Better customer service through the implementation of onboard technology

How Southeastern Freight Lines uses onboard technology to increase efficiencies.


Twenty-two years ago, Southeastern Freight Lines—the leading provider of regional less-than-truckload (LTL) transportation services—led innovation in the trucking industry by implementing onboard technology to increase efficiencies and offer customers new, groundbreaking services. Today, market demands are not only asking for, but requiring, many of those services, such as prompt inventory, short-order scheduling, swift customer response, internet tracking and mobile computing.

Moving freight is simply not enough.

To be successful in a society driven by data and accustomed to constant updates, trucking companies must provide information that customers need when they need it, plus keep vehicle downtime to a minimum to ensure that pickup and delivery schedules are met. This requires technology that enables excellent customer service and streamlines operations for improved business efficiency.

For Southeastern and its people-first, quality-without-question company culture, this technology must be able to allow employees to improve customer service throughout every department of the company.

After all, while you might think a trucking company’s customer service focuses only on its external customers, there are many other “customers” within the company that must be served. To Southeastern’s fleet services department, customer service means treating its own drivers and operators as customers.

“When you’re within a company, it’s easy to forget that the drivers of the vehicles you’re servicing are in fact your customers,” says David Foster, vice president of fleet services at Southeastern. “Southeastern was built around its people and meeting or exceeding the needs of every customer—every single time. Our onboard systems help us ensure that we are indeed taking care of our drivers as customers.”

 

SOUTHEASTERN’S ONBOARD TECHNOLOGY HISTORY

Southeastern first implemented an onboard technology device in 1991 as a way to reduce the administrative paperwork on the drivers, more accurately record pickup and delivery activity, automate state highway tax reporting and provide an automated system to update the status of each shipment for its customers.

Since then, computerized management systems and onboard technology have given Southeastern the tools to push its customer service and fleet management to the next level. In 2010, Southeastern became the first large LTL fleet to estimate the time of delivery for a shipment within a one-hour window, as well as track and report why shipments were not picked up.

Today, Southeastern’s computerized management systems and onboard technology enable efficient customer service in the fleet services department by electronically monitoring and tracking fleet maintenance.

 

CUSTOMER SERVICE AND VEHICLE MAINTENANCE

Excellent customer service begins as soon as a maintenance issue is identified in the driver’s Daily Vehicle Inspector Report (DVIR)—a pre-trip and post-trip overview of their vehicle. The driver of the vehicle will input a service order directly into their onboard system identifying any defects or service needs.

With onboard systems in all of Southeastern’s power units—2,850 tractors and 22 straight trucks, fleet services’ associates receive service requests instantaneously from drivers.

From the information provided, technicians create, based off the DVIR, a repair order describing the identified defects, the repairs needed and the report number the driver submitted along with data outlined by the Vehicle Maintenance Reporting Standards (VMRS). Maintained by the Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) of the American Trucking Associations, VMRS sets the standard for communicating when, why and how maintenance is performed on equipment.

Southeastern keeps 90 days’ worth of DVIRs electronically and is able to use past report numbers, if needed, to review details of previous repairs made on vehicles.

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