No one has successfully pinpointed the origin of trust or how it develops. And yet, businesses don’t succeed for long without it. Trust is the base making it possible to build and sustain strong relationships.
Even the best leaders need time, commitment and the willingness to listen to others as they work to cultivate trust within their organizations while also increasing trust among partners and customers.
The freight and trucking industry, a lynchpin of the modern economy, relies on establishing trust within its workforce and brokers, distributors and other stakeholders to thrive. Every organization has its own unique goals. When trucking companies actively work to create trust with their vendors — and everyone can rely on each other — everyone benefits.
Although it’s intangible, organizations and their leaders can take real, concrete actions to build trust within their own companies and partnerships.
Start by prioritizing flexibility and communication
The word of the year for both 2020 and 2021 should have been “flexibility.” The unprecedented challenges and disruptions resulting from the pandemic demanded an incredible amount of flexibility from everyone involved in the supply chain, including trucking companies. One key to creating and sustaining communication — especially over the past two years — has been the ability to pivot. It’s much easier to adapt when companies prioritize effective communication with everyone.
Consistent communication and feedback help fleets avoid mistakes and misunderstandings, which erode trust among employees and partners. To encourage employee loyalty, retention and performance improvements, trucking companies should:
● Advocate for transparent communication.
● Ask open-ended, solicitous questions.
● Encourage consistent 1:1 conversations between driver managers and drivers, fleet managers and other roles.
● Take advantage of technology that facilitates real-time communication and data visibility.
Fleets benefit from these strategies by seeing stronger, healthier bonds between drivers and company management and more productive, efficient information flows company-wide.
Robust relationships benefit everyone
Good leadership champions fairness and consistency and offers support to teams. Empathy is important, too. Fleet managers and drivers should feel empowered to feel comfortable advocating for themselves, each other and their customers to help build trust.
Building trusted partnerships with vendors and customers isn’t that different from building a friendship. First, start with commonalities, and as the friendship grows, begin to share goals and support each other as the relationship evolves.
Strong, positive relationships generate loyalty and repeat business and reduce the frequency required to vet and contract with the right trucking company. Long-term relationships where all parties are comfortable with each other yield benefits during the negotiation process. For example, carriers may be willing to offer lower rates or discounts for certain cargo loads when a customer promises additional business.
When they have a good client relationship, trucking companies try to avoid delayed pickups or canceled loads. Drivers may also be more willing to help with extra loads or pick-ups from challenging locations, especially if they’ve established relationships with clients with whom they regularly work.
Encourage empathy and support each other’s challenges
Trucking companies and freight shippers share a common goal: reducing costs. But current challenges have impacted the strategies each uses to achieve that goal. In the past, shippers faced fewer struggles to secure low rates. Now, however, the economy has driven a change in supply and demand dynamics. Companies face infrastructure problems, high demand, reduced capacity and labor constraints of their own.
Trucking companies also have their own challenges, including a lack of skilled drivers, bottlenecks at ports, the cost of fleet maintenance and rising diesel prices. Businesses reliant on the freight industry have little choice besides paying higher costs.
While contractual obligations and cost-driven negotiations often drive challenging shipper and carrier dynamics, taking a collaborative, empathetic approach can help ease the negotiation process for everyone.
Experts predict that the market will remain in flux through 2022 and beyond, especially as global events drive economic uncertainty. However, trusted partnerships between fleets and their clients can help mitigate the unease resulting from market fluctuations and instability.
These relationships often develop at industry trade shows attended by shippers and carriers. Many from both industries also serve on a variety of committees. Everyone benefits from attending networking events or conferences where they can brainstorm solutions for solving shared challenges and achieving common goals.
Attending tradeshows and having memberships in organizations fosters connections and helps forge solid working partnerships industry-wide with shippers, carriers and even technology or security vendors.
Building transparency and trust with technology
The pandemic forced trucking and freight companies to adopt digital transformation more quickly than perhaps many had planned. Organizations quickly realized that the updated tech stacks designed to automate front- and back-end processes offered another strategy to cultivate and preserve trust.
First, automation, digitized data access and visibility helps reduce errors, improve connectivity, boost productivity, eliminate redundancies, invigorate work culture, facilitate faster, more efficient communication and increase transparency and trust among all internal and external stakeholders.
Fleet management software platforms and their associated mobile apps give drivers tools to automate their job’s more rote, tedious aspects, empowering them to work more accurately and efficiently. This technology provides drivers with:
● Real-time updates on routes, customer and stop-level information, and workflows.
● Access to the right information at the right time.
● An app for efficiently recording electronic logs to remain compliant with the FMCSA’s HOS mandate.
● A platform for sharing updates on road and weather conditions.
● The ability to capture images of documents from customers, like BOLs.
● Confidence in the accuracy of the information they receive from dispatch.
24/7 access to cloud-based software platforms reduces miscommunication and the potential for driver managers and HR employees to micromanage drivers. Data gives managers more insight into driver movement, location and performance. This information helps inform approaches to driver coaching to help improve compliance and safety performance.
Ensuring drivers trust the companies they work for is important for driver retention. Equally important is the fleet managers’ and dispatchers’ ability to gain more insight and visibility into driver performance. Workflow automation software’s ability to streamline transportation management helps create trust between drivers and their managers.
Finally, more companies, their vendors and their clients are placing a higher value on environmental stewardship and sustainability. The technology reduces the amount of paper used and helps with monitoring idling time and fuel management. The data analytics and productivity-boosting tools provided by software platforms help guide more informed decision-making for dispatchers, managers, drivers, and planners. It allows all users to allocate their time and resources more judiciously, improve processes and focus on challenging situations requiring a human touch.
Robust, cloud-based fleet management, telematics/ELD, driver workflow, routing, dispatching and planning software helps trucking companies meet their KPIs and other metrics like on-time deliveries and customer service levels, which leads to stronger customer satisfaction and trust and a better bottom line. Prioritizing trust means everyone — from the trucking company and its employees to its partners and customers — wins.