Last Updated: Tue, April 16, 2019
A number of trucking companies lately are reaping the financial benefits of putting their drivers up in hotels overnight rather than having them spend the night in sleeper cabs.
Companies that have made the switch to day cabs and overnight stays at motels for their drivers tell of benefits almost across the board; including:
“The benefits speak for themselves: better sleep, no parking problems and drivers are treated as all other mainstream people at work are, rather than being pushed aside,” Steve Rush, owner of Carbon Express out of New Jersey, told Transport Topics recently.
“We do not have a turnover problem here, especially with our road drivers,” he said. “We believe this attracts a better caliber of driver — one who cares about himself or herself. We don’t have turnover. Our road guys are in heaven.”
Rush's fleet of 75 day cabs transports liquid bulk products in tankers across the United States and into Canada. He established the company in 1983, and made the move to day-cab-only and hotel stays for drivers in 2009.
In Rush's own words from the Carbon Express website:
"We eliminated sleeper cabs from our fleet in 2009. The internal debate among my staff was intense and impassioned." Steve chuckles as he continues, "Half of them agreed with me and half thought I was off my rocker."
He said the decision resulted in a win-win for Carbon Express.
"I truly believe Safety is our number one priority. By eliminating the sleepers and having our layover drivers staying and sleeping in motel rooms we have a more rested and alert group of drivers. That translates to safer drivers both for the Company and for the general public. Our safety record was good in 2009 and now in 2014 it's excellent. I know in my heart it's because our drivers are better rested and better prepared for the rigors of driving in today's conditions more so than most."
Steve also said he believes the second win in moving to all day cabs is that Carbon Express can haul more freight than its competitors.
"The fact that we can haul more weight means a lot to our customers. We haul as much as 21 percent more weight than a lot of our completion. In addition to the benefit to the customers we believe are fulfilling our corporate responsibility to protect the environment. The greater utility we provide means less trucks needed to complete the jobs less fuel consumed and less emissions into the atmosphere.
"The improvement in efficiency is there and always has been, but it has been ignored by this industry in favor of keeping the driver in the sleeper,” Rush said.
Hotel stays for these Carbon Express drivers do come with a cost … averaging in the mid $30,000 to the high $40,000 range every month. And that's for only about one-fourth of the total of Carbon Express drivers who actually need to be out overnight. But Rush said the increased productivity and other financial benefits of running only day cabs offsets that hotel bill.
Julie Delp, president of the Lincoln, Nebraska-based Nationwide Auto Transport, told Transport Topics her company made the switch to hotel stays for about one-fourth of its fleet about two years ago.
But she added that they are in the process of ordering new day-cab tractors that will have them at 80 percent day cabs and 20 percent sleepers. Right now, the company gives lodging to all day cab operators, and to drivers in sleeper tractors every third night.
“I think sometimes the drivers feel like they’re forgotten about because they’re out there in a truck with no interaction with anybody,” she said. “It gives them a chance to relax in their room and watch TV.”
The big incentive for Nationwide is the fuel savings from not idling during an entire 10-hour break. She said so far they have experienced a 40-percent drop in idle hours. In addition, they have found there to be a decrease in equipment damage.
“When the guys are in those trucks and idling full time, it uses nearly as much fuel as it does to put them in a motel costwise,” Delp told Transport Topics, adding that reducing idle time also helps with warranties. “The idle hours have a direct correlation to the warranty. A lot of people miss that.”
Nationwide Auto Transport set a limit of $80 a night for a room, which drivers can enter into their app. They can also search via the ZIP code and specify the need for truck parking, Delp said.
“The nice part of the program we use is they’re guaranteed 24 hours no matter when they check in,” she said. “If they didn’t get in until midnight, they don’t get kicked out at 11 a.m. They have the whole day to rest.”
Holland, a regional LTL carrier based in Michigan, is 100 percent day cab and puts its drivers up in hotels. Steve Bramble, director of talent acquisition for Holland, told Transport Topics he believes this policy helps with recruiting. Of its 6,000 drivers almost 2,000 of them are over-the-road, and stay overnight in hotels.
Benefits to the carriers are what drives the hotel-stay policy, but there are obvious benefits for the drivers. Many drivers take advantage of free breakfasts provided at just about every hotel in America these days. Some hotels even offer free fingerfood and other treats in the evening.
Drivers get to keep their hotel points; which can be used by family members to take hotel stays that are paid for.
There is also the benefit of restroom privacy, nightly showers, and the ability to spread out to do paperwork or work on hobbies.
Staying in hotels also solves a problem of special concern to female drivers, especially those who are in a training situation with someone of the opposite sex.
There are resources available for drivers seeking truck-friendly hotels for overnight stays.
Allstays.com has a state-by-state list of hotels that that provide truck parking.
And at hotels4drivers.com, truckers can download a phone app that will guide them to trucker-friendly hotels. In addition, discounts of 15-20 percent are offered for a free membership in the app.
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