Productivity gain: John Christner recovers its losses from electronic logging

By Aaron Huff on

Driver turnover reached crisis levels for John Christner Trucking after it started using electronic logs in December, 2011. When the implementation began the company had 800 trucks. By April, 2012, the software was running on all of its trucks–all 700 of them, that is. The majority of the 100 drivers who quit were independent operators; the remainder came from its leased operator program.

Jim Gomez, vice president of operational compliance for John Christner Trucking, said the fleet uses an automated load planning process to overcome the productivity losses from using ELDs.
Jim Gomez, vice president of operational compliance for John Christner Trucking, said the fleet uses an automated load planning process to overcome the productivity losses from using ELDs.

John Christner Trucking specializes in temperature-controlled truckload services. Its fleet is comprised entirely of owner-operators. The reason drivers quit was obvious. Their earnings had fallen along with the company’s productivity. Miles per truck decreased by nine percent in five months.

“We knew we would need some help,” said Quek Song, vice president of information technology.

Song and other executives focused on the load planning process when the impact of electronic logs came into full view. Drivers were no longer using paper logbooks to cover up inefficiencies in their routes, such as detention time at shipping and receiving locations. It was difficult, if not impossible, for load planners to wrap their heads around everything it would take to stay compliant, keep drivers happy, and customer service levels high.

“We had a culture of using manual processes. Everything we did was manual,” said Jim Gomez, Jr., vice president of operational compliance for the Sapulpa, Okla.-based carrier. “In the e-log world, efficiencies are what they are. We needed technology to help us to improve on the inefficiencies that are out of our control and those that obviously we had direct control over.”

“We needed a tool to help us plan,” he added.

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Concurrent with the roll out of electronic logs the company started using the Virtual Hours of Service software from Add-On Systems. The tool utilizes its dispatch and real-time tracking data to monitor drive time and project the number of hours drivers will have available over the next two to three days.

Load planners no longer had to be the experts in hours-of-service regulations to determine when and where drivers would be available for the next dispatch and how many hours they would have remaining on their daily and weekly clocks.

In May, 2012, the company also implemented an optimized load planning tool, Driver&Load, from Manhattan Associates.

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“This really focused us on how we thought about things,” Gomez said. “All of a sudden we were giving (load planners) a tool to be able to use to take away some of that manual process.”

The tool matches the loads in its network with available equipment and drivers. The software instantly analyzes a large dataset of load origins and destinations, transit times, empty miles, available driving hours and much more.

DSC_6236The planning process started to change and by August, 2012, the company was fully utilizing recommendations from Driver&Load. It also began using additional software from Manhattan to identify opportunities to drop, swap and relay loads to stay in compliance and keep its high service levels.

“Service is the foundation of who we are and what we do. To not deliver on time is not an option,” Gomez said.

By focusing on a single metric called “primarily utilization,” the percentage of recommended driver-load matches that load planners actually use, the company is accomplishing its goals in a number of areas like deadhead mileage, miles per truck and seated truck count.

Overall, John Christner Trucking has come a long way in recovering lost productivity and profitability since it started using electronic logs. The recovery began with deadhead mileage. This decreased by 1.2 percent and more than covered the cost to implement Driver&Load.

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Productivity has taken more time to reconstruct. From May 2012 to April, 2014, the company’s total miles increased by 1.8 percent. Drivers have seen this directly in their paychecks. Its seated truck count increased by 8.7 percent in the same time frame.

“We improved our deadhead and recovered some of our total miles, but we realized that we are not going to recover to pre-EOBR levels,” Gomez said.

Another area where the software helps improve retention is to automate driver requests for time off. When a driver requests time off in advance, Driver&Load starts thinking about the most convenient way to route the driver home.

“Previously that was someone else’s problem,” he said. “That doesn’t cross a person’s mind when the event is a week away.”

Gomez will be participating in a panel discussion at the CCJ Summer Symposium on Tuesday, June 24, to discuss the impact of electronic logging devices. The Symposium will be held in San Diego from June 23-25. For more information and to register for the event, CLICK here.

Aaron Huff

Aaron Huff is the Senior Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. Huff’s career in the transportation industry began at a family-owned trucking company and expanded to CCJ, where for the past 12 years he has specialized in covering business and technology for online and print readers and speaking at industry events. A recipient of numerous regional and national awards, Huff holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Brigham Young University and a Masters Degree from the University of Alabama.

7 comments
BJK
BJK

E-Logs is the best tool since the bread slicer. Now all these carriers, shippers .and recievers can not steal our time. Now every minute counts and we should be paid for all time spent on line 3 and 4 no exceptions. Why do whe have to give 2hrs or so on each end of a load. Anything ON-Duty should be compensated.Nobody else in the work force works 14 hrs for 11 pay at best. And that is without any overtime pay.

danhollis
danhollis

What is so special about the gains by JCT?  It has been a good environment to make substantial gains.  We are a small operation and have seen a 5-10 % gain  in revenue month to month over last year.  We also run  elogs.

Elogs are just the cost of doing business in the swamps where it is infested with lawyers.

TruthRider
TruthRider

Another nice little puff piece there Huff. I did love the misleading header, which made it sound as though JCT was just sailing right along just as productive as ever. I even loved how it glossed over the need for two more expensive computer programs that still won't account for the productivity loss. Well done as always.

AaronHuff
AaronHuff

@TruthRider I'm not exactly sure what you have in mind. Complaining about electronic logs is not going to accomplish anything. They acknowledged in the article that they may never be back to pre-EOBR levels for productivity. But, they are proud of their accomplishments given the circumstances.

TruthRider
TruthRider

@AaronHuff I have no doubt they are quite proud of their operation. JCT is a fine company. But did it occur to you to perhaps ask just how much it's costing them to roll out these new computer programs they're using to mitigate their losses? Or how much money 700 e-log devices cost? Or how much they have to pay every month to have them? Or maybe dare to ask the question of how a smaller trucking company that can't count on JCT's cash flow can hope to pay for all of this equipment and software? Or what about the owner / operator with a single tractor? And for that matter, what you call complaining might be considered by some to be shedding a little light on the true economic impact of yet another burdensome regulation. You are correct Huff that simple complaining won't do anything to help, but a little better journalism from CCJ couldn't hurt.

AaronHuff
AaronHuff

@TruthRider Ok, I will provide you with some more in-depth reporting. But, I know from experience that people are very hesitant to talk about what things cost but it's worth a try.