Company: USA Truck Inc., Van Buren, Ark. Operation: Medium- to longhaul dry van carrier; Brandon Cox, manager, special projects
Problem: USA Truck Inc. has about 1,600 drivers and most of them are company employees, according to Brandon Cox, manager of special projects in the fleet's operations department. The drivers work out of various terminal locations, including the company's major facilities in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Ohio, hauling about 650 loads per day with the fleet's Freightliner and International trucks.
Like most other carriers, keeping good drivers has become a top priority, notes Cox. Among other things, that means working to get drivers back home on a schedule that suits their personal needs. "Our procedure for getting drivers home was pretty typical," says Cox.
"We'd do our best to keep drivers out on the road no longer than 28 days at a time, and try to get them home sometime between the 21st and the 28th day. It worked all right, but it didn't give each driver as much personal schedule flexibility as we wanted to offer."
Solution:Last May, USA Truck launched a new Driver Home Time initiative with the help of the Drop & Swap system from logistics.com (formerly Sabre Technology Solutions). Drop & Swap recommends en route swapping options based on real-time vehicle tracking data. According to Cox, the new system enables the company to give drivers more control over their own driving schedules.
"Under our new program, drivers can schedule 'home time' anywhere from 14 to 35 days out, and they accrue one day off for each week out on the road," he explains. "So far, the drivers' responses have been very positive. Nowadays, you have to be as flexible as possible to meet all your customers' needs and your drivers' needs."
The Drop & Swap capability, Cox notes, was added to the pre-dispatch assignment planning system called MicroMap (also from logistics.com) already in place. "Our load coordinators have been using MicroMap since 1996 to help them make the original load assignments," Cox says.
"We use Drop & Swap to help us deal with the exceptions, the times when we have to arrange a relay in order to get a driver back home. This affects only a very small percentage of our loads each day, but we couldn't achieve the goals of our Home Policy as efficiently without it."
For USA Truck, the MicroMap plus Drop & Swap combination has been a very useful tool in meeting customer and driver needs, adds Cox. "It's hard to say exactly what these systems have contributed to the bottom line because it's tough to sort out the effects of other variables," he says.
"However, we see a direct correlation between a drop in empty miles and the use of MicroMap. Inother words, when MicroMap usage goes up, empty miles go down. Drop & Swap is an additional tool. Without the system, it would be more difficult to keep our commitments to our customers and get our drivers home when they need to be there."