Moving Billboards and Positive Drivers Can Drive Business

Sept. 1, 2009
When I saw my first rental delivery truck, I was brand new to the rental industry after just being hired by RER. I hadn't even started my new job yet

When I saw my first rental delivery truck, I was brand new to the rental industry after just being hired by RER. I hadn't even started my new job yet but I remember driving down a freeway near Los Angeles and I saw a delivery truck with a backhoe on it. I took a look and saw that the truck belonged to a rental company in the area.

Since I was new to the industry, I was excited to see it, but my enthusiasm was short-lived. The left tail-light of the truck was broken and the truck seemed dirtier than I would have expected. I understood it could have just come off a dusty jobsite, but the truck had a few dents in it, some rust, peeling paint and looked to be caked with dirt. The driver had a cigarette dangling from his lips and shortly after I spotted him he made a left turn without turning on his signal. If you've ever been anywhere near L.A. on a busy afternoon, you have an idea of how crowded those freeways are and how important safe driving practices are.

I recall wondering to myself about the industry's standards. I soon discovered that many successful rental companies did train their drivers in safe-driving techniques, although that type of training was less prevalent back then than it is now.

It may be mere coincidence that that company ceased to exist a few years later. I don't know if that particular driver remained in the industry. From what I've seen since, there has been a growing awareness of the importance of driver safety and the importance of keeping delivery trucks well maintained. Also grown is the realization that the driver is very often the primary point of contact between a rental company and many of its customers.

Also contributing to the efficiency of delivery are modern dispatching systems that can facilitate delivery efficiency. By reducing the amount of “deadheading” back to a branch without a load, with the assistance of computerized mapping and routing systems, delivery software can help reduce fuel costs and increase the percentage of on-time deliveries. GPS help dispatchers track the whereabouts of delivery units and help drivers find destinations. Electronic texting and voice systems can facilitate communication between driver and dispatcher.

But however much more efficient dispatching can make delivery, those aids will be compromised by drivers who don't deliver with the right attitude. Are your delivery people training to give basic instructions to contractors? Do they consistently follow safe driving and safe tie-down practices and are they prepared to offer safety tips to the people they deliver the equipment to? Are they polite and communicative with customers?

A delivery person can be like a salesperson who is the face of the company. His or her main job is delivery, but the willingness to be helpful to the customer can go a long way in solidifying a relationship.

As David Arlinghaus, director of operations at Art's Rental Equipment & Supply says in Brandey Smith's cover story in this issue, the appearance of the delivery truck is a signal to the customer of the company's dedication to the delivery service, and delivery trucks are moving billboards for their company. I would be much more attracted to doing business with a company if I saw a nice clean truck with functioning taillights, courteous drivers and a nice paint job.

I would also suggest using a catchy or memorable phrase or an eye-catching logo. Try an unusual logo that would be remembered and talked about. Be creative, have fun with it, paint them unusual or different colors. Dare to be different. Have a company contest and give out prizes to the person who comes up with the best design.

When you train your drivers, include some training in customer service. Train them in some basic customer-service techniques and how to interact with customers with a positive attitude. You can't always find the most sparkling and helpful personalities and you can't always make people be something they aren't, but you can train in basic politeness and you can help them understand that their attitudes and relationships with the customers are as important as the interactions of sales staff. And there are ways to reward and incentivize drivers for positive communications with the customer. I know you aren't looking for new major expenses in the current business environment, but there are ways of rewarding drivers without breaking the bank. It may be the most important investment in your company's improvement that you can make.