Delays, Detention, and Drivers

iStock_000039143060_DoubleIf time is money, detention in the trucking industry is a huge waste of both.

Webster defines “detention” as “the act or fact of detaining or holding back” or “the state of being detained in official custody,” especially as a political prisoner. All in all, this is a word with a negative connotation. The same holds true for the transportation world, where detention, that charge that trucking companies assess when a shipper or receiver holds a truck or trailer beyond a designated time, negatively affects carriers, drivers, and customers. It amounts to a substantial money waster for all parties. So what can be done as a carrier, driver, shipper, or receiver to aid in detention reduction?

First and foremost, all parties involved, carriers, shippers, and customers, need to have an honest discussion about pick-up and delivery procedures, including a thorough review of driver arrival instructions, as well as delivery and receiving hours. It’s essential to discuss hours of service for the driver and to be aware of the fact that the driver’s clock is ALWAYS ticking. Drivers sitting at a location for hours at a time lose revenue, patience, and most of all, productivity!

Once that conversation has occurred, it’s equally important to ensure that the drivers, along with the carrier’s operations team, also have a complete understanding of shipping and receiving procedures. Do not assume that everyone is aware of all of the details. Make it a point to communicate these details in writing rather than just through verbal instructions.

It’s difficult to manage what you can’t measure, so make dwell time/detention reduction a KPI to review with your carrier on a weekly or monthly basis. Set a goal for detention as well as a due date to see progress on its reduction. Since detention is disheartening and costly for all involved, especially for drivers, it’s important that you become part of the solution in helping your carriers retain their drivers and in ensuring capacity for your goods.

Carriers, for their part, could re-examine driver salary and add pay for detention time to cover a driver’s lost pay due to lost time. They could incent drivers that have found ways to reduce delay/detention and get them to share their knowledge with the rest of the organization. Carriers could also work with shippers or receivers to discuss potential appointment times, and the possibility of after-hours receiving or shipping.

The reality is that there are many ways to tackle the delay/detention problem, especially when customers and carriers come together and set goals to reduce the issue. So you need to ask yourself, if time really is money, what is your time worth? Reducing detention positively affects the bottom line; for carriers, customers, and drivers.

What is your company doing to reduce detention time? Let us know.

How the Trucking Industry is Tackling Sustainability

iStock_000018486301_FullAs more and more companies institute sustainability initiatives, see what the goals are for the trucking industry.

Forty-five years ago, on April 22, 20 million Americans demonstrated for a healthier environment during the world’s first Earth Day. Since that time, an effort that seemed to be supported mostly by young students and the “flower power” culture has blossomed into a worldwide effort by people, governments, and businesses to take action to create a sustainable planet.

The trucking industry is no exception. The American Trucking Associations (ATA) has a sustainability program committed to reducing the consumption of fuel by 86 billion gallons over the next ten years, resulting in reduced CO2 emissions from all vehicles of nearly a billion tons. New engines, new products, new fuels, and new procedures are all contributing to help achieve this goal. That’s a worthy goal.

To answer the question, “Why do we need more efficient trucks, anyway?FleetOwner posted an editorial back in March of this year. According to the author of the piece, transportation contributes around 27% of greenhouse gasses and commercial trucks account for close to ¼ of that amount, which effectively translates into more than half-a-billion tons of carbon pollution per year in the U.S. The article goes on to detail some of the current technology making improvements and contributing to sustainability initiatives. Utilizing this technology effectively could mean that “tractor-trailers could realistically reduce fuel consumption by 46% (against 2010 levels), bringing mpg as high as 10.7 mpg.

The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), part of the ATA Federation, offers an expansive and compelling list of sustainable practices that can significantly decrease fuel consumption, and thus, reduce CO2 emissions. These include driver practices and truck technology. A few examples of enhancements in the industry are:

Driver Practices:

  • Limit the amount of time spent idling.
  • Maintain a slower road speed.
  • Operate a high percent of the trip distance in top gear.
  • Utilize cruise control when possible.
  • Minimize the number of sudden decelerations and accelerations.
  • Use progressive shifting and torque limiting in certain gears.

Truck Technology:

  • Better aerodynamics lead to fuel efficiency. This is a result of using some combination of roof and fuel tank fairings, gap reducers, and aerodynamic bumpers and mirrors on tractors; and side fairings and trailer tails on trailers.
  • Lowering rolling resistance is made possible by equipping the vehicle and trailer with low rolling resistance tires (when appropriate) or wide-base tires.
  • New fully integrated automated mechanical and automatic transmissions have been shown to improve fuel economy.
  • Improvement of diesel exhaust particulate matter (PM) control using a DPF with a catalyst coating.
  • Utilizing slower RPM’s at cruise speeds and more efficient gearing reducing parasitic loss.
  • Enhanced engine parameter algorithms and settings.
  • Lighter weight vehicles.
  • More efficient air compressors, water pumps, turbos, fan hubs, etc…

And, of course, an increase in the use of alternative fuels, such as biodiesels, renewable diesels, DME, CNG, and LNG, will lead to a decrease in harmful emissions.

So a one-day event that started more than 45 years ago has now turned into a 24/7/365 business initiative for companies and industries across the globe that is not only devoted to sustaining the planet, but also to its inhabitants – all of us.

See what your fleet can do to improve sustainability by checking out the full array of suggestions from the ATRI Sustainability Compendium.

Private vs. For-Hire…But What About Dedicated?

TruckFleetPrivate fleets may be “sitting pretty” right now, according to a recent article, but what if the economy changes?

Back in April, an article in truckinginfo.com, “Vieth: Private Fleets Sitting Pretty,” profiled the speech given by economist, Kenny Vieth, at the National Private Truck Council’s annual meeting. In this speech, Vieth talked about positive signs in the economy overall, including rising consumer and business confidence, improved corporate cash flow and profitability, and more. Add to that, the lower fuel costs, and this is good economic news for those responsible for hauling freight. Vieth stressed that the advantages that private fleets have over for-hire fleets is that the latter’s “equipment and driver capacity is more limited, as they are more impacted by the driver shortage than private fleets.” To reinforce this, he talked about the lower driver wages and higher recruiting costs for for-hire fleets. He does warn, however, that private fleets shouldn’t rest on their laurels; that “For-hire will keep getting dragged kicking and screaming into the technology world [by regulations and market demand].”

While reading this, I thought to myself, “What about dedicated fleets?” That option wasn’t mentioned in the article, yet that is a growing segment of the transportation market. A 2013 article in Logistics Management pointed out that, at that time, dedicated was accounting for $40 billion of the $280 billion truckload market, and that was only expected to grow. The reasons for this should be obvious, as I stated in a blog last year:

  • Truck capacity is continuing to tighten due to added freight volume, and simply expanding an existing private fleet is prohibitively expensive due to the need to comply with new regulations and master new technologies.
  • This tightening capacity is, essentially, putting carriers in the driver’s seat when it comes to price and scheduling negotiations. By using a dedicated carriage provider as either a replacement for, or add-on to, an existing private fleet, shippers can lock in a rate for a contracted period of time and have the capacity necessary to deliver their goods
  • Although private fleets have a better retention record than for-hire fleets when it comes to drivers, recruitment and training is a big expense when your freight needs go up and you need new drivers. By dealing with a dedicated carriage provider, that worry is no longer yours; you can count on the provider making sure that drivers are there when you need them.

There are other benefits to working with a dedicated carriage provider:

  • With a dedicated carriage service, shippers no longer need to be concerned with the non-core but still essential tasks of fleet administration, regulatory compliance, fleet maintenance or driver recruitment or retention. The service provider takes on all of those responsibilities.
  • A quality dedicated carriage program uses all of today’s transportation technology to create a complete view of the supply chain for the shipper. All trucks and drivers are equipped with devices that alert personnel at each stop of real-time delivery schedules and delays.
  • Many dedicated carriage providers offer logistics engineering services that can help create the most cost-effective, technologically sophisticated solutions for shippers, including route optimization and transportation planning. These tools improve customer service, improve utilization of assets and can save shippers thousands of dollars.

We can only hope that business continues to flourish and shipments continue to flow. But what if that should change? What if you need to scale down? If you’ve expanded your private fleet and business slows down, you’re left with expensive equipment that’s sitting dormant along with the employees needed to drive those vehicles. That concern is eliminated when you work with a dedicated carriage provider, since they are the ones responsible for supplying both the vehicle and driver as needed. So yes, private fleets may be sitting pretty, but they should be looking to dedicated carriage as an increasingly viable option or supplement.

To find out if dedicated contract carriage is right for your fleet, contact us.

The 34-Hour Restart Rule’s Unintended Consequences

06-8-The-34-Hour-Restart-Rule's-Unintended-ConsequencesA recently released study from the American Transportation Research Institute points out that FMCSA’s 34-hour restart provision had some unexpected…and negative results.

No law is more frustrating and disruptive than the Law of Unintended Consequences. Whenever you think you have an answer to a problem, it’s probably wise to consider what other problems may ensue due to the solving of the original problem. So it is with the 34-hour restart provisions of the hours of service (HOS) rule from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). It’s a major reason why the rule is currently under suspension.

Originally intended to make the roads safer by reducing crash risk, the restart rule seems, instead, to be having a negative impact on motor carrier safety, according to a study released at the end of April by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI). An article in the April 29 edition of truckinginfo.com details the findings of the report. The main finding is that there was a “statistically significant increase in truck crashes after the July 1, 2013 rule change, specifically with injury and tow-away crashes.”

The article quotes the authors of the report – Daniel Murray, Vice President of Research, and Jeffrey Short, Senior Research Associate, both of ATRI – regarding the intention of the rule, “The July 1, 2013 restart rule did, in fact, have the outcome intended by FMCSA; that being the shift of truck trips from nighttime driving to daytime driving.” To get this information, according to the article, ATRI analyzed a truck GPS database to identify changes in travel time-of-day and day-of-week, and they found that besides the shift from evening to daytime, there was also a shift of truck traffic from weekends to weekdays.

This is where the unintended consequences come in…more trucks on the road at exactly the time when more drivers are on the road; when traffic is at its most congested. What could possibly go wrong? One wonders whether this was taken into consideration when the rule was first considered. To be fair, the report considers a number of explanations as to why the increase in crashes may have occurred; what can’t be disputed is that the increase actually did occur and right after the provision was enacted.

So now we all wait. According to an earlier truckinginfo.com article, “FMCSA Still Seeking Drivers for 34-Hour Restart Study,” the agency is looking at restudying the rule, after its suspension at the end of last year. They have as yet to find enough volunteers for the study but are still looking for those who typically use a 34-hour restart period in order to either justify or refute the rule by measuring the operational, safety, health, and fatigue impacts of the provisions.

We’ll all be looking for the results when they occur, but one thing is certain, according to Dean Newell, a member of ATRI’s Research Advisory Committee. “Regulations should serve to improve safety, not create additional safety risks.”

Fleet Data Can Help Cut Costs and Increase Revenues

06-16-Fleet-Data-Can-Help-Cut-Costs-and-Increase-RevenuesThere’s business “gold” hiding in your fleet data. Learning how to extract it is a mixture of knowledge and creativity.

AmeriQuest’s Frank Bussone, CTP, Director of Fleet Planning Services, recently wrote an article that was published in Monitor Daily, discussing the need to think creatively when mining available fleet data to optimize results…and realize savings. Every business is now dealing with the onslaught of big data; reams and reams of information from a wide variety of sources. Each industry has its own concerns and issues when it comes to organizing and analyzing data, including transportation.

When it comes to trucking fleets, whether you have years of experience or have never been involved in data mining; if you spend some hands-on time with your fleet data, you’re likely to find opportunities to cut costs and/or increase revenues. The key is not to just look at the numbers on their face value. Be creative. Explore the data in different ways. Use your experience and expertise and ask the right questions. This is how you may be able to determine the lifecycle of an asset…or the cost benefit of purchasing a warranty.

Knowing what to look for opens up a world of opportunity.

Find out what other important details you can determine by reading the full article.

Jane Clark On the Road – May 2015

OntheRoad0515-03In a twist on the Steve Martin and John Candy movie “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” my May adventure took me on planes, horses, and automobiles. Well, not exactly. Let me explain.

I started by flying from Chicago to Louisville, accompanied by Scott Marzec, Member Programs Manager for NationaLease. We landed and drove across the bridge into Jeffersonville, Indiana, where we met with Wade Bryant and Ken Baker of Century Leasing LLC, a NationaLease Member. We discussed the recent Maintenance Managers Meeting and the upcoming Annual Meeting in Washington DC on September 20-21, as well as the upcoming Sales Meeting in November in Fort Lauderdale. We also got a tour of the new state-of-the-art addition to their shop, which adds the capability to repair CNG units.

The four of us got in Ken’s truck to go to lunch, but first, we made a detour into Churchill Downs. Ken had acquired a pass that let us into the stable area and they had heard that American Pharaoh had been at the track earlier in the day, so we drove around looking for his stable. We found the stable, but an armed guard informed us that American Pharaoh, was “not available” at that time, so I don’t have a photo to share. Of course, we had to at least take a picture of the stable!

We continued toward downtown Louisville, with Ken and Wade giving us the guided tour, and ended up at 4th Street. This pedestrian-only street is a couple of blocks of all kinds of entertainment, from bowling alleys to restaurants, with a stage set up in the middle to host live concerts. After a great lunch, Scott and I continued our journey east to Lexington, just in time to encounter a downpour that followed us intermittently the whole way.

OntheRoad0515-02We arrived in Lexington mid-afternoon, so after a few hours of catching up on e-mails and phone calls, Scott and I met up again for dinner. Palmer’s was next door to the hotel and had outdoor seating, so we decided to give it a try despite the black clouds overhead. We found a table on the patio overlooking a pond and were soon joined by a brood of baby ducks and their mother. They weren’t fazed by the rain that started to fall, and neither were we, thanks to the awning overhead. Later that night, just around dusk, a beautiful double rainbow filled the sky and even made the next morning’s local news.

The next morning, we drove over to Worldwide Equipment Leasing, Inc., a NationaLease Member, to meet with Dan Dennis, David Foster, and Mark Hamilton. We spent the morning going through a presentation on all of the NationaLease programs, including Reciprocal Service, our Supply Management programs, National Accounts, and our education programs. We talked about NationaLease insurance programs, including our point-of-sale rental insurance, the new NationaLease Emergency Services and Fuel Directory app, NationaLease Road Rescue, our 24/7/365 emergency breakdown service, and the new NationaLease Fleet 20/20, a Web portal that will allow our customers to view and manage their fleet through an online platform. We also discussed the upcoming Introduction to Full Service Leasing seminar that will be held in Lisle, IL on June 17-18. Most importantly, we learned a lot about Worldwide’s business and the tremendous service they provide to their customers.

As we left Worldwide, we had a few extra hours before we had to be back in Louisville for our flight home, so we decided to take the scenic route. There are basically two things on the road between Louisville and Lexington: horse farms, and bourbon distilleries. The horse farms are spectacularly outfitted with stables that we frequently mistook for mansions, miles of wooden fences over rolling hills, and impressive stone and wrought iron entrance gates proudly displaying the name of the farm. It is a beautiful drive, especially at this time of year when everything is green and blooming. We passed a sign for a town called Midway, and I remembered that Wade and Ken had mentioned it the day before. We turned down the road and found ourselves in an historic downtown filled with local shops, cozy tea rooms, restaurants, and beautiful local architecture. Historic Midway was the first town in Kentucky founded by a railroad, but the town’s history began long before that when the area was inhabited by Indian Mound Builders. Two large Indian mounds have been identified on farms near Midway, as well as several smaller such structures in the outlying areas where they still exist today. We had a bite to eat there before we got back on the road to Louisville. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to take in one of the many distillery tours offered on the Bourbon Trail. We will have to save that for our next trip to Kentucky!

We arrived in Chicago late that night, but my road trip wasn’t over yet. The next morning, Kelly Kordowski, Member Services Advocate for NationaLease, joined me for the next leg of my journey, as we drove west from Chicago headed for Des Moines. I wish I could share some exciting details of the five hour drive, but honestly, there is not a lot to see on that route. Once you leave the Chicago suburbs, the landscape of corn and soybean fields doesn’t vary much for the next few hours. Along Interstate 80, you do pass Iowa 80, the world’s largest truck stop! We did find one hidden treasure on the way. We were ready to stop for lunch as we approached Grinnell, Iowa. Kelly pulled out her phone and found reviews and directions to The Prairie Canary in downtown Grinnell. It was definitely worth the short detour! Situated in an historic building, the Prairie Canary takes pride in serving locally grown food and using local artisans for everything from hand-thrown plates and bowls, to the handcrafted hickory tables. Not to mention, the food was delicious!

OntheRoad0515-01From Grinnell, it was just a short drive to Des Moines, where we were excited to join a few other NationaLease staff including Dean Vicha, Joe Gallick, Terry Kletting, and Mark Joyce, to attend the celebration of Brown NationaLease’s 75th anniversary. The over 500 friends, family, customers, and business associates in attendance were welcomed by two vintage trucks parked at the entrance of the Marriott, then treated to food and drink, live music, and a presentation on the history of Brown NationaLease. The presentation began with a welcome from the Governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad. A slideshow then took the attendees through the past 75 years, from the time that R.A. Brown started the company in 1940 to the operation of 3,900 vehicles from 20 locations today. Dean Vicha, President of NationaLease, presented Tom Brown with a plaque commemorating the 75 years in business. Brown was one of the seventeen founding members of NationaLease, and the only one still part of the NationaLease system. It was a great night to celebrate the tremendous success of one of our first members! For more on the history of NationaLease, click here.

The next morning, Kelly headed to the airport for an early flight, and I kept going west to Omaha, where I met with Ryan Peterson and Steve Bishop of Truck Center Companies, a NationaLease Member. Ryan, Steve, and I spent some time reviewing the many purchasing programs NationaLease has available to our members. We provide them with the ability to purchase from the top vendors in the industry so that they can maintain their vehicles with the best available products and keep their customers on the road with the least amount of downtime possible. I also showed them a few additional resources on our Website, which is filled with information for members and customers alike.

Planes? Check. Automobiles? Check. Horses? Well, kind of. I didn’t actually use any horses for transportation on this trip, but it made me think about the various modes of transportation that we all rely on. Looking back at the history of NationaLease, some of our member companies got their start leasing horses and buggies. Today, our members lease some of the most technologically advanced pieces of equipment on the road. Regardless of the mode of transportation, NationaLease and our members’ commitment to providing the highest level of service to our customers has remained constant for nearly a century. I, for one, am glad we no longer rely on horses to get around. My road trips would certainly take a lot longer, even if American Pharaoh was available.

4 Game-Changing Technologies to Help Optimize Fleet Operations

Truck05Technology is affecting every aspect of the trucking industry; carriers that know how to use technology to optimize their fleet operations will be ahead of the pack.

Fleets have been using the latest fuel-efficient technologies to get better mileage out of their trucks; but the ELD mandate and other potential regulations make it clear that the “tech effect” is about a lot more than just reducing fuel costs…it’s about improving overall carrier operations.

In April of this year, ALK’s Transportation Technology Summit took place in Princeton, NJ, giving trucking fleet representatives a chance to see and hear about the latest advances in truck technology, and attendees weren’t disappointed. An article on truckinginfo.com details four presentations from the Summit that show how these new technologies can really make a difference in fleet performance

In-Cab Navigation – Finding the best route to the final destination; a route that saves both time and fuel costs is essential to a fleet’s profitability. There are a number of navigation tools available on the market with a range of capabilities. Fleet managers need to evaluate the benefits of each before making a decision.

Trailer Tracking – Keeping trailers moving is also essential to showing a positive bottom line. Knowing where every trailer is at any given time allows carriers to limit detention by being able to turn those trailers around quickly after they’ve been unloaded.

In-Cab Video – We’re not talking about home movies or catching up on your DVR. The technology discussed here was about in-cab videos that will show a driver’s actions or reactions once a collision avoidance system (lane assist, adaptive cruise control, etc.) is triggered. This will help companies educate their drivers and reduce their risk score. It could also become a factor in the company’s training procedures.

Improved Driver Hiring – One of the major concerns in our industry is finding qualified drivers and keeping them, so anything that can contribute to the success of these goals is welcome, especially at a time when the demographics have changed drastically. Younger applicants need a different type of training video and program than did past drivers. The new software solutions utilize a wide range of data to come up with the best hiring and training options. The article cites one company executive who indicated that the software “has helped improve graduation rates… The company’s current turnover is 61.7%, down from the mid-70s range.”

Technology is always moving forward; so many of the providers and their customers that attended the Summit are looking for new ways to utilize the technology to improve performance overall.

Read the full article for more details on the providers and customers of these game-changing technologies.

Trucking is the Freight Transportation Winner

Truck04In 2014, trucking generated more than $700 billion in revenue, according to an ATA report.

Freight volumes have been on a substantial growth path and it looks as though the trucking industry has picked up the bulk of it, according to the American Trucking Trends report from the American Trucking Associations. And when you combine higher freight volumes with tighter capacity and lower fuel costs, you’re looking at a great year for those in the trucking business.

Here are the stats, according to the truckinginfo.com article. The industry:

  • Moved 9.96 billion tons of freight: that’s nearly 69% of all domestic freight
  • Logged 168.4 billion miles in 2013
  • Employs more than 7 million people, including 3.4 million drivers

It’s clear how important our industry is to the transportation needs of North America, and we don’t anticipate a lessening of that importance any time soon. Imagine what 2015 will bring!

Has this year exceeded your projections?

Where the Rubber Meets the Road – Why Tires Fail

Truck03It’s not too much speed that may cause tire failure; it’s likely too little inflation.

Those in the commercial trucking industry are all too aware that tires are huge cost centers for fleets; in fact, they’re among the top three or four cost centers, according to a May truckinginfo.com article. So keeping those tires in good condition is vital to a fleet’s positive balance sheet. So why do tires fail or wear out too soon? Since last week was National Tire Safety Week, this seems like a good topic to discuss and to clarify.

In early April, truckinginfo.com ran a story, “Too Fast for Your Tires?” that dealt with the perception on the part of the press, and often the public, that driving too fast is a major reason why tires fail. I would recommend reading the article, which goes into great detail on one of the actual reasons why tires may fail. In many cases, it has more to do with maintenance than speed. As the article notes, almost all North American on-highway truck tires are rated for 75 mph, and most trucks are probably not going to exceed that speed. But when it comes to maintenance, specifically proper tire inflation, the numbers are not good. According to the article’s author, Jim Park, Equipment Editor for Heavy Duty Trucking, a TMC study found that only 44% of tires were within +/- 5 psi of target pressure. Park also notes that an earlier article he wrote concerning inflation pressure in steer tires received a large volume of comments; and those comments clearly indicated that readers (and quite possibly, drivers) were not aware that a maximum load would require elevated pressure in the tire. When many of us hear statistics like 40% of tires are underinflated, we correlate that to the targeted pressures set by the fleet manager.  The big concern is the weight each tire will carry and setting the pressure for that tire to the manufacturer’s recommendation. This can be significantly different than the fleets standard tire pressures. As fleet managers we like to standardize as much as possible, however we need to be cognizant of each tires application, load, and speed to ensure it is within the recommended limits. If not the consequences can be alarming.

There’s another component that needs to be considered when replacing tires – especially steer tires. Does the tire rating meet the minimum required axle rating? An example is a vehicle with a 12,000 lb. front axle using G-rated LP22.5 tires which could have a 6,100 lb. single load capacity. Put that same tire on a 13,200 front axle and the tire is overloaded. An (H rated) tire or even a larger tire size may be needed to meet the axle capacity. Again, we like to standardize tire inventory whenever possible but be sure the tire weight rating and the tire pressure meet the load and capacity for the application.  It is important to make sure the technicians installing replacement tires confirm the tires being installed meet the axle rating.

Regardless of whether it’s a matter of over- or under-inflation, or ply rating, make sure your maintenance team is performing regular maintenance on all of your fleet’s tires.

Discover how contract maintenance can help you keep your fleet in optimal shape.

Technology a Key Focus for Trucking According to Industry CIOs

ALKThree NationaLease members participate in a panel discussion on technology at the ALK Transportation Technology Summit.

Whether its analytics, gamification, or strategies; technology is playing a major role in the trucking industry. Earlier this month, at the ALK Transportation Technology Summit in Princeton, NJ, CIOs from three NationaLease member companies spoke to that topic. John Pappe, Vice President of Technology at Roehl Transport; John Reed, CIO at Aim NationaLease; and, Tom Benusa, CIO of Transport America, part of TFI Holdings, were part of a panel discussing what CIOs in the trucking industry want from technology. TruckingInfo.com reported on the panel discussion.

Read the full article.

Image source: ALK Twitter photo