International Truck has launched a company-wide initiative, DriverFirst, aimed at giving its customers an edge in attracting and retaining qualified drivers through vehicles designed with a strong emphasis on the driver's perspective.
The DriverFirst product design philosophy builds on International's long-standing emphasis on customer uptime by sharpening the company's focus on the driver's point of view.
"Today, for our customers, uptime means more than having trucks that are built to stay on the road," said Denny Mooney, senior vice president, Global Product Development. "Given the industry's chronic driver shortage, it's also about having enough drivers to operate those trucks. And for us, that means building trucks that will help our customers attract and retain drivers, by reflecting the driver's point of view in the way they are designed and the technologies and features they offer. Simply put, we want to build trucks that drivers want to drive."
The DriverFirst initiative was inspired by customers' and drivers' input for International's upcoming renewed product line, gathered from driver clinics, fleet feedback and studies of driver trends. Many customers told the company that due to the driver shortage, they are hard-pressed to keep all of their trucks operating. These stories are consistent with quantitative reports from American Trucking Associations and other industry sources that the industry is currently 35,000 to 40,000 drivers short of meeting its needs.
"The key takeaway from our research is that drivers want trucks that are designed to do the job," Mooney said. "Drivers aren't looking for something automotive or futuristic for its own sake. They just want something comfortable and functional, with a design that helps them do their job better and more easily."
Mooney identified four specific areas where International is pursuing ongoing innovations and driver-centric features, based on its research into driver needs:
- Comfort: Driver comfort is greatly enhanced by factors like ergonomics, interior lighting and color, as well as low noise, vibration and harshness (NVH).
- Safety: Driver safety can be enhanced by multiple factors, ranging from visibility and state-of-the-art headlights to advanced systems that use radar, digital cameras and other technologies to avoid and mitigate accidents.
- Productivity: Drivers benefit from technologies like automated manual transmissions, as well as improved vehicle serviceability and ease of maintenance.
- Efficiency: From improving fuel economy to designing more intuitive displays, drivers are interested in features that will help them get the job done more efficiently.
Though the DriverFirst philosophy was only recently formalized, it reflects a long-standing customer focus that has already yielded a number of International innovations in the marketplace, Mooney said. Some examples include the company's being first to market with the Bendix Wingman Fusion safety system, which makes drivers' safety a priority, and International's own Over-the-Air Programming, which reduces downtime spent in driver maintenance.