Big shifts in the transportation landscape, including new HOS rules going into effect this summer, require trucking fleets to re-think their entire operations, as drivers’ schedules and resulting capacity changes impact their businesses.
Two major shifts in the way freight is moved in the United States will require fleet operators to take a fresh look at their transportation plans and fleet utilization. The first change – the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new hours-of-service (HOS) regulations – goes into effect on July 1. The second is a bill that would increase the size and weight limits of trucks that is now under public discussion within a Congressional committee, with its ultimate fate uncertain.
Both developments, however, bring into focus the tremendous value that Logistics Consulting can bring to a private fleet. By anticipating and simulating how the changes in HOS and overall capacity would impact fleet operations, an owner or manager can get a solid handle on what changes should be put into place to continue to run their fleet cost efficiently.
The new HOS changes that take effect this summer require fleets to juggle schedules and take trucks and drivers off the road more often, with the result that capacity will be tightened. The regulations center around new criteria for the 34-hour restart and mandatory rest breaks.
Looking into the future, the Federal Highway Administration’s Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (SETA), which was just re-introduced to Congress, would increase the federal weight limit of trucks on interstate highways from 80,000 to 97,000 lbs. Public listening sessions for both proponents and opponents of the bill are underway and will continue through next spring, with a final report due to Congress at the end of 2014.
In the case of SETA, fleets need to know how the increase in weight and change in capacity will impact route planning. If freight is being shipped currently through 10 routes, logic dictates that it could be delivered in 9 or fewer routes. Fewer routes mean less miles and less hours, which all fall right to the bottom line. If SETA should be passed and signed into law, experienced logistical consultants using advanced technology can identify new solutions and new ways to get the most productivity from drivers and equipment.
The same major changes that the new HOS regulations bring will also require an analysis of routing and scheduling, how trucks are utilized, and when. Using robust modeling technology to simulate fleet activities, logistical experts can develop alternative approaches that optimize schedules.
The last time HOS rules changed was 2003. At that time, one of our customers, an Ohio-based food service wholesaler, came to us asking how new driver layover and break times would impact the delivery of their products. They had 100 drivers they typically send out on a daily basis to make deliveries to major fast food chains and restaurants.
The resource allocation algorithm of our routing tool was used to maximize the use of the trucks and reassign routes to idle trucks and drivers. The study created a plan that enabled the company to reduce the fleet by seven units and increase its utilization time. Among the actual changes was a 6 percent reduction in miles driven, a 20 percent increase in fleet utilization, and a major increase in load capacity.
Big changes on the transportation landscape demand innovative solutions. Approaching transportation planning with the help of outside, experienced transportation experts and the latest logistics software may be exactly what many companies need to survive and thrive in the marketplace.