The logistics side of mobile marketing hinges on two key components: assets and personnel. These two are intrinsically linked in the form of one professional – the truck driver whose primary responsibility is to ensure safe delivery and set up of your assets, while being able to represent your brand and bring it to life at your activations.
I am a Mobile Operations DOT Compliance Coordinator/Safety Officer. And in my world of experiential mobile marketing, the hiring, training, educating and retaining of this specific type of mobile marketing specialist is by far my greatest challenge. Some would say, “Let’s just hire truck drivers” and teach them the marketing concept. Unfortunately, this philosophy does not work for several reasons. Professional truck drivers are just that – truck drivers; once they arrive at their destination, their job is considered done. To ask an over-the-road professional truck driver to drive to an event and then market a product to a target market in that location is considered to be outside of their duties.
This leaves no other option than to train your drivers in-house. To address this, Switch developed an unparalleled in-house driver-training program. This program has been established for 16 years and has produced, to date, a total of 106 Class A CDL drivers and five Class B CDL drivers. Most of our driver candidates are selected, first and foremost, for their ability to communicate and present the marketed product. Approximately 86% of mobile marketing specialists hired by Switch have a four-year or two-year degree in marketing or communications. This is not to say that they are experts in driving an 18-wheel tractor-trailer.
Most new hires are very excited about their duties as a mobile marketing specialist until they learn that they must also drive an 18-wheel tractor-trailer. Most take it in stride, but some are disappointed and would like to forego the drivers training part of their employment. They quickly learn that not participating in training is simply not an option. To perform your job as a mobile marketing specialist, you must first drive your “mobile display” to the event site. If you cannot accomplish this task, you cannot do your job. Book knowledge is great, and we encourage all of our drivers to pursue higher education; however, “HIGHER EDUCATION DOES NOT EQUATE TO BETTER DRIVING SKILLS.” That is why our in-house drivers training program is essential to our mobile marketing operation.
A basic driver-training program is simple in theory, but because of the financial liability involved, a training program must be structured to place SAFETY and PERFORMANCE as the number one and number two priorities. Remember, these drivers are not hauling produce or household goods, but mobile displays, which can cost upwards of $1.5 million each. This consideration alone requires specialized training for the drivers. When looking at our prospective hiring pool, the drivers are young, college graduates who are, for the most part, single, energetic and full of life. This creates additional concerns when they are given the enormous responsibility of driving an 80-thousand-pound tractor-trailer down interstates and highways, through cities and small towns. The liability issue motivates me to constantly improve safety awareness throughout our drivers training program. Accidents resulting in costly damages can profoundly reduce the financial operational capacity of any organization involved in mobile marketing operations.
On an event site, the general public tends to think the mobile displays are driven there by a professional driver who has spent years handling big rigs. I have witnessed in person the surprise on peoples’ faces when a mobile marketing specialist tells them that they are also the driver of the mobile display.
Department of Transportation (DOT) COMPLIANCE
DOT Compliance is not as simple as it used to be. In July of last year, Congress passed a revision to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 49, simply referred to as CSA2010. This revision added significant changes which requires an experiential marketing company, such as ours, to change the way we deploy and schedule our “over-the-road” marketing program. Because of the 34-hour restart provision in the new regulation, tour managers must constantly be cognoscente of the impact of drivers’ hours when scheduling events. This has always been a scheduling consideration in the past, but the new revisions require additional oversight.
Changes to the Hours of Service (HOS) regulation require experiential marketing organizations to explain to clients why this display cannot be in places like Atlanta on Tuesday and California on Thursday if you are only employing one driver. This new rule not only affects organizations like Switch, but also creates a lot of headaches for the transportation industry. It is understandable that when you attempt to explain this to your client, you get that “deer in the headlight” response. Please endure and, if necessary, get your DOT Compliance Coordinator to explain it.
Every new Switch driver is required to provide a hair sample at a federally approved drug screening facility and successfully pass the drug test as a condition of employment. All Switch commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers are required to pass a DOT drug test prior to being put in a safety-sensitive position. CMV drivers are also subject to quarterly DOT random drug tests.
Your drivers are integral to the success of your mobile operation programs. It is imperative that they are aware of their importance to your program from day one. Otherwise, they might feel as if they are just another cog in the wheel. Driver training is much more than teaching a potential employee how to drive a commercial or noncommercial motor vehicle. During training, you must ensure that each potential driver knows how important his or her role is to the success of your organization. Each event is a mission or achievement.
I want to leave you with this. Please train your drivers well and let them know immediately how essential they are to your organization. Never let any of your drivers’ questions go unanswered. Make sure they are aware of DOT compliance rules and regulations. And above all else, let them know this: IF YOU ARRIVED ALIVE, YOU ARE ON TIME!
To learn more about DOT compliance, please contact Thaddeus Gilmore at email@example.com.