A few years ago, I wrote a commentary published in Transport Topics magazine on the issue of driver delays at retail distribution centers.
With the new hours of service regulations in place, my point was that these delays make it even more difficult to keep the dwindling supply of drivers on the road. After all, HOS rules don’t regulate efficiency, they regulate points in time. A driver that sits for three hours in a yard still racks up hours against his limit.
Sadly, little has changed since I wrote the original piece. Delays remain commonplace as retailers simply have not stepped up to address the problem. To this point, 3PLs and carriers have reluctantly tolerated this inefficiency – perhaps because the freight market has been soft.
But if you haven’t noticed, that’s changing. As the economy continues to improve, freight will become more of a seller’s market. Carriers will become more discriminating about the freight they haul and may choose not to service distribution centers that hold up their drivers for hours.
Once retailers feel this pinch, they may take the steps necessary to move trucks in and out of their yards faster.
What Can Retailers Do to Reduce Wait Times?
There are many things retailers can do to help carriers manage adherence to HOS rules to getting drivers back on the road as fast as possible. Here are a few:
Establish Drop and Hook Programs
At KANE, we try and set up as many drop trailer situations as we can to keep drivers moving. Most of the large retailers have established a drop and hook system because it gives them flexibility on receiving. We love it because our drivers can just drop and go. Smaller retailers often don’t have the same ability to set up a drop and hook system, either because they don’t have adequate dock doors or don’t have the shuttle tractors to move trailers to and from the dock. These DCs may wind up on the wrong list as carriers brand certain locations as unfriendly drop points and choose to use their capacity for more profitable runs.
Monitor Truck Detention Time
Our friend Ken Ackerman, a veteran logistics consultant, reminds retailers that they should have a policy on detention of trucks and set fair limits on driver turnaround time. Ken asks “If you are not recording the time each driver spends on your property, is there any reason why you could not start next week?”
Improvement starts with measurement. Retailers serious about becoming more driver- and carrier-friendly must know their current performance and ask carriers and drivers how they are doing and what steps could be taken to improve.
Set Appointment Times
This presents other challenges to the carrier, but most carriers are happy to oblige if it means trucks move in and out of a DC with great efficiency.
HOS Rules: Minutes Matter
For drivers operating under new HOS rules, minutes matter. Carriers must do their part, but they can’t do it alone. Manufacturers and retailers must also step up to address inefficiency where freight is picked up and delivered. If they don’t, it could come back to bite them as truck capacity tightens. Particularly at locations where poor driver turn time is chronic, carriers will opt for more driver-friendly deliver points where 3-hour delays are not the norm.