to the WorkHound platform start at $1,250 per month, and the price increases based on the number of company drivers and the number of data points followed. Metrics the company follows for success include how many drivers are retained based on issues being resolved.

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