Carriers need to leverage tight market, lock in improvements at the dock

By Kevin Jones on

Sit around any truck stop drivers’ lounge and, most likely, drivers aren’t complaining about their companies; they’re upset with the way they’re treated by shippers and receivers. So, if carriers truly want to show drivers that they’re appreciated, it’s time to make sure customers treat drivers with decency and respect.

(Transplace/BB&T graphic)

(Transplace/BB&T graphic)

That’s the larger point I had hoped to make in my previous post, delivered just in time for National Truck Driver Appreciation Week. Based on comments posted on CCJ and OverdriveOnline.com, along with follow-up discussion on Road Dog Trucking radio and in several emails, the problem of driver treatment at the loading dock is indeed bad and possibly getting worse in many places.

How much does it cost to be decent to the essential employees of a business partner? How much does it cost to give a visiting driver access to employee facilities? How much does it cost to provide the security-service temp at the gate with instructions to direct arriving trucks to secure alternative parking while they wait?

The bottom line is that carrier efforts to recruit and retain good, professional drivers are undermined by factors that, arguably, are not the fault of trucking companies. That argument—and shrugging off responsibility—solves nothing, however.

So let’s assume driver dissatisfaction at the dock must be addressed. Either carriers fix it, or get somebody to fix it for them.

With limited alternatives for its members individually, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has made a collective call on Congress and convinced a prominent member of the House Transportation committee to look at detention time. The effort has yet to result in legislation and regulation, but the U.S. Government Accountability Office has published a study that quantifies the problem and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration likewise is considering the matter.

This clearly falls under the category of “be careful what you ask for,” however. Do truckers really want the government to save them from themselves?

Although the case can be made that dock delays lead to rushed, potentially unsafe driving, problems at the dock are a business matter and government intervention gets sticky when it comes to a private contracts—and that’s what shipping agreements are.

Fixing-loading-delays-pollSo it’s up to trucking companies to get the message to customers.

In the previous post, I touched on a presentation to shippers by BB&T trucking analyst Thom Albrecht. He explains that when capacity gets tight, carriers are going to be able pick and choose their freight. Shippers, therefore, need to be carrier friendly, and that means becoming driver friendly.

“The challenge for your organization is how can you help carriers find 20 or 30 more minutes a day?” Albrecht said. “A carrier can work smarter, but are you working with them to help them accomplish their goals?”

Assuming a looming shortage of truck capacity, Albrecht proposes a ’12-step program to become a shipper of choice,’ with highlights including quicker payments and fair fuel surcharges, offering weekend freight, using multiple services from a carrier and, hey, actually making top management available to meet with trucking company representatives. (The trucking execs would still probably have to wait in the lobby for an hour or two.)

But seriously, are trucking companies prepared to leverage the market to secure better conditions for their drivers?

First, if your company is not using its electronic logging platform to track detention time, contact your vendor. A good e-log system should have the ability to measure exactly how long a customer keeps your drivers waiting. It’s one thing to make a note of driver complaints, but a spreadsheet that compares dwell times across customer locations is a valuable tool.

More broadly, there’s the Golden Rule. Biblically, the solution is simple: If everyone in the supply chain just made the effort to treat their partners as they’d like to be treated, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Instead, we operate on the notion that ‘whoever has the gold makes the rules.’ So, while capacity is tight, carriers need to demand better terms from shippers and receivers. Then it’s up to trucking companies not to give back those dock fairness gains.

Of course, as the Corleones and Sopranos like to say: “It’s nothing personal, it’s strictly business.” This is just before they make a management decision that’s typically very painful for a competitor.

Drivers, likewise, are caught in the crossfire as shippers and carriers each fight to control costs down to the penny. That may be just business, but it’s no place to put someone if you want them to feel appreciated.

(For additional data and discussion, have a look at the OverdriveOnline.com polls on solutions to dock delays and on detention pay programs.)

 

Kevin Jones

Kevin Jones is Senior Editor, Trucking Media, and writes from his home in Little Rock, Ark. His Fleet Street blog features whatever strikes his fancy and has at least a little connection to trucks, or drivers, or highways. Or David Allan Coe. (Google "the perfect country and western song" if you're not nearly as old as Kevin is.) You can also keep up with Kevin by following his Twitter feed (@KevinJonesCCJ) or just drop him a line: kevin.jones@randallreilly.com.

8 comments
Walt
Walt

I am a driver but yet I understand where the shipper/reciever is coming from. To many drivers look very unprofessional and act very unprofessional. The way you look/act is how you will be treated. Also very few companies take pride in their equipment image these days. If you and your driver are presenting a slum look then there is no reason for the shipper/reciever to give a damn about you. You want better treatment straighten up your act.

CwbintnMichaelWinton
CwbintnMichaelWinton

What a crock.  Clearly the author of this article is pushing the ELOG agenda. I ain't buying it.    ELOGS are as useful as tits on a boar hog. Throwing money and regulations and technology at the problem will not solve it. There needs to be more training to properly log times and more money is needed to train, thus more money needs to be paid to the carriers and trucks.  End of story.    I ain't buying this fluff piece for the EOBR for one hot second.  - See more at: http://www.ccjdigital.com/carriers-need-to-leverage-tight-market-lock-in-improvements-at-the-dock/#sthash.ORX5vnFj.L8GLSctr.dpuf

CwbintnMichaelWinton
CwbintnMichaelWinton

What a crock. 

Clearly the author of this article is pushing the ELOG agenda. I ain't buying it. 

 

ELOGS are as useful as tits on a boar hog. Throwing money and regulations and technology at the problem will not solve it. There needs to be more training to properly log times and more money is needed to train, thus more money needs to be paid to the carriers and trucks. 

End of story. 

 

I ain't buying this fluff piece for the EOBR for one hot second. 

Jim Jordan
Jim Jordan

Before I got into the trucking business I worked for a manufacturer, and in that capacity I took a bunch of management/supervision courses.  I don't recall ever having a shipper or receiver in any of my classes.  My point is that to most companies the front and back ends of their manufacturing processes are afterthoughts.  I believe that in many cases this mindset is reflected in the quality of people in these positions.  I sometimes feel that, lacking any influence within their own organizations, receivers simply kick the only dog available to them.  

RCDWLTD
RCDWLTD

Disrespect for drivers is an age old problem!  At many locations, drivers are less than second class citizens.  Admittedly, there are drivers that are also disrespectful but by and large drivers are taken advantage of by shipper, receiver and their company or broker.  The driver generally does not get a break one way or the other.  The driver who is underpaid at the dock on either end is losing money.   The driver's time is what he sells and if he is not fairly paid for detention he is cheated!

Jay Lestarge
Jay Lestarge

This article is not for the brokered freight carrier! It does however address the problem faced by carriers. Whether we haul a load for a shipper or a broker the talk must be direct and to the point in order to preplan our trucks to maximize our income. (1 failure and the whole plan is shot). Luckily I deal with shippers for most of my loaded miles. This article backs up my work 100% for how and when I've worked up proposals for the shippers I've contracted with. (Heartland Express is a 100% shipper carrier, that is 0% that they use a broker.) Trucking needs brokers, yes! But trucking isn't brokers! If your company decides to try this they should adhere to this article as a guideline to startup operating a shipper carrier relationship. I've been doing this and my profits are up and my drivers are happier! 

Amishtrucker
Amishtrucker

This article makes the assumption there is a relationship between shippers and carriers.  Back in the day, if you wanted to kiss your partner or scold them, you just leaned over and let if fly.  You can try to do that now, but you've got the Bishop standing in between and the Bishop is 3rd Party Logistics.  I would really like to know how much freight is now handled via 3PL's.  I bet we would be surprised.  And what their white papers don't tell you is that problems you could solve with one phone call in the past, now takes two.  Visibility in the supply chain?  This requires carriers to hire more people to update those websites, 3PL's have to have staff to make sure the carrier is updating and the shipper has to have someone constantly checking the website to see if someone is going to be late.  How is this more effective than 1 phone call from the carrier to the shipper reporting a late delivery?  A carrier is going to haul freight for a certain cost.  If a 3PL has to add on their cost for employing all those college educated logistics experts who have never moved an actual asset, how are shippers saving any money?  Who pays for the "marketing" folks at the 3PL's who write those neat articles for Inbound Logistics, throwing out all kinds of buzz words and writing white papers to convince shippers they can't hire someone smart enough to figure out how to move their product economically and efficiently.  If you're going to buy a milk cow, are you going to get the best milk from the cheapest cow?  Yet 3PL's who once were really good at renting moving trucks seem to think they can convince their customers the best milk comes from the cheapest cow.  And month after month you keep seeing them put their milk out for bid, constantly looking for that cheapest cow.  So tell me, how do you have a relationship with the Bishop in the middle?

WilliamMcKelvie
WilliamMcKelvie

Gotta love it, right off the bat the elog gets another recommendation. Thanks for the laugh.

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