In a previous life I worked in the transport business. It was an offline time in which the word Facebook could have only meant a truck full of yearbooks and Twitter a new brand of sport shoes or cereal.
Here are some thoughts from a now “outsider” on how the industry could benefit from social media today.
Truckers love their trucks
Makers should allow them to share pics in a branded environment. See my friend Paul in action below. He’s sharing the pictures with his network of friends, but no doubt he would do it on a maker’s site if it was easy enough (e.g. iPhone/ Android App).
A good example of trucks and a strong community in social media is “Scania”. Type that word on Facebook search and find out how many official and unofficial pages were created. A lot of passion around it.
Showing your pride
If brands encouraged people all over the world to share their preferences/ model’s they drive and their location via
FourSquare or similar, the brand could easily display an interactive map of the different models being driven all over the world.
All truck drivers & transport managers are required to pass a CPC examination which is really a bit of a torture. Back in the day, I spent 2 full weeks in a hotel learning a 400 page manual by heart. See, in order to prepare for these exams one needs to attend classes for a good few days prior to the exam (for drivers) and some months for managers. While I memorised a lot for the exams, I cannot say I remember half of all those specs. Trust me, an interactive & dynamic alternative would really suit.
There is an opportunity for Transport Ministers to innovate through the delivery of some of the course material directly through a subscription based website hooked with a mobile application.
Transport companies would gladly pay if fees were appropriate & drivers & managers could easily prepare at least part of the courses on the go and in their own time. If the studying platform allowed for student’s to share insights/ anecdotes, it would really become a source of learning & not mere memorizing.
For instance, customs officers differ in the way they deal with people and one driver’s experience could help another one in a similar situation.
Tracking loads/ parcels
I’m not to sure up to which extent, but if a driver updated it’s location (even privately) every now and then, a client could send a direct message to the company on Twitter, to know the whereabouts of a load (not necessarily exact for security purposes).
Very interesting suggestions by @derryo made after publishing (see Derry’s full comment in the comment boxes below for further insight): “Tweets or Facebook updates saying for instance ‘I’m at the AB bread store/XY guitar shop dropping off a batch of freshly baked bread/limited edition guitars if you’re in the area get down there fast” or uploading a photo of the premises for instance. If I was the bread or guitar shop I’d be happy to see that, and indeed the loading of said items beginning their journey could also be put in the public domain. I’d like any supplier to give me some extra publicity.
For a large haulage company/courier company head office could send a DM via Twitter saying ‘@RubberDuck is your driver today, follow his updates to track progress of your delivery’. RubberDuck (Yes, I was a big fan of Smokey and the Bandit) need only update his location and not reveal anything of his load, thereby not compromising the secrecy of his consignment.”
Specially for Pan-European haulage, there’s a lot to a driver’s journey. Think about a journey through land and sea and you can picture adventures relating to paperwork, weather conditions, tough customs officers, and naturally waiting time. Many drivers are well known for their stories and they could easily blog on the company’s blog with their own view of a certain route. This would appeal to the transport community and fellow drivers looking for info, prospective employees looking to make a move, and why not those youngsters thinking about a career in the trade.
Insights from someone on the Road:
Drivers are in general talkative people who take every opportunity to build relationships, since the core of the job can sometimes be a little bit lonely. Twitter might be too real time for most of the drivers. Although running a quick search I found surprising examples of individuals like @TerenceSmelser who live and breath Twitter.
I think Facebook, together with “Facebook Places” and “FourSquare” can make the difference in the life of a driver.
Have a look at Paul’s encounter with some interesting “locals” below…
Here comes a quick interview with my former colleague Paul who is now a cool driver in Australia…
- Would you mind updating your location often so other drivers or colleagues know where you are & would you make it public or restrict it to certain people?
I would be ok with updating my location when I am staying in a place for a few days (eg waiting for a reload) so that other drivers or my friends know that I’m nearby and I wouldn’t say no to some company, and certainly wouldn’t say no to a few beers!
- Do you feel safer now that people are more aware of your whereabouts & do you see any threat for burglars?
Security is not a real issue for me, Australia is quite a safe country and there is very little risk of me being burgaled in the truck or the load being stolen. Howeven I think a bit of common sense would be useful, I would never update my location if I had a high-value load on my truck. I never add friends on Facebook that I have not met, so I personally know everyone on any social networking site which should mean they are no threat!
- Are other truckers using Facebook or Twitter as much as you? If not, do you see it coming?
Not many drivers use Facebook, as the average age of truck drivers is quite high, mostly people my own age use Facebook so I know a few younger drivers that use it. I guess it will grow as more and more people become familiar with computers and they become cheaper and easier to use with mobile internet more readily available.
- Be honest on this one: In your free time, would you learn new stuff remotely (like preparing for an exam) if you had a cool App with the exam content/ courses on your phone?
At the moment I’m not interested in remote learning as I really am too busy and any spare time is spent either sleeping, or eating/showering and chatting to other truck drivers. If i decide to further my training for sure it would be easy to have it available remotely.
- How can a trucking company (drivers and/or management) use social media for their benefit?
To be honest, i dont think interaction between management and employees on a social networking site is a very good idea, it is not really professional to have your bosses know (or be able to find out) details of your private life. Many people have been caught out having a bit of a moan about aspects of their job on Facebook, and although I am of the strong opinion that you should not comment on work issues on Facebook, I think it is too easy a tool for employers to treat employees unfairly.
- Important: Being on the road constantly is not easy for meeting new ladies. How much has Facebook helped you in your latest lucky encounters?
It has been great! I am in a different city almost every day, and if I meet someone cool on my travels that I want to stay in touch with, instead of exchanging numbers like the “old days” , nowadays its easier to add on Facebook and keep in touch that way, instead of constantly texting/calling just to stay in touch. It’s amazing how many paths have crossed for me in Australia simply from status updates and location updates, even though I may not have seen them since first meeting them a few months previously!
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