Advancements in technology have been steadily streamlining processes in the truck industry over the last few years. Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) for reporting driving hours are eliminating the tediousness of paper logbooks, sophisticated navigation is taking the stress out of the journey and now electronic Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports (DVIRs) are speeding up the inspection process and removing much of the paperwork.
While truck drivers are getting on board with time-saving devices it seems shippers and receivers are lagging behind and, with the change to the Hours of Service (HOS) laws that mean a driver’s clock can no longer be paused while freight is being loaded or unloaded, this is having a direct impact on driver pay.
But it’s not just drivers that are hurting.
Inefficiency is damaging the whole industry at a time when capacity is being stretched – according to the ATA, overall freight tonnage is increasing rapidly while at the same time there is a marked shortage of qualified drivers.
Carriers like J.B. Hunt are extending the drive for efficiency beyond their own four walls and are now urging shippers and receivers to do their bit to help the industry meet burgeoning growth and stay competitive.
Drivers can’t afford to waste minutes
A comparison used in the report prepared by J.B. Hunt illustrates the change in HOS legislation to an hourglass whereas previously it was a stopwatch. As a stopwatch drivers could wait as long as required to load or unload without it impacting on their available driving time.
Now it’s an hourglass and this means beyond the allocated 150 minutes for on-duty activities, every minute spent waiting at a loading dock is a minute less moving freight.
Based on actual numbers, the report estimated that for a fleet of 100 trucks over the course of a year these wasted minutes combine to 3,600 lost loads. Put another way, it’s like taking 25 trucks off the road.
It’s a loss of capacity the industry cannot afford and, aside from reigniting the debate on how drivers are paid, is turning the spotlight on everyone involved in the logistics chain.
What do shippers get out of improving driver throughput?
It’s entirely possible that some shippers may sympathize with the restrictions on a driver’s time but at the same time fail to realize how this problem affects them.
The reality is that any business stands to benefit from reviewing its processes and uncovering efficiency gains. Particularly when it keeps the businesses they work alongside happy. J.B. Hunt has gone as far as to detail the criteria for what they term a ‘shipper of choice’.
According to an article in Supply Chain Brain (9 Oct. 2014) carriers may refuse some shippers who don’t meet specific guidelines: “Economic conditions are improving, and capacity is tightening, giving carriers the luxury of choosing those accounts that are most profitable.” Traits in a shipper of choice detailed by J.B. Hunt include consistent freight, maintaining a flexible delivery window, creating positive conditions for drivers and working with the carrier to generate a more efficient network.
If you’re a shipper or receiver it’s good business sense to listen to the key players in your industry. So what can you do to minimize wasting the limited time a driver has?
Four ways shippers & receivers can be more efficient
There are four specific areas that the report emphasized as being potential gains, streamlining the loading or unloading process and minimizing the dwell time of drivers on site (currently estimated at around two hours per shift).
1 – Improve flexibility of appointment times
If a shipper’s appointment times are restrictive, drivers will be stuck waiting for the gates to open or be delayed due to restricted availability of drivers as most carriers have more drivers available in the evenings or weekends. If a facility can ship around the clock, seven days a week, that’s a big plus for the carrier.
Technology Tip: Some carriers are working closely with shippers using GPS tracking, shared ETAs and custom routing to not only provide driver and shipper with a mutually agreed appointment time but live updating if there are delays and turn-by-turn directions right to the loading dock. This improves the coordination and staggering of trucks coming through, reducing dwell time.
2 – Speed up loading/unloading
This involves looking at all aspects of the process including lane and load inconsistencies, short lead times and cancellations. By providing a more predictable schedule drivers are better able to optimize their time. Currently drivers spend on average 108 minutes (excluding appointment time) at shippers and receivers during the course of a single shift and the aim is to reduce this by at least 60 minutes to a more acceptable timeframe.
Technology Tip: Drivers, dispatchers, shippers and receivers can all work more efficiently by automating the process of order confirmation and truck arrival or departure. Using GPS, geofences, geocoded addresses (very accurate markers) it can automate proof of delivery, speed up payments, notify docks of incoming freight and trigger dispatch to provide new orders as soon as the truck is unloaded.
3 – Provide safe overnight parking for drivers
We’ve talked before about the difficulty drivers face looking for safe and suitable rest areas to spend the night. With many public rest areas being closed down, some drivers are searching for up to an hour at the end of each shift to find a suitable place to shut down, even resorting to abandoned gas stations, box store parking lots or freeway ramps. In one instance, a trucker was killed while waiting to collect a load from a steel plant and forced to park up outside the premises.
While there is legislation underway to address the shortage, shippers can help speed things up by setting aside an area on-site for overnight truck parking.
Technology Tip: Add known safe parking sites as shared POIs (Points of Interest) so drivers can easily route to them using Telogis Navigation.
4 – Use ‘Drop and Hook’ instead of Live
The study revealed that ‘Drop and Hook’ saved almost an hour (48 minutes) over live unloading or loading. While this does require having dedicated trailers, the time-saving makes it worthwhile.
Technology Tip: Carriers can share a real-time ETA with shippers to make sure the trailer is ready for ‘hooking’ as soon as the driver arrives on-site.
While J.B. Hunt’s call for shippers and receivers to improve efficiency may appear self-serving, no business ever suffered from looking at ways to tap into new ideas to trim back the fat. J.B. Hunt is not just talking the talk either; they lead by example. As one of the top carriers in the country, they are well known for promoting streamlined innovations such as electronic logging and commercial-grade navigation for their drivers.
How much impact this report has on the way shippers do business remains to be seen but new technology is making it an ideal time for everyone to review their systems and find ways to help the trucking industry stay competitive.
*Albrecht, Thom. “2015: More of the Same? Or Is a Lull Out There?” J.B. Hunt Summit 2015. John Q. Hammons Center, Rogers, AR. 7 Jan. 2015. BB&T Powerpoint Lecture