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    Lytx Customer Spotlight: Decker Truck Line

    Semi Truck
    Decker's focus on technology integrations has allowed them to develop advanced data insights that have helped improve their fleet operations.

    Decker Truck Line, Inc. is a diversified carrier transporting refrigerated, flatbed, and dry van freight throughout North America. Family-owned and operated since 1931, Decker is known for being a driver-centric organization that leverages technology to run a high-performing fleet. Vice President, Brent Ellis, recently sat down with us to share Decker’s philosophy toward technology adoption and how Decker leverages data to make smart operational decisions, from safety and coaching to retention.

    Lytx: Hi, Brent. Let’s get started by telling us about yourself and Decker.

    Brent Ellis (BE): I'm Brent Ellis. I'm vice president of business systems and processes for Decker Truck Line, based in Fort Dodge, Iowa. We're a 750-truck fleet, with about 65% reefer and 35% flatbed. In my role, I manage roughly 14 software platforms and around 40 integrations across five companies within the organization. So, I’ve got my hands full day to day.

    Lytx: From a systems integration standpoint, what is top of mind for you? If you could wave a magic wand today, what would you make happen?

    BE: I’d want full systems integration between any platform. Data is the number one commodity when it comes to technology. You can do process automation and a lot of things that make the business more efficient, but data is key. You must be able to get data and integrate systems quickly without a lot of headaches.

    The goal is to be able to combine data from different systems—systems A, B, and C all have strong points and purposes, but combining their data can give a 30,000-foot and grain-of-sand view of the business and how it operates. And then you can identify where can you improve, where do you not need to improve, and where your major pain points are. So that full integration would be, without a doubt, the thing I’d wish for.


    There are a number of things that you can do with data, right down to analyzing the profitability of a particular driver or particular tractor in a particular lane. You can look at overall lane data to see that running from point A to point B is not profitable because there’s always detention on the front end or on the delivery end where the driver gets held up for two to three hours. Various factors go into the day-to-day operation.


    Lytx: What are some challenges you face on a day-to-day basis when trying to get to that goal?

    BE: One of the biggest challenges is the integration between systems. When you start looking at ELD data, Lytx data, and other systems that have bits and pieces of information that all pertain to your system of record where your actual tractor and trailer equipment files and load information exist, it all ties together. And being able to get that in one central place, that's the biggest challenge. Just the day-to-day transfer of data between those systems and making them play nicely with each other is a big challenge.

    Lytx: Do you have an anecdote where you managed to pull disparate data together to gain insights?

    BE: We've made several things like that happen. For example, we’ve used Power BI and McLeod IQ to create several dashboards around detention. In the trucking industry detention is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, costs because you've got a driver and equipment in one place for any number of hours. It’s not just that the driver's detained for those hours, it's that he's lost drive time on his hours of service and that affects on-time delivery for the load he's picking up. It's also affecting his next load because he's not going to be empty when you had projected.

    In some cases, having this data has allowed us to go to a shipper and say we can't go to this location anymore because it's an average of 8-10 hours [of detention] when the driver arrives. That’s been really big. And it's good information to have when you're negotiating rates and contracts with a particular customer because you can show them by the location where the pain points are. We have a ton of reports and dashboards but that's one of our newest and it’s probably had a bigger reaction than most of the others.

    Lytx: How does Lytx data fit into the mix?

    BE: Lytx data is fantastic from a safety perspective. We live in the most litigious society in history and people just look for a reason to file a suit. We can go back to the video at that particular time and see the driver's view of what was happening. It provides an easy and effective way to exonerate a driver when there is a complaint.

    In addition, we want to coach our drivers and be the safest fleet on the road. If any drivers have a particular habit or we want to catch a habit before it starts, we've got historical data for that driver through the triggered events. We can create reports with a formula to calculate a feasible driver score, and drivers know what the expectations are within the system. We also combine driver scores with our ELD data and it works out really well for driver coaching. That's one of the biggest ways Lytx data ties into our operations.

    Lytx: How has Lytx technology affected driver retention?

    BE: I will say that some drivers are more reluctant than others to adopt the system. It’s funny to see the transition when they realize that maybe it does actually work and does help them. But I think technology, like event recorders, is becoming prevalent industry-wide; and with the ELD mandate, drivers don't really have an option now. No matter where they go, they're going to encounter the same type of technology. Any driver that encounters the technology and leaves because of it, is probably not a driver you wanted to retain in the first place. There was a reason they didn’t want that video or the electronic log.

    Lytx: Do you find that there's a generational difference in the acceptance of technology?

    BE: Absolutely. I had a call about two weeks ago with 15 drivers that we're calling the Driver Tech Team. They are my testing groups—they’ll be the testing groups for Inca apps or new things we develop or decide to implement. There were a couple guys on the call who have been around for a while. They’re not part of the younger generation and I was a little shocked at the amount of technology they already have and are subject to, as well as the things that they’ve voluntarily bought or subscribed to from a technology perspective. It was a small sampling, but by and large, their acceptance relates to their age category.

    Lytx: Is it a bigger challenge to hire or retain new drivers?

    BE: It's more of a challenge to recruit. We could hire a hundred drivers a day if we wanted to but finding the quality of driver that we're looking for and the one we want to retain long-term is definitely a challenge.

    I've been in transportation for 28 years and Decker is by far the most driver-centered and driver-focused company that I've worked for, so retention typically isn't a huge issue for us. In my previous life, I worked for a software company where I spent time with 60 of the top 100 carriers in the nation. Even out of those carriers, Decker is by far the most driver-centric.

    The good drivers realize when a company is going out of its way for them and want to keep that driver and make them happy. So, we occasionally have some turnover, but then a few months later they're back. But yes, it’s a challenge hiring quality drivers. They're out there, but every carrier is competing for the same small group of drivers. And that makes recruiting a challenge for sure.

    Learn how other Lytx customers have utilized technology to advance their business while keeping the roads and their drivers safe for all.