Private fleets look to improve supply chain efficiency, reduce driver detention

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 425 views 

Transportation consultant Chris Sultemeier, former executive vice president of logistics for Walmart Inc., recently read an average driver drives little more than seven hours per day even though drivers are allowed to drive up to 11 hours per day.

Sultemeier, who was head of the Bentonville-based retailer’s private fleet, said this speaks to the inefficiency in the trucking industry, and that shippers need to work with carriers to unlock available capacity. Sultemeier spoke in a recent Transport Topics webinar on whether this is a good time to be a private carrier.

Ron Drogan, president of Red Classic Transportation Services, a company of Coca-Cola Bottling Co., said drivers weren’t trained to wait at a shipper’s dock. When asked what can be done to be a shipper of choice, he spoke about how quickly a shipper can get a trailer loaded and unloaded and the importance of interactions between dock workers and drivers.

“Common decency is No. 1,” Drogan said.

Other factors related to quality of life amenities, including restrooms, snack shops and lounges as fatigue is an issue.

Recently, The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), the research organization of American Trucking Associations, surveyed drivers on how they are being impacted by customer detention. The feedback, which will be compared to a similar survey in 2014, is expected allow ATRI to better understand how delays at shipper and receiver facilities impact driver productivity, safety and hours-of-service compliance in the wake of the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate.

Jason Foshaug, president and CEO of transportation data company Velocity Rater, said the issue of driver detention is a problem that’s hasn’t changed in several decades. About $35 billion in waste in generated by detention, and the cost is passed onto consumers. Between 1% and 3% of shipper expenses, or $14 billion, can be attributed to detention. Weekly, 90% of drivers experience detention, about 55% of trucks get in and out of a warehouse in under two hours in the United States and 20% of warehouses have a least one hour of detention.

It continues to be a problem for shippers because leaders within companies often have conflicting priorities, and detention isn’t addressed, Foshaug said. It’s easier for shippers to call the next carrier on the list, and the cycle continues.

One solution might include to keep track of time when a truck arrives at a dock. If the truck isn’t loaded or unloaded within an hour, a manager asks if help is needed. Another solution might be scheduling drivers to arrive in blocks of times, such as between 8 a.m. and noon or 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

“We’re getting away from appointment times,” he said.

Drogan explained as the driver shortage continues to worsen and more drivers are retiring than entering the industry, companies must make it more exciting for the drivers, increase pay and create more opportunities for them to be home. The latter might including establishing a hub system where drivers and drop off trailers and have the opportunity to take a trailer back home.

Red Classic, which started as a private fleet for Coca-Cola, established a brokerage as a result of volume spikes over the summer, Drogan said. He expects private fleets will expand into the brokerage market in a tight capacity market.

In a recent industry conference, Bob Costello, chief economist for American Trucking Associations, said he expected trucking capacity to remain tight, but the economy could be reaching a peak as the benefits from federal tax cuts taper off and consumer and business spending flattens. Growth estimates for the U.S. Gross Domestic Product of more than 3% in the second quarter might slow to growth rates nearing 2% in 2019, said Costello, adding that he didn’t see anything that could throw the economy into recession.

Between 2018 and 2029, trucking tonnage is expected to rise 35.6% from 16 billion tons to 21.7 billion tons, according to the ATA. Over the same period, total revenue derived from U.S. freight shipments is expected to increase 74.7% from $968 billion to $1.691 trillion.