Fleet management is not Driver Relationship Management.
Driver Training is not Driver Relationship Management.
Why are you stating the obvious? asks some.
For those some, it is obvious but not for a majority of transport world inhabitants.
It is a case of misunderstanding. Managing the fleet, they surmise, means handling drivers too. It is not.
Heard of the Annual Maintenance Contract (AMC)? Yes, you do. Having spent lakhs of rupees buying a truck, fleet owners do not mind signing up for the AMC for a fraction of the truck’s cost. The most sensible thing to do.
Such an AMC offer makes huge business sense for truck makers also. Such an arrangement sustains the buyer-seller relationship. The mutual interests and benefits are better understood, enabling manufacturers to finetune their wares based on the sustained ground experience.
Their understanding of market needs was not current in the sense that their surveys to gauge them were in the past — a few years, if not months.
In an AMC environment, they have hands-on experience 360 degrees. New learnings daily, assuming they ‘read’ the data collected with the sincerity of the academic research scholar, not that of a degree-seeking student! Thus fleet management is focused on getting the best out of the trucks. Laudable.
Hang on momentarily and turn the spotlight on the driver who steers the AMC-ed trucks. Do these weakest supply chain or logistics executives get adequate attention from the motor maliks and truck makers? Nope.
Heavy commercial vehicle manufacturers are focused on “selling” and servicing the vehicle, not the driver. They believe the driver issue is in the realm of motormaliks. Not theirs. Wrong approach.
Motormaliks are businesspersons, no doubt. But they are puny in front of giant HCV makers. Not organized on the scale of truck makers with professionals and skilled personnel filling their ranks.
With cheap vehicle financing on tap and the hunger of HCV-ers to increase their market share and ride on the $5 trillion dream as early as possible, they successfully enticed many first-timers into the free entry and exit transport web.
With an almost zilch understanding of the dynamics of transport economics, novices entered, possibly impressed by the “mera padosi transporter hai. Khoob kamata hai. If so, why not me?” syndrome. It takes some time before reality hits him and curses his decision. He may exit or remain suffering in silence.
Why fleet owners’ fate is dicey? The freight rates he procures from the end user. Once upon a time, fleet owners ‘looted’ shippers with hefty margins. Now, karma is in full play. Shippers took time to grasp how they were taken for a ride by fleet owners/zero or light asset transporters.
Once that wisdom dawned, they hit back with a vengeance — reverse auctioning: the lowest quotation route. Fleet owners’ margins dropped like nine pins, and they entered the single-digit profit zone. Take it or leave it scenario.
If their earnings are squeezed, what is their comfort zone to compensate drivers who ensure these motormaliks lead lavish lifestyles: stately homes, regular foreign outings with family, a convoy of the best high-end automobiles in their garages, the best education for their wards in elite business schools at home or abroad?
Simply put, HCV makers focus on selling and servicing their babies with constant minor tweaking of parts and functionalities for their business sustainability. Motormaliks and zero or light asset model practitioners, brokers, and dalals are focused on their lifestyles.
HCV makers’ inventories would balloon if there were none to sit behind the steering of vehicles they sell. Motormaliks’ parking yards would be jam-packed due to a shortage of drivers. Load hai. Phir bhi, gaddi kadi hai. (Plenty of load, but trucks stationery!)
Ironically, both these huge stakeholders are aware of the dilemma. The driver is critical for their survival and sustenance. Yet.
Not for nothing, Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways Nitin Jairam Gadkari remarked on the need for driver relationship management. He said, rather wrote, in his Foreword to the recently-published Desh Chaalak, thus:
“While many initiatives to enhance road safety and augment drive training infrastructure have been undertaken by the private sector and the government alike, much more remains to be done. There is a need to take a larger view on how to organize and dignify this community, and as an important step in that process is to acknowledge their challenges and celebrate their contribution.”
Dignify this community! Acknowledge their challenges! Celebrate their contribution!
Well, these three elements can become a reality when Driver Relationship Management is understood and then acted upon.
How to go about it?
We will explore this in the next dispatch.
(To be continued)