Running a fleet these days is even more of a juggling act than in the past. Fleet managers have to balance between scarce new driver hires and an aging driver roster, maximizing the use of vehicles while keeping them in service longer.
National Private Truck Council (NPTC) conducts an annual survey to maintain data on and track privately-owned truck fleets focusing on driver issues, fuel costs, and equipment issues. According to the survey, these three problems are the biggest confronting fleet operators. The survey found almost three-quarters of companies that operate private fleets say they utilize slip seating to provide better service to customers.
Tom Moore, executive director of NPTC, commented about the survey, particularly about the organization and member use of slip seating.
“Many private fleet operations conduct business in a 24/7 environment, where customer service reigns supreme. The overall aspect is to make sure those goods or services get to market in a timely, efficient, and proper fashion. That’s the chief reason why many fleets are moving towards slip seating,” said Moore.
He added it is possible to find good, well-run companies on both sides of the philosophical debate: to slip seat or not.
“The primary reason many companies, especially private fleets, are taking advantage of slip seating is that it allows greater utilization of the equipment. Regardless of your environment, your trucks don’t make money when they’re sitting.”
The Meaning of 'Truck Driver'
“Within our marketplace,” Moore said, “the term ‘truck driver’ is almost a misnomer.”
The survey showed the average driver works about 55 hours a week, but 15 of those hours are spent doing tasks other than driving.
In many cases, the driver is the only representative of the company the customer sees. “I think you’ll find the customer service aspect is the most important thing within the culture of most private fleets,” Moore said.
He added that while equipment is an important part of a business operation, it doesn’t add as much to retention as the way drivers are treated and the role they play within their companies.
Moore noted one of the challenges of slip seating is that drivers must treat the equipment with respect, because they’re basically treating the next driver of the equipment with the same respect — not leaving the truck dirty, creating an environment in which the next driver feels at home.
The survey also found the question “Do you use slip seating?” does not always get a hard and fast answer.
“If someone in our survey said, ‘Yes, we slip seat,’ ” according to Moore, “it may be only for a portion of their fleet, where it makes sense to keep those units in continuous service rotation.Even in a company that does slip seat, there may be an advantage for certain equipment to be assigned to a specific load or operator.
It allows a fleet to be more customer-service sensitive in the sense that instead of having routes and equipment that are necessarily assigned, the first available unit goes out on the most urgent, most pressing customer service need. It allows you to optimize your customer service stance.”
Moore concluded the logic within the private fleet community is that slip seating is the most effective, most efficient way to provide service for their customers.