Shipper-carrier panel: what’s good for the driver is good for business

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Updated May 23, 2015
Left to Right: Jim Ward, president and CEO of D.M. Bowman; Daniel Strong, president and CEO of Super Service; Gail Rutkowski, executive director of NASSTRAC; John Boyer, corporate transportation manager, American Woodmark Corporation.Left to Right: Jim Ward, president and CEO of D.M. Bowman; Daniel Strong, president and CEO of Super Service; Gail Rutkowski, executive director of NASSTRAC; John Boyer, corporate transportation manager, American Woodmark Corporation.

American Woodmark Corporation is building a driver lounge in its Moorefield, West Virginia facility as part of a $30 million expansion project. The free Wi-Fi, refreshments, restrooms with showers, and other amenities in the lounge could rival those of any commercial or private fleet.

American Woodmark does not have a fleet, however. It is the largest independent manufacturer of kitchen and bath cabinets in the United States. John Boyer, the corporate transportation manager, says that not being driver friendly in today’s market is risky business for shippers.

Boyer joined three other panelists on May 20 at the CCJ Spring Symposium to discuss “building lasting shipper-carrier relationships.”

The panel, moderated by CCJ Editor Jeff Crissey, dissected a number of ways that shippers and carriers can work together to eliminate pain points in the supply chain.

Boyer said his company is looking for ways to improve the experience for carriers and drivers. It has been running a campaign called the Woodmark WAY (We Appreciate You) that is “all about what we can do to make things better for the driver as they move into and out of our facilities, and what can we do to make it better for the carrier to be more efficient.”

Having equipment and drivers flow through its facilities in an efficient manner helps keep costs down, but “it’s also the right thing to do,” he said. The company will soon be adding kiosks in its facilities so that drivers can print out their bills of lading, similar to the kiosks at airports to print boarding tickets, as well as status boards to monitor when their loads will be completed and ready for pickup.

American Woodmark has got the average wait time for drivers at its facilities down to about 30 minutes, he said. This has been possible by pre-loading trailers for drop-and-hook operations. “I think it is my responsibility to make sure that these folks get in and can take a load and get out. We are the controllers of that.”

Creating awareness with customers of problems such as detention time at docks is the first step towards a solution, said panelist Daniel Strong, president and chief executive of Super Service, a regional dry van truckload carrier based in Grand Rapids, Mich. In recent discussions with shippers, the company’s sales team has been focusing heavily on turnaround time.

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“I think as we move forward any shipper that is not drop and hook falls to the bottom (of the list) when it comes to whose loads are we going to pick up today,” he said.

Super Service has lowered its timetable for driver detention pay from four to two hours and aggressively increased the amount of drop-and-hook freight in its network. The company has also been successful in working with its largest customers to create more predictable schedules for drivers. Its incoming orders in committed lanes are now more evenly balanced throughout the week.

Jim Ward, president and chief executive of truckload carrier D.M. Bowman, added that despite the many improvements “there is still a lot of inefficiencies in the system today.” And with the industry moving toward full adoption of electronic logging devices, shippers and carriers will no longer be able to make up lost productivity.

“The shipper is buying and we are selling drivers’ hours, and so the more efficient we can be with drivers’ hours, the more efficient the supply chain is going to be.”

Modern technology captures geo-coded information on where efficiencies are and where productivity is lacking, and he added that having information makes conversations a lot easier with customers.

Ward also mentioned a project he is working on as chairman of the Truckload Carriers Association’s (TCA) shipper-carrier relations committee. The committee is planning to release a new website that TCA members can send to their drivers to complete a survey of shipper and consignee locations. The responses will be used to nominate shippers and create a new TCA-sponsored award as “Best Supply Chain Partner.”

Boyer recommended that carriers not be hesitant to bring up issues with shippers. “Whatever pain points you have, feel free to share them openly and honestly with the shipper. Obviously things have changed in the past five or six years.”

Panelist Gail Rutkowski, the executive director of NASSTRAC, an industry association that represents shippers, echoed that statement.

“I think shippers are starting to wake up to the fact that they can’t just give this lip service. They need to pay attention to some of the problems and pain points for carriers,” she said.

The CCJ Spring Symposium was held on May 18-20 at the Renaissance Ross Bridge Resort in Birmingham, Ala.