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Delays At Customers: How Could We Reduce The Downtime?

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Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar

The experienced drivers really took off with a ton of great ideas in our thread about How Would You Make The Logbook Rules Better? and it made me realize we don't have enough interesting conversations for you guys and gals. I really enjoy these type of discussions myself so I thought we could take a shot at what we all know is another huge problem in trucking:

How Could We Reduce The Downtime At Customers?

Now one thing we have to be acutely aware of when formulating ideas for this is how fragmented the trucking industry is. According to Government statistics I read not long ago:

  • About 93% of all companies have fewer than 6 trucks
  • About 97% of all companies have fewer than 20 trucks
  • There are approximately 1.1 million trucking companies in the United States
  • Nearly half of the trucks on the road are owner operators, lease operators, or tiny operations with 2 or 3 trucks

Unfortunately that means the answer will never be as simple as "companies should just start charging for delays" because you will always have a ton of companies willing to tolerate the delays for the opportunity to land that freight. Competition is fierce, and should remain that way.

An Interesting Parallel: Tarmac Delays and Airline Passenger Rights

Airline passengers had faced a rather similar situation, being delayed for long stretches while sitting in the airplane. A quote from the article I linked to in the heading:

...bad weather, a mechanical issue, or some arcane airline regulation keeps the flight parked on the tarmac for hours. These delays often involve shortages of food, water, fresh air, and adequate toilet facilities, not to mention the dwindling patience of the passengers and flight crew.

To protect the passengers, new U.S. Department of Transportation regulations on tarmac delays went into effect in late April 2010.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Airlines must return planes to the gate and let passengers off any time a flight is sitting on the tarmac for three hours.
  • Airlines must provide passengers with adequate food and water within the first two hours of any tarmac delay.
  • Adequate toilet facilities must be maintained and made available to passengers during the delay.
  • Airlines must designate one employee to monitor flight delays and cancellations, respond to passenger complaints, and instruct passengers on the complaint filing process.
  • Airlines must post and maintain updated flight delay data on their websites -- including information on flights that are frequently delayed -- for each domestic flight they operate.

I know you experienced drivers are now thinking, "Hey, that's what we need too! We're in the same situation!"

So in my personal opinion, I believe legislation of some sort would be needed. You can't expect companies to simply take action voluntarily because of the intense level of competition.

But keep in mind the diversity of the trucking industry, also. Think about the incredible variety of freight being hauled. You have freight that may be:

  • Dangerous, including Hazmat
  • Time Sensitive, including 'just-in-time' freight
  • Temperature Sensitive
  • Oversize or Overweight
  • Classified, including Government or Military freight
  • High Value, including computer hardware or cigarettes
  • LTL (less-than-truckload)

Also, keep in mind that freight may be loaded:

  • By forklift at loading docks
  • By crane at construction sites
  • Pumped out of tanks at chemical or food facilities
  • From train cars at railyards
  • From conveyer systems at package delivery companies
  • By hand at retail stores

So what do you guys think could be done to alleviate the delays at customers? This has been a mega-billion dollar per year problem in this country for decades and I'd love to hear your ideas about how to solve it.

Let 'er rip!

smile.gif

Logbook:

A written or electronic record of a driver's duty status which must be maintained at all times. The driver records the amount of time spent driving, on-duty not driving, in the sleeper berth, or off duty. The enforcement of the Hours Of Service Rules (HOS) are based upon the entries put in a driver's logbook.

HAZMAT:

Hazardous Materials

Explosive, flammable, poisonous or otherwise potentially dangerous cargo. Large amounts of especially hazardous cargo are required to be placarded under HAZMAT regulations

LTL:

Less Than Truckload

Refers to carriers that make a lot of smaller pickups and deliveries for multiple customers as opposed to hauling one big load of freight for one customer. This type of hauling is normally done by companies with terminals scattered throughout the country where freight is sorted before being moved on to its destination.

LTL carriers include:

  • FedEx Freight
  • Con-way
  • YRC Freight
  • UPS
  • Old Dominion
  • Estes
  • Yellow-Roadway
  • ABF Freight
  • R+L Carrier

Owner Operator:

An owner-operator is a driver who either owns or leases the truck they are driving. A self-employed driver.

DWI:

Driving While Intoxicated

Rick S.'s Comment
member avatar

There have been "rumblings" in congress - regarding how (or even whether) delays for drivers at consignees could be dealt with to maximize drivers ability to earn money.

Drivers are on the "low end" of the totem pole - cannon fodder, meat in the seat. No one really cares about the role we play in moving america's commodities. This is, unless we don't get enough rest, and run a comedians limo off the road.

The only way to "solve it", really - is to make the shipper/receiver responsible for delays. But even if the gubbermint stepped in and regulated (remember, trucking - as many regulations as WE THE DRIVER have, is a DE-REGULATED INDUSTRY), there is still that pesky "competition for freight/rates" there - and the carriers will either "let the customer slide" on the penalty for delays in order to maintain the contract, or screw the driver in some other way.

Even if compensated for detention - is it really adequate? There are a number of lawsuits that have settled or are in progress - regarding the classification of drivers, and how they are compensated. With some getting compensated the equivalent of an "hourly rate" - but most, not.

Without getting argumentative - interesting statistic - 1/2 the trucks out there are O/O or lease.

Rick

Consignee:

The customer the freight is being delivered to. Also referred to as "the receiver". The shipper is the customer that is shipping the goods, the consignee is the customer receiving the goods.

Shipper:

The customer who is shipping the freight. This is where the driver will pick up a load and then deliver it to the receiver or consignee.

Daniel B.'s Comment
member avatar

In my opinion this has nothing to do with charging delays and finding ways to fine the consignee.

You can fine them all you want for delays, sometimes they dont pay and they almost always push to not pay it or reduce it either by hoping you'll eventually forget or fighting against your claims. I know this because this is exactly part of my wifes job discription and I have seen it personally dozens of times when I'm with her in her office. The fines will not translate into increased productivity from the shipper simply because the employees "don't give a crap."

The solution in my opinion is to increase the wage of the employees. Nothing makes a person happier than a raise, likewise, nothing makes an employee work slower when they're disgruntled.

They work hard, they really do, but they get paid very poorly and this directly translates into the issue at hand.

For example, when we talk about all these awful shippers we usually look at Walmart, Kroger, and many other major companies - common denominator is they all pay very little.

Now look at Costco, by far the fastest shipper in my eyes. You can't even have time to take a nap and they're done with you. Those guys move with conviction, they also get paid fairly.

/Popcorn

Consignee:

The customer the freight is being delivered to. Also referred to as "the receiver". The shipper is the customer that is shipping the goods, the consignee is the customer receiving the goods.

Shipper:

The customer who is shipping the freight. This is where the driver will pick up a load and then deliver it to the receiver or consignee.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar

Daniel, there is also a fundamental psychological issue with paying employees more money. It increases their perception of self worth, which in turn often leads to them making further demands and expecting even more. This is an issue that has been studied to exhaustion for more than a century.

Say you pay someone $10/hr to drive a forklift. Then you decide, "Hey, we love this guy. Cool dude. Let's give him $20/hr. He'll be so happy he'll work twice as hard!"

But now this guy realizes, "Wait a minute. If I'm that important to these people then they should be demonstrating that in other ways, too. Why do I have to work overtime? Why do I only get one week of paid vacation this year? Why shouldn't I have a better parking spot, and why can't they buy me lunch once in a while?"

Not to mention, who do you know that makes more money and yet works slower than union guys, right? Anytime you find out you're going to pickup or deliver from a union shop there's an 80% chance they're making $29/hr for doing a $10/hr job but they'll be moving half the speed of the $10/hr guys.

If it was as simple as paying people more, you would see a consistent and direct correlation between pay and performance. But that's not the case at all. When I was living in a van at 19 years old I was making $4.40/hr as a temp worker in a warehouse, loading trucks and fulfilling orders. We were desperate to land that gig full time so we worked our butts off 60 - 65 hours per week, and did indeed get hired full time at $5.50/hr. That meant my buddy and I could pool our money and step up from a van to an actual apartment in the ghetto! We were super excited, and continued to work as hard as we could, even at poverty level wages. We were hungry to perform because our ghetto apartment depended on it, but it's also who we are as people. We were paid terribly, but we performed at our very best, because we're the type that always perform at our best.

I've watched you personally go from trainee to a solo driver to a Top Tier Professional over the years and I know you worked just as hard as a lower-paid trainee as you do now, because that's who you are.

Another example: workers, in general, make half the money and many times far less than management. And yet the workers bust their butts while management spends as much time as possible sitting in meetings or golfing. If the guys making $20,000 a year are working hard, the guys making a million dollars a year should be working 50 times harder. That's almost never the case.

It's a common theory amongst the working class that more money would make for better workers, but that's almost never the case, unfortunately.

So my response to paying people more would be to instead find ways of attracting better quality people. Can you do that with better pay? Absolutely. But better pay will not normally make someone into a better quality worker, and in fact it will have the opposite effect on lower quality workers.

TWIC:

Transportation Worker Identification Credential

Truck drivers who regularly pick up from or deliver to the shipping ports will often be required to carry a TWIC card.

Your TWIC is a tamper-resistant biometric card which acts as both your identification in secure areas, as well as an indicator of you having passed the necessary security clearance. TWIC cards are valid for five years. The issuance of TWIC cards is overseen by the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.

Fatsquatch 's Comment
member avatar
Now look at Costco, by far the fastest shipper in my eyes. You can't even have time to take a nap and they're done with you. Those guys move with conviction, they also get paid fairly.

Costco is pretty much the gold standard for receivers. The longest I've ever been at a Costco was about 2 1/2 hours, and that was because it was the height of flu season and about a dozen people had called in sick that day. Usually it's about 90 minutes from the time I check in at the guard house to the time I pull back out of the gate. Even the actual stores themselves are super fast, maybe 30 minutes to an hour depending on how much of the trailer is theirs.

The problem isn't just the employees, but the way their whole process is set up. Take your major grocery chain DC, whether it's Kroger, Safeway/Albertson's, WinCo, whatever. From the time you bump the dock, it's usually no more than an hour or so for them to unload, downstairs, and count your load. The other 3-6 hours you're sitting there is waiting for the one guy who's the official "receiver" to wander over and sign off on your paperwork. That's where the whole thing falls apart, waiting for one dude to eventually make it to your door and sign your bills.

And then you have your foodservice distributors. Sysco, Sygma, US Foods, and the like. Not only do they operate virtually identically to a grocery DC, but they throw in an extra wrinkle: they prioritize all their local deliveries first. So even though you've been waiting for 4 hours for the receiver to come sign your bills, he's going to make you keep waiting while he signs out Jim's Fish Market, Tom's Tomatoes, and Billy Bob's Badass Bread, even though those guys just got there 15 minutes ago.

How do you fix that? Not a clue. I can't imagine you'd have any luck forcing everybody to operate like Costco.

And that's just receivers. Shippers are a whole 'nuther ball of wax. I think the biggest time-waster when picking up is waiting for them to pick, palletize, and wrap product for your load. There are a couple of places I pick up from that have this licked, and I think it's a smart way to do it. They make a point of scheduling few inbound or outbound loads on the graveyard shift, and the night guys instead spend most of their shift picking and wrapping product for the next day's scheduled shipments. Then when the driver bumps the dock, it only takes about 10 minutes to stage the load on the dock and another 10 minutes to load the trailer. Bing, bang, boom, you're gone. Again, I don't know how you could force everybody to adhere to this standard. Especially the places with the robotic order picking machinery. That's a major infrastructure investment they'd have to scrap entirely, and I'm pretty sure there would be some pretty major pushback on their part.

Shipper:

The customer who is shipping the freight. This is where the driver will pick up a load and then deliver it to the receiver or consignee.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Cornelius A.'s Comment
member avatar

Most of the contracts that I have seen from some of my clients do contain a detention clause in it for loading and unloading. The first 2hrs in the majority of them are always free and then they charge $60 upwards per hour . So I don't know how the companies that some of you guys work for do it.

G-Town's Comment
member avatar

This is a very interesting thread to me for couple of reasons:

1- So the inverse of what has been written thus far,... "when I am picking-up at any one of the bazillion Walmart Vendors/Suppliers, for all intents and purposes I am the customer". Hard to believe, but true. I am representing Walmart and I am not shy about using that as leverage. If not asked, I will inform the shipping manager/clerk I am picking up for Walmart (as a Walmart Transportation Partner with a Walmart Wagon) because experience has taught me Big Wally carries a whole lot of weight and gets priority. Wally get's "front-row" treatment at most every vendor and definitely every store. Point being, the longest I have ever waited for a vendor live-load was about 90 minutes. Backhauls occur at the end of my day, many times with less than 3 hours on the "14" hour clock. So how is this relevant? It may provide evidence many of the delays are perhaps, avoidable. Emphasizing the customer you are picking up for (especially if on a Dedicated Retail Account), is something to consider. Throw out the name, with the p/u number. Never know, it might help on the shipper/supplier end.

In addition I have also negotiated with the shipping clerk in an attempt to grab a pre-loaded trailer that is ready, as opposed to waiting for my assigned live load. Sound weird? At least for my job, a frequent explanation for a live-load at a location typically pre-loading, is because they are out of available "Walmart" empties. A simple problem, that might go unrecognized if the question isn't asked. If the driver assigned to the pre-loaded trailer is hours away from their arrival, and I am right there? No harm, no foul. "Grab it", keeps the freight moving through the system. Okay, so maybe this only applies to Dedicated Retail accounts,...maybe not. Obviously for "this" to happen, there needs to be communication/coordination with both the shipper/vendor clerk, Swift driver management, and Walmart Dispatch requiring an authorized change and a reissue of the dispatch record. Offering a solution like a "load swap", benefits everyone, hurts no one, is typically acceptable and makes my DM look like gold. Best of all, I keep moving after only 10 minutes of discussion and coordination. It's my number one "go-to" when I know there is a wait at a vendor backhaul. Again perhaps only applicable for a Dedicated Retail Account. Still any attempt at out-of-the-box thinking, might spark some other possible solution.

2- Overall this problem will never get "fixed" or addressed unless there is a hard and fast dollar figure attached to the lost productivity resulting from delays and the downstream affect on the economy. Until it's clearly understood how much this problem costs the American consumer and/or business consumer, nothing is going to change... My "two-bits" on the subject.

That said, aligning the HOS law and guidance to better compensate for protracted delays is long overdue. That is something we can all benefit from. I have actually written my state and federal representation about this very issue more than once. All I've gotten so far is a thank-you note.

Shipper:

The customer who is shipping the freight. This is where the driver will pick up a load and then deliver it to the receiver or consignee.

OTR:

Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

Dm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
My CB Handle is Frank's Comment
member avatar

I had some fun pondering this one while I was driving. I'm a company driver and I didn't think about the headaches it could cause with taxes for o/o's or independent drivers but I think those could probably be worked out. There would have to be legislation made demanding that customers put drivers on the clock and pay them at least minimum wage. I think when everyone goes to e-logs, something like this could actually be done:

1. When you arrive and depart from a customer, you'll send a message on your e-log device which will also serve as a time clock for the customer. The customer will put you on the clock and pay you at least minimum wage for their location.

2. The customer will log their own in and out times for you which will be reconciled with your company.

3. Drivers with times that consistently do not match up will be audited.

This could be something of a double-edged sword for drivers since if they are being paid, they may not be able to log off duty while at a receiver anymore. I'm not sure if this is more of a bad thing or more of a good thing if it speeds up the time spent at customers and gives more time for driving. Minimum wage isn't very much but it would still get the bean counters' attention at some of these big DC's. Companies could also work out their own additional detention policies if they chose.

DAC:

Drive-A-Check Report

A truck drivers DAC report will contain detailed information about their job history of the last 10 years as a CDL driver (as required by the DOT).

It may also contain your criminal history, drug test results, DOT infractions and accident history. The program is strictly voluntary from a company standpoint, but most of the medium-to-large carriers will participate.

Most trucking companies use DAC reports as part of their hiring and background check process. It is extremely important that drivers verify that the information contained in it is correct, and have it fixed if it's not.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
My CB Handle is Frank's Comment
member avatar
That said, aligning the HOS law and guidance to better compensate for protracted delays is long overdue. That is something we can all benefit from. I have actually written my state and federal representation about this very issue more than once. All I've gotten so far is a thank-you note.

So how do we find out who to contact and make steps towards actually fixing some of these things? I may only get a "thank you" note as well but I'm inspired to do something after reading this thread and the HOS thread.

OTR:

Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Bud A.'s Comment
member avatar

This is a management problem, and usually it is specifically a culture problem.

Why are the smaller places generally faster? Because the people who have both the responsibility and the authority to make sure freight is moving efficiently are right there on site. They hear about it if there's a problem. They often actually see the problem. They are motivated to get involved and get it fixed right now.

The people unloading know this, so they are less likely to screw around because they don't want the headache of dealing with the boss, or worse, having to look for another job.

In a union shop, management has to deal with the union rep (i.e., there's another layer of management that is unfortunately not directly motivated by the company's profits), so the workers take their time, because they know there's no negative consequence for being lazy.

In a big DC or store, whoever is in charge is usually far removed from and physically out of sight of the managers who are (or should be) motivated to keep freight moving. There is again no negative consequence for inefficiency and probably no motivation or incentive for moving it more quickly.

So the jerk who takes his time signing bills is really busy signaling to the drivers and to his coworkers that he or she is the one with real power there, since that's the easiest way to do that, and since they probably were promoted from the ranks and have not had any training on better and more effective ways to establish their managerial authority over their former peers.

The jerk on the forklift who spends lots of energy inventing ways to avoid completing the job is probably taking out their aggression toward their jerky, no-bill-signing boss. But it might be directed towards you, who knows.

The point is that these are management problems that need to be fixed with either better on-site supervision (more training or better hires), a different management structure, better incentives, or all of those things. Telling Walmart that your little trucking company is going to send them a bill just makes whoever in Bentonville reads that letter yawn. And good luck getting Congress to pass an effective law regulating this! (The thought actually made me laugh out loud.)

So what could motivate them to change? That depends on the company and their distribution system. If they start seeing a real competitive disadvantage because of their inefficiency, they might stumble into a solution, but that's about the only hope we have.

Or, some of us could go to work for these soul-crushing corporations and tilt at windmills trying to convince them that they could save millions of dollars by adopting our new methods. But by the time you actually get yourself into a position to change things up so all the Sergeant Slow-signers at all of the DCs and all of the stores move their asses a little faster, it'll be time to retire, and what was the question again? Can you please send them the nice form letter thanking them for their suggestion and/or putting off their demand for payment? I have a two o'clock tee time. Thanks ever so much.

Dm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

DAC:

Drive-A-Check Report

A truck drivers DAC report will contain detailed information about their job history of the last 10 years as a CDL driver (as required by the DOT).

It may also contain your criminal history, drug test results, DOT infractions and accident history. The program is strictly voluntary from a company standpoint, but most of the medium-to-large carriers will participate.

Most trucking companies use DAC reports as part of their hiring and background check process. It is extremely important that drivers verify that the information contained in it is correct, and have it fixed if it's not.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
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