How safety impacts customer satisfaction

April 1, 2024
Economic issues are key, but nothing impacts tank truck operations more than safe service levels and on-time performance

Safe deliveries make for satisfied customers, and successful trucking operations. In fact, service expectations are critical variables that greatly influence key factors like contracts, loyalty, referrals, and retention. Therefore, it’s puzzling that the economy, labor shortages, and operational costs often dominate the industry’s concerns.

Yes, these issues are important, too, but nothing outweighs safety—or its outsized impact on satisfaction. Remember, celebrated businessman Warren Buffett once famously stated, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” In other words, continually arriving late for pickups or deliveries can have a devastatingly negative impact on a bulk transportation company’s bottom line and reputation, compared to external and internal economic factors.

For this reason, it’s vital to use on-time performance (OTP) as a customer service metric because it measures how well tank truckers align practices with the terms in their service agreements. OTP is a highly compelling metric in determining overall customer satisfaction, loyalty, and lifetime value. To improve OTP ratings, carriers should monitor weather reports, delays in traffic, construction, and route changes to avoid preventable delays. As an illustration of the importance of OTP, the National Private Truck Council lists OTP as a major metric in its 2023 benchmarking survey report.

2023 NPTC benchmarking survey report:

  • OTP (within 10 minutes or less): 8%
  • OTP (within 15 minutes or less): 7%
  • OTP (within 30 minutes or less): 31%
  • OTP (within 60 minutes or less): 18%
  • OTP (within four hours, the shift, or the day): 35%

Not all late deliveries are caused by traffic delays or weather conditions. Some are caused by preventable mechanical breakdowns and compliance issues. For example, in the NTPC report, tire issues are the No. 1 mechanical cause for breakdowns (73%), emissions are second (43%), electrical problems are third (34%), and engine and light failures tied for fourth (24%). The report contains data from 110 trucking companies, with a representation of 71,700 power units and 77,000 trailers, and highlights the fact that 14% of respondents didn’t complete their PM Currency Rate (based on 100% compliance), according to planned scheduling.

Here are eight essential points that help mitigate safety risks:

  1. Don’t create practices based solely on theoretical approaches to safety. Instead, consider real-life practical applications. Employees will better retain and utilize the information.
  2. It’s also important to enforce the elevated safety policies and procedures that mitigate risk. Don’t implement a policy that won’t be enforced. Make sure PM schedules are followed.
  3. Instruct and educate employees on safety techniques. Hold weekly or monthly safety meetings that focus on current deficiencies. Move away from quarterly or annual safety gatherings. The gaps between fail to capitalize on real-time opportunities.
  4. Conduct regular fleet maintenance that exceeds the U.S. Department of Transportation minimum standards. For example, instead of annual inspections complete semiannual or quarterly inspections.
  5. Implement fleet monitoring systems that are regularly reviewed for compliance. Assign a position with a job description that includes reviewing fleet safety conformance.
  6. Engage with other industry experts for the advancement of transportation. Attend conferences where knowledge is shared and exchanged. 
  7. Develop a culture where employees understand they are key partners in the customer’s success. Explain how not arriving on time or providing high levels of service places customers at a competitive disadvantage.
  8. Optimize safety plans to mitigate delays. Make sure to include longer pre- and post-trips beyond the required 15-minute standard.

Dr. Dameous Little is the North America transportation manager for chemical manufacturer Arxada.

About the Author

Dameous Little | North America transportation manager

Dr. Dameous Little is the North America transportation manager for chemical manufacturer Arxada. He earned his doctoral degree in business management from the Pace University Lubin School of Business in New York and has held numerous leadership roles within the chemical and food industries, including the Colorado Boxed Beef Company, Lonza, Pilgrim’s Pride, and Smithfield Foods.