As we recently examined, the nation’s alleged truck driver shortage may be more of a catchy narrative than a true reflection of current logistical issues in the realm of supply chain management. However, the challenge of inefficient freight transportation is a constant stressor for the logistics industry — a problem that, if solved, might also remedy the issue of driver retention within the industry for years to come.
The culprit behind much of the supply chain’s inefficiencies? Excessive wait times. Here’s what you need to know about wait times and driver detention, how it carries its negative impacts forward to the consumer, and potential strategies to eliminate wait times and further streamline the transportation of goods throughout the country.
Understanding Driver Detention and Its Impact on Supply Chain Efficiencies
According to federal regulations designed to protect drivers from being overworked (or to remove any incentives for drivers to overwork themselves), drivers are required to limit their services to 14 hours of work per day. In an effort to keep drowsy drivers off the road, a maximum of 11 of those hours are reserved for driving.
For drivers, this means any excess time spent waiting on a shipper or receiver to load or unload their truck cuts into their own potential earnings and available drive time. If drivers are forced to wait for too long it can even lead to costly missed pickups and/or deliveries, which negatively impacts everyone involved down to the end consumer.
While most carriers include some version of a detention rate to offset excessive wait times, driver detention still introduces a variable to the transportation process that logisticians are working hard to eliminate — driver detention isn’t good for anybody, and it directly results in inflated costs for suppliers, drivers, and customers.
How Excessive Wait Times Hurt Drivers
Truck drivers operate within Hours-of-Service parameters out of their own control. That means that for every truck driver on the road, time is literally money — time spent waiting on a truck to be unloaded is time they can’t spend moving toward their next destination, and the hours they’re allowed on the clock in a day come in limited supply.
Hours-of-Service is a necessary safety precaution that helps drivers in ideal circumstances, however, a delay of even an hour or two can harm their reputation through no fault of their own. Logistics managers expect freight to move on time according to a tight schedule. Frustration begins to mount when these safety precautions and detention times out of the driver’s control cost them their own money and damage their perceived reliability.
Driver performance is extensively tracked within the industry, and missed pickups can understandably cause significant ripple effects for carriers and their relationship to the rest of their shipping networks. When drivers arrive on time only to wait for hours while goods are loaded or unloaded, their hands are tied.
Excessive Wait Times Hurt Everyone Else
When drivers are delayed and can’t move on to other shipments, it means less freight is getting where it needs to be on time. In light of Covid’s lasting effects on the supply chain, we’ve already witnessed what happens to certain industries when supplies are scarce and delivery is slow — store shelves sit empty, and consumers pay the price.
It’s not just consumers hurting, of course. The increased operational costs associated with both paying a driver’s detention rate and paying warehouse workers overtime pay to complete a job can put an otherwise routine job far above the projected budget. These are the glaring inefficiencies at the root of some of the industry’s biggest problems, straining relationships between companies, customers, shippers, and the drivers themselves already facing a job with above-average attrition rates.
Ways to Reduce Detention
There are some relatively simple steps that can facilitate the transportation process and assist drivers in making their deliveries efficiently. Having products ready to load and workers prepared to unload when trucks arrive is the obvious answer, but tracking shipments and lining up delivery is easier said than done.
One component of the process that logistics managers can more fully control is the completion of all necessary paperwork ahead of time, as well as performing the requisite training for all warehouse and dock staff for safe and efficient handling of goods when they do arrive.
Shipment times are bound to fluctuate somewhat — weather, traffic, accidents, and countless other unforeseen delays can frustrate even the best-laid plans. It’s critical to accommodate dock hours and review transportation strategies constantly to evaluate potential areas of improvement.
There are many moving parts to focus on when piecing together a delivery schedule. Eliminating driver wait times is one of the best ways to streamline your transport needs and save on shipping costs. As logistics managers aid more drivers in getting the most out of their available working hours and prepare their warehouses and customers to receive goods in a more timely manner, the resulting impact on local shipping networks and the greater supply chain can be exponential.
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