Let’s use the lessons learned from last year to make smarter decisions going forward. Even though demand tapered off in the first quarter, 2019 will remain a challenging year for carriers struggling to meet the freight demand of a growing economy. Rather than throwing money at the problem and investing in trailers they may or may not need down the line, carriers need to work collaboratively with shippers to analyze inefficiencies in detention process. When the market gets tight, this will help you maximize your resources before making drastic changes to your inventory.
Here’s what carriers and their customers can do to streamline the detention processes:
Tip #1 Create Flexible Appointment Times
Inflexible appointment times limit productivity, create unnecessary detention time, and frustrate your drivers. Work with your customers to see if they’ll extend shipping hours to off-peak hours and weekends, when drivers are less likely to get stuck in traffic. This will help open up capacity, maximize your drivers’ working hours, and help them maintain compliance with HOS regulations.
Tip #2 Expedite Loading and Unloading Times
With the passage of the ELD mandate, time has literally become money. When a driver has to wait for freight to be loaded or unloaded, this counts as “on-duty” time and eats into their working hours. The upside of the ELD mandate is that the devices themselves allow you to track how many hours your driver spent at a dock waiting. Many carriers suggest you should employ a maximum one hour wait time before charging detention fees. This will incentivize shippers to speed up the process by ensuring crews are ready to load/unload freight before a truck arrives. Every minute shippers can remove from the process will not only save carriers and drivers money, but will also net savings for the shipper as this can get backed into the rates they receive.
Tip #3 Provide Parking Options
Because of the ELD mandate, drives cannot fudge their log books anymore to find parking. A driver can spend over an hour searching for a safe, legal location to park and must deduct this time from his available working hours. Longer delivery times are a direct result of shorter available driving time. When shippers provide onsite parking and amenities, this gives drivers greater available time on the road, as well as increased overall carrier efficiency and driver safety.
Tip #4 Drop and Hook is Faster Than Live Loading
One way to keep drivers moving and avoid long detention times is a drop and hook operation. In fact, a study from J.B. Hunt found that drivers spend 48 minutes longer at a live unload than a drop and hook. With drop and hook operations, shippers can flow product through their warehouses more efficiently and are not constrained by driver appointments and time limits, which is more cost-effective for all parties involved.
Tip #5 Use Smart Detention Management Solutions
In the freight industry, visibility is crucial if you want to maximize utilization. Detention management systems, like FleetLocate’s Detention Optimization Module, give carriers the ability to see where their trailers are, whether they’ve been loaded or unloaded, which customer locations have exceeded their detention grace periods, as well as daily views of billable detention hours.
But at its core, this system isn’t really about detention billing: it’s about modifying bad detention habits. Using the carrot and stick approach, you can reward customers who get your drivers back on the road in good time with longer grace periods and more favorable rates. For customers who are detention prone, you can leverage the data to charge accurate detention billing and negotiate more stringent contracts. This will motivate these customers to bump your trailers to the front of the line and unload them first. Either way, you’ll have the visibility and hard numbers you need to customize your contracts based on customer detention performance.
Even as the market stabilizes, the long-term capacity problem will not simply disappear. In 2018, the ATA set the driver shortage at 60,000, and predicts that number could top 100,000 in just a few years. In the event a demand-increasing event comes down the road, which it inevitably will, carriers can’t just throw money at the problem again like they did last year. We are far away from congress passing changes to HOS rules that will allow more flexibility for drivers and even further away from autonomous vehicles that might able to soften capacity constraints. It may not be easy, but addressing manageable inefficiencies in the detention is the most viable solution right now.