It’s likely that most of us have seen a truckload of new vehicles being delivered to a dealership. The drivers of those stacks of shiny new autos might be employed by US AutoLogistics (USAL). Based in Houston, Texas, USAL’s road-based associates are part of a team of licensed, cross-country colleagues whose operating philosophy is to deliver brand new, damage-free vehicles in a cost-effective, safe, punctual, and compliant manner.
USAL, the premier auto transportation company, has been in business for nearly 40 years and employs more than 600 associates, including drivers and support staff, who carefully and efficiently deliver automobiles to dealers across the United States.
“We hire the best talent and pair them with state-of-the-art equipment and technology to help us deliver vehicles safely and damage-free,” says USAL Communications & Brand Manager Troy Griggsby. “We strive to maintain one of the best safety records in the industry and continually monitor and upgrade tractor-trailer designs to ensure the highest standards of quality that meet the needs of our customers and ensure the safety of our team as well as the motoring public.”
In order to continue exceeding customer expectations and deliver on the company’s brand promise, Griggsby knew that improvement to existing internal communications channels was critical. He gathered a small team of colleagues to search for solutions for connecting their mobile workforce. That’s when they found Staffbase.
“Eighty percent of our workforce is strictly mobile. So we had to find ways to be present and engaged with our driving associates despite the miles separating us. Developing a mobile communication solution was a no-brainer, and many of our associates asked for it, and we found Staffbase to be a simple, elegant solution to add to our communication toolkit.”
USAL’s employee app, called Flipper, was launched in late 2017, and employees quickly logged in on their phones and company-issued tablets. The current adoption rate is 83 percent. The app is used exclusively by USAL associates for now, but the company hopes to extend it to key partners in the future.
Griggsby says, “Like Twitter or Snapchat, we wanted the app’s name to be memorable, but also have real meaning within our work environment. In the auto transport world, the flipper is a short, hinged ramp on the back of a trailer which is integral in the vehicle loading process. I like to think our driving associates embraced the analogy and feel that Flipper is just as critical to our communication efforts!”
Flipper currently delivers scorecard metrics that share with employees how individual and company performance is impacting the business, particularly its operations across its various driver groups. With safety being critical to the company’s success, the app is host to a number of time-sensitive safety topics including DOT inspections, hours of service reminders, road hazards, weather alerts, and more. Griggsby is adamant that the adoption of innovative technology will continue to evolve to drive their high-quality service.
“Our service philosophy—S.O.L.D. (Safely, On-Time, Legally Compliant, and Damage-Free)—comes down to each associate’s attention and his or her ability to manage the driving environment. That said, we are fully committed to supporting their efforts with innovative mobile apps and tools to make their jobs simpler and safer.”
Flipper is also used to share and promote the company’s wellness program, which promises to give back to communities in which the company operates across the country. Associates can use the app to share their civic engagement stories and inspire colleagues to join them in becoming charitable partners for organizations like the American Diabetes Association, Houston Food Bank, and Toys for Tots.
As employees are onboarded at USAL, Griggsby makes sure that they know about Flipper and start using the app on their first day on the job. “With new associates based at locations throughout the country, there are any number of “yard rules” in place at railheads, factories, processing centers, and any location where vehicles are picked up. So, we use the app to share those details, including other kinds of tools and documents geared for new hires,” says Griggsby.
Recently, Griggsby used Flipper to conduct an employee survey. The response was overwhelming. He typically sees a return of 30–35 percent, but he received 350 responses of a possible 600. Next, he hopes to use Flipper for forms and tractor-trailer inspections at remote locations.
“Our app has really helped us to manage change and reinforce accountability at USAL,” says Griggsby. “Flipper has enhanced our communication efforts and it better connects our brand strategy to our mobile workforce. Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
Interview with Troy Griggsby, USAL Communications & Brand Manager
Q: Why is internal communication so important for your employees at USAL?
A: USAL puts an enormous amount of effort into maintaining an ethical, values-based culture and work environment. Our associates are held to a high standard of personal accountability for doing the RIGHT thing. Being transparent as best we can and sharing information about the business is simply the RIGHT thing to do. We don’t need empirical research to validate that point. Our associates are happier and healthier when they are informed.
Q: Why is it important for the industry as a whole?
A: With 500+ associates traveling on the road in just as many directions, being connected is vital. The physical distance and mileage that separates us adds a kind of barrier that non-transportation companies may not experience. Plus, the “long haul trucking” business, historically, has employed candidates who perhaps deliberately gravitate to the industry—self-sufficient, independent spirits who spend a lot of time away from home and like to do things “their way.” When you’re trying to build and grow a business where success is defined by everyone being on the same page and performing to a set of goals, internal communication is paramount.
Q: How does Flipper support your S.O.L.D. philosophy?
A: We have a news channel on Flipper that is devoted to “Safety, Quality, and Training.” On it, we post regular videos, articles, updates, how-to’s, trainings, and all sorts of reminders that support our safe culture.
Q: How did you stay connected with employees prior to Flipper? What does the app do differently?
A: Prior to Flipper, we relied on email, face-to-face talking points, digital display boards in several terminals, handouts, and associate meetings. Flipper leverages the pervasiveness of personal mobile devices and puts company news and information in the hands of our associates when it happens, regardless if they’re at work or home.
Q: What are your future plans for using Flipper?
A: We hope to use the app for more driver-focused tools, documentation, and content that continues to support their daily routines.
Q: How will you continue to get your employees to adopt your new internal communications platform?
A: We have to continue to feed Flipper with fresh news and content. Pictures and video are great ways to connect and tell a story, and we feel our associates are more likely to consume a piece of content when they know or recognize a colleague. Words are great but visuals are better. At nearly every opportunity with our driving workforce, we mention Flipper and ask them to stay connected and attentive to the app.
Q: Is an employee app an innovative approach to communications for USAL? Why do you think it is necessary?
A: Yes, an employee app is an innovative approach to communications but it’s also a natural step for us. We often speak of and strategize to a “single pane of glass”—a philosophy of leveraging available technologies and enabling them on a driver’s company-issued tablet. Flipper simply dovetails with this strategy.