Start the Clock!

December 1, 2011

Are you a shipper that hires trucking companies to deliver your goods? Are you a consignee that receives truckloads of goods?

Do you think you have control over the inbound and outbound activities of your loading docks?

Well, a lot of interesting people in Washington, DC believe that you do have control over the inbound and outbound activities of your loading docks. In fact, they're getting ready to spend the next two years taking a deeper look into trucker detention at shipper docks.

Back in February 2011, I wrote about this issue. US Rep. Peter DeFazio, representing the great state of Oregon, introduced a bill in Congress that was meant to enable truck drivers to collect pay for long periods of waiting for loading or unloading.

Who exactly would pay for that bill was unclear. The mechanism could be that the carriers would be forced to pay the drivers. Who can the carriers charge? The shippers, of course.

Now I haven't been living under a rock for very long, so I seem to remember that a pretty standard assessorial charge in any truckload contract is detention time in excess of two hours. In fact, carriers got all hot and bothered about this when the HOS rules were first amended back in 2001. If my memory serves me, Swift Transportation was the first company to start sending e-mail notices as soon as two hours passed from the time of truck arrival at the loading dock. The first fifteen minutes past the two-hour mark would result in a $75 charge.

I remember asking whether any of that money was getting paid to the drivers. What do you think the carrier told us?

"Yes, that is going to driver pay." Uh, the drivers are still waiting for that check in the mail.

Why did we go through all of that anyway? Oh yeah, truck crash fatalities.

Let's consider those truck fatalities. The fatality rate in 2009 was 1.17 per 100,000,000 miles driven. Ten years earlier, in 1999, that rate was 2.23 crashes per 100,000,000 miles. Putting that into a little bit of perspective, there were 3,215 fatal truck crashes in 2009. Working the math backwards, that means in 2009 there were over 274 trillion miles driven by trucks in the United States.

Man, the miles dwarf the debt.

Mind you, the hours-of-service rule change has still not been finalized.

If you are reading this, you are part of the choir. So the hours-of-service issue should not be that much of a surprise. I am sure you are tired of people talking about it.

But this is important. Why?

Well, think about this. What are the Second Most Scary Words you can hear?

"We are from Washington, and we want to study this."

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will study the issue of trucker detention at shippers’ docks, and how delays affect trucking safety.

"Let’s understand the impact detention time has; let’s understand the impact to which detention time is or is not being reduced [sic] and what’s the impact fundamentally on the drivers, their fatigue, and their health." said FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro. “Right now, we need to take a deeper look at it.”

And that's the scary part. When Washington decides to study something, it takes time and money. This study will take about two years, according to Ms. Ferro.

The truth is pretty clear—there are many shippers and consignees that fail to manage their loading and unloading processes. A 2008 study by FMCSA estimated that detention delays cost $3 billion annually. According to a Government Accountability Office survey last year, four out of five drivers said detention time hurt their ability to comply with federal hours-of-service regulations.

“The shipping industry is focused so clearly on turn times,” Ferro said. She also said that the agency is not currently ready to seek jurisdiction over shippers’ detention practices.

The operative word is currently.

Who is pushing the issue? The Owner-Operators are one group.

Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association Vice President Todd Spencer said “The status quo has been allowed to dictate the market for decades, and the market has proved it will not resolve the [detention] problem without direct intervention.” OOID backs the DeFazio bill.

Care to venture a guess how many warehouses do not use inbound scheduling?

rotary leva docks book.JPG

There are many. So many. Many of these same warehouses fully understand outbound scheduling and how important it is to get their drivers back in time. Food-service distributors definitely know about the importance of making delivery appointments, since they often complain about how picky their restaurant customers are about on-time delivery. But when you look at the inbound docks of these operations, at how the trucks show up at random to deliver, and at how the trucks line up to get in, you end up shaking your head, wondering if they really have a clue.

I know. This spring I listened to a warehouse client complain about how his erratic inbound operations made it impossible for him to plan. Imagine how much he resisted putting in a receiving appointment program. Now imagine how simple life became once it was in place!

I remember back in 1986, how much fun I had instituting a receiving appointment scheduling program in the distribution center where I worked. We put up signs, we handed out notices, and we made sure that the delivery requirement showed up on every purchase order. It was a challenge for the first few months, but we really did start seeing a direct benefit that made all that hassle well worth it.

How worth it? Damn near almost doubled our throughput without adding any additional people on the dock.

If you do not have an inbound schedule process, you must put one in. Don't know how to do it? Call me, and I will tell you how to do it.

Or don't do it. In a few years Anne Ferro will be sending you the fine.

Search All Topics

Articles in This Series

More Like This

 Call Us! 877-674-7495