SOUTH BEND -- Between them, Tim Hindes and Kurt LaDow have nearly 50 years in the trucking industry.
Hindes, a driver long ago, has been involved in three logistics startups in his 25 years in the industry and LaDow has been involved with two in his 23 years, both with Hindes.
They've studied the field long and hard and have detected a bit of an illness, an incredibly high turnover rate among drivers.
For their latest venture, the duo opted to set out to find a cure.
Setting up shop at Innovation Park at Notre Dame, Hindes and LaDow are pooling their experience into another startup called Stay Metrics with the goal to find out the causes and solutions to the high turnover rate among drivers.
It's a turnover rate that experts peg as high as 89 percent that costs the industry $7 billion annually, said Hindes.
A recent meeting with a company that has 400 trucks confirmed those numbers are real. The company official noted that even among their four highest decision makers there were four different opinions on what the problem was.
"There is tons of conjecture, lots of opinion, but no real data," Hindes said. "It's a huge problem in the logistics industry."
Stay Metrics has developed a survey tool to gather data about why drivers leave and why they stay. The fact that Stay Metrics, a third party, administers the survey is very important, Hindes said.
"Being a neutral third party ... we stand a much better chance of getting real survey data," Hindes said. Many times, especially after arguments or a driver quitting the company, the companies can't get the employee to fill out a survey.
Stay Metrics surveys are built with consultants from Notre Dame, Hindes said.
"We've got surveys that we can run predicted models off of, once we get enough data in them," Hindes said. "And (the companies) can seek out the key words."
But Hindes and LaDow's company, which also includes salesman Sam Obermeyer, will be doing more than that.
They also have two other important elements in their surveys. One is a rewards and recognition piece.
"This gives us a lot of insight into the drivers," Hindes said, including how factors such as safety and rewards motivate them.
"Can we affect (safety)?" he said of the program. "I think we can."
Two companies have already signed on with Stay Metrics, which has been working on its survey formation since February.
A third aspect Stay Metrics will offer is what Hindes calls "an E-Harmony-like" matching system for drivers and companies. Far more than pay and signing bonuses go into a driver's preference for a company, Hindes said, citing such factors as driving location and a company's reputation with drivers.
"Once we have the way a carrier profiles, the truth is the truth is the truth," Hindes said. "So this is who they are and what they specialize in and this is the way drivers feel about them."
Stay Metrics will offer an online tool that the drivers fill out with their profile and then match them with carriers.
"Our product will be graded on how many marriages we have and how many divorces we have," Hindes said.
He expects to be able to predict even how long the driver would stay with the company.
Hindes said the fact that he was a driver 25 years ago, coupled with his logistics experience led him to the Stay Metrics concept. Because of turnover, there's a lot of waste in the industry, he said, adding that the surveys also will provide additional benefits to carriers.
"We've got a very good feel for the carrier. We want to give the carrier a good feel for what areas they excel in, what areas do they feel a little bit behind in," he said.
LaDow was happy to stay with his partner, Hindes, from their Express-1 Bounce Logistics days in South Bend, which ended when it was sold along with its parent company, Express-1 Expedited Solutions to Bradley S. Jacobs in June of 2011.
Bounce Logistics, also a startup, had 36 employees and was doing $3 million in annual sales when it was sold.
LaDow believes in this company, too, especially in what they're trying to do.
"It's got more meaning behind it," he said. "It's more than just moving freight."
One thing Hindes says he's learned already about Innovation Park is how helpful it is to be there.
He likes his first four months at Innovation Park and will go there again, should he ever pursue another startup.
"The resources here are unbelievable," he said. "The skill set, the talent and the ability to collaborate is second to none."
Staff writer Jim Meenan: