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At March’s UK Bus Summit I met with the CTO from one of the UK’s largest operators, who shared with me that one of his objectives for the year was to roll out a driver app. Over the past month, I’ve met 12 transit companies in Australia each on a journey to define and select their own driver app. Indeed, operators around the world are now releasing tenders for driver apps, as the board room understands the business case for enabling the frontline.

But what do all of these people mean when they say a ‘driver app’? In each of the examples above, it was clear to me that there were different preconceptions about what a driver app really is - depending on who you were speaking to within the business.

What is a driver app?

Historically, a scheduling app has been core to the driver kit bag; knowing what shift you’re on and when is seemingly the lowest common denominator in this scenario, and some operators may argue that a driver needs nothing more from an app.

However, telematics has gained much ground recently in being perceived as an essential component of driver experience; operators want to know how harshly drivers are braking, what experience their passengers are having and, ultimately, how safe they are.

So too, bespoke reporting apps for near misses, defects and incidents are in vogue; as operators consider the depot of the future, they look for support from vendors in digitising existing paper-based processes. This also gives them a means to spot training opportunities and resolve issues faster.

Not all driver apps are strictly for operational purposes though. Benefits and rewards on the frontline is a market in itself and operators want to give drivers access to discounts, recognition and personal financial products. A driver app must surely have benefits for the drivers as well as the operators.

Indeed, many driver apps focus simply on removing the friction for users from HR processes – allowing drivers to access e-payslips, submit holiday requests and change personal details. This type of access and capability is natural in our personal lives and operators want to remain an employer of choice by at least matching our consumer expectations of using technology.

Finally, it is often expected that having an app in the hands of every driver must also allow for internal communications capability – top down, bottom up and peer to peer. Many drivers don’t have company email addresses and operators are looking at ways of reaching and engaging them; employee surveys often see scores relating to communication and engagement falling short of the mark, giving communication channels renewed focus and priority.

Depending on who you’re speaking to within an organisation, their definition of a driver app will waver between different parts of the above. A driver’s definition is always unambiguous though: “we just want everything in one place”.

Blink, as a driver app, features all the functionality needed for your frontline employees.

So next time you’re discussing a driver app in the boardroom, ask not what a driver app is for you, ask what a driver app is for your drivers.

Crucially a driver app should not be an all in one solution for each of the above use cases – but rather an all through one solution. It must act as the conduit to all platforms, both present and future, that the business has invested in and drivers need access to; think Swiss army knife, not sledgehammer. For this reason, its definition will continue to expand as technology develops and the industry evolves.

Above all, a driver app must be for the drivers. It must make their lives perceptibly easier to encourage adoption that in turn precipitates interaction with the parts of the app that the business is interested in – telematics, incident reporting and communication for example.

There are many facets to a driver app – but three things to consider when rolling yours out are:

  1. Think drivers first. The solution you select should mean you can look a driver in the eye and tell them how the app can make their lives easier in no more than two sentences.
  2. Broaden your definition of a driver app by engaging with peers across the business to solve business challenges you weren’t previously considering.
  3. Learn from what others in the industry are doing – like Stagecoach, Metroline and Go-Ahead. The industry is in transition, but you needn’t transition alone.
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