Do your customers serve you?

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new hours-of-service regulations take some baby steps toward addressing the effects of waiting times on driver fatigue, but few expect the rules to solve the problem. Expensive, exhausting waiting time on the docks is one of those issues that most fleet owners tend to categorize as an unfortunate cost of doing business. Does it really have to be that way?

Tom Kretsinger Jr., executive vice president of American Central Transport Inc., Liberty, Mo., doesn’t think so. His company’s corporate philosophy directly challenges the tenet that truckers are doomed to waste driving hours or sleeping hours on shipping docks. Kretsinger actively solicits “driver-friendly freight.”

“Most of our business is drop and hook, and we specifically target those customers,” Kretsinger says. “We price ourselves high enough to discourage potential customers who are notorious for long waiting times.”

Krestisnger scrutinizes the margin-per-day on his trucks. “We start analyzing at the bottom and work our way up making improvements. If a truck is sitting for hours on a dock, it’s going to have a low margin for the day. If there is a waiting time of longer than two hours, it is charged to the customer,” he says.

The next step is to try to resolve the problem in a way that is profitable for both the carrier and the shipper. “It’s in everyone’s best interests to make it work out or go our separate ways.”

The results of these practices are found in both driver retention and customer satisfaction. “Drivers want to drive for us because they know we give them driver-friendly freight.” While they offer a competitive compensation package, Kretsinger feels that the real motivating factor in retention is driver satisfaction on the job. Customers get the advantage of a stellar on-time record and safe, happy drivers hauling their freight. “We turn down freight that could interfere with our on-time percentages.

While fleet owners typically complain about poor driver performance, poor customer performance is a crucial factor and not one often discussed.

“Look at the quality of the customers you are considering. Is their freight worth the driver inconvenience and expensive waiting times? Being able to turn down poor quality freight puts you in a stronger position with your top customers.”

A philosophy like this works best when the company starts out that way. But Kretsinger says anyone can sit down and evaluate their customers.

So much for conventional wisdom and collective hand wringing – two notions that American Central Transport doesn’t buy into.