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As demand for consumer goods grows, especially in the burgeoning e-commerce sector, a key element of getting product to market continues to bedevil merchandisers: the truck driver.
It’s no secret that various parts of the trucking industry have struggled to find enough qualified drivers to get retail orders to stores, distribution centers and homes. Recruitment efforts have been frustrated by low pay, tough working conditions and regulations that restrict hours on the road. A new staffing model — one that locates available drivers in real time — is called for.
Ironically, the driver shortage has been accompanied by pools of willing drivers for whom no work is available, because they lack real-time connections to those who would employ them. Driver illnesses, seasonal peaks and unexpected surges in demand create opportunities that go unfulfilled. As a result, carriers end up incurring fines for late or missed shipments, and stand to lose long-term business from disgruntled shippers.
Staffing agencies are one solution to the problem, with their ability to vet drivers, administer drug testing and handle other administrative tasks. Still, they constitute an intermediary between driver and carrier, one that can’t always move quickly enough when a sudden need for drivers arises. Manual staffing operations become plagued by errors, delays and other inefficiencies, often requiring hours or even days to secure the required labor. Finally, carriers have no visibility into the performance of the drivers they hire, other than scattershot reports from dissatisfied customers.
If current trends continue, by 2026 the U.S. will be facing a shortfall of more than 174,000 drivers. F|Staff, provider of a platform that secures drivers on demand, is determined to head that crisis off. Its goal is to cut down on the number of drivers leaving the industry in frustration, while encouraging an influx of new and younger participants who are “interested in the benefits of an independent driver lifestyle.” F|Staff’s vision of the future, according to chief executive officer Justin Clarke, “is that there’s never an empty seat when a truck needs to move.”
The Ride-Sharing Model
F|Staff is looking to bring to the commercial trucking sector some of the efficiencies introduced by passenger ride-sharing operations such as Uber and Lyft. Both have sharply reduced customer wait times for rides, enabled visual identification of drivers and passengers to promote safety, and allowed customers to provide instant ratings and feedback.
F|Staff’s platform offers a direct connection between carriers and drivers, so that empty seats are quickly filled, and loads move on schedule. It provides driver profiles and real-time tracking, as well as the ability to rate both drivers and the carriers that engage them.
Carriers are able to increase capacity on demand, without having to expand permanent staff. As for drivers, they can maximize income by filling available hours, while maintaining a schedule that fits their lives, F|Staff claims.
The process, carried out via smartphone, is similar to that of the passenger ride-sharing services. A carrier seeking a driver posts its need on the F|Staff platform, detailing the particulars of the move. The first driver to respond gets the job. The carrier is then able to monitor the progress of the trip in real time through geotracking, notifications and text alerts.
Afterward, the driver and carrier provide feedback on one another’s performance, generating information that can be used by both sides when tendering and accepting future loads.
Each driver registered through F|Staff undergoes an extensive application process, including commercial license and Department of Transportation file verification, drug screening and background check. Carriers always have access to driver profiles and can reject any individual at will. They can also conduct road tests prior to hiring for a job.
A Three-Step Process
For drivers, the signup process consists of three steps. They fill out a web form with name and contact information. Then they undergo a validation process which includes verification of commercial driver license (CDL), medical certificates and drug screening. Once certified, they download the F|Staff app, configure their profile and begin accepting jobs.
Carriers, too, must register with F|Staff online. They create a portal that describes their company and the type of work they’re offering. After that, they can post jobs to the app in real time, including such information as type of load, timeframe and the geographical area within which they are soliciting a driver.
Geofencing technology allows carriers to select drivers within the immediate area, for faster processing and pickup. The same technology enables end-to-end monitoring of every journey, beginning 30 minutes prior to start time and continuing through final delivery.
The platform doesn’t ameliorate the actual job of driving, which can be subject to chronically low pay and difficulties in achieving work-life balance. Still, F|Staff claims, the technology allows drivers to adjust their hours, decide the distances they’ll travel, and take jobs that better meet pay expectations. And they can build long-term relationships with favored carriers. “With the marketplace technology model,” F|Staff says, “drivers achieve maximum control over their lives, careers and options.”
Based in Goodyear, Arizona, F|Staff has expanded the reach of its app since launching in February of 2019 to Texas and California. Additional states will follow, the company says. Among its current users is States Logistics, a third-party provider of warehousing, transportation and packaging logistics, with operations in Phoenix and Southern California.
F|Staff also has plans to introduce additional features, including frictionless pay, driver certification tracking, and possibly enabling non-driving laborers such as mechanics and welders to accept contract work posted directly by carriers, “so they can keep their fleets moving.”
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