Shipper cooperation essential
At a recent summit hosted in Atlanta by Schneider National and Georgia Tech's Logistics Institute, carriers and shippers were urged to find ways to deal with the impact of the new hours-of-service (HOS) rules that go into effect January 4.
Executives from Schneider, J.B. Hunt, Swift, and Werner agreed that the kind of support drivers get from shippers would be a big factor in how much the new rules affect the way they work.
“The shipper community has the most opportunity to help mitigate the impact of these new rules,” said Kirk Thompson, CEO of J.B. Hunt. “Shippers can help drive drown the hidden costs in trucking operations by eliminating some of the “non-revenue activities” drivers have to deal with. Thompson pointed out that increasing shipping and receiving time windows, pre-booking loads, allowing drivers to sleep in their rigs on shippers' premises, re-engineering dock practices, minimizing wait times, and forming efficient trailer pools so empty trailers can be located quickly can all help minimize non-driving time for drivers.
“We can't stop the clock by going off-duty anymore,” said Werner executive-vp Dan Cushman. “We have to find ways to run drivers without stopping so there are no productivity losses. “These efforts are also critical to ensuring drivers don't lose money,” said Bill Riley, senior-vp at Swift. “Taking two hours to change a flat tire will count against their workday and drive time.”
Scott Avres, president of Schneider's Transportation Sector, put it this way: In the end, a truck driver's time must be managed much better — especially as trucking capacity is getting tighter.
While shippers are resisting rate increases as a way to help trucking cope with the new HOS rules, they do seem willing to help improve efficiencies.
Dealing with the new rules won't be easy. Thomas Marlow, FMCSA division administrator for Georgia, said: “These new rules were written and formulated to improve highway safety and save lives — but they'll also change the way the trucking industry does business.”
He said the consecutive 14-hour on-duty provision will turn current trucking procedures on their head. Currently, drivers can be on duty 15 hours and can extend that duty cycle by taking breaks throughout the day. Under the new rules, break time must be counted against the driver's 14-hour workday.
According to Marlow, the key to making the new rules work will be cooperation between shippers and carriers. “If trucks can get in and out of the dock quickly, you won't see much productivity loss on the part of carriers,” he said. “But if there isn't cooperation to reduce wait time, it's going to hurt.”