For this factor, we will need to turn to the shippers, receivers, and customers to get more insight. The day-to-day ‘on the job’ problems at these locations is where we start to see some concern. This is not only a problem for the drivers themselves, but also for the trucking companies providing the service. With freight costs soaring, customers (the shippers) will want the best possible service when delivering their freight. Things such as safety, on time performance, professionalism, and overall courteousness are all pillars of success when servicing a customer, and rightfully so! However, none of these things can be accomplished consistently without working together as a team.
Let’s just get one thing clear, if it wasn’t already. Everyone involved in the transporting of any single load in the trucking industry wants two things: the load to be done-and-over with as quickly as possible and for everyone involved with that load to make it safely to their bed at the end of the day. For every trucking transaction between the service provider (the trucking company) and the customer, both parties need to desire the above goals. This does not mean only the customer representative agrees with those goals. The culture of the customer’s company needs to agree with these goals as well. When companies need goods/inventory shipped, they decide between purchasing the infrastructure to do it themselves or working with a third party. If it is a third party, then your employees should be trained to work with that third party in an efficient, safe, and reasonable manner. Unless you are also seeking logistical consulting services, this is something that should be done internally by the customer (I’m referring to on the job training, here).
General Trucking Knowledge – This is the most important and yet most overlooked thing, I feel, by nearly every shipper, customer, or receiver. Hours of service is the easiest example to use for this topic. If your warehouse staff, manager, guard shack personnel, or whoever else makes the yard decisions for that facility does not understand a driver’s hours of service, then there is a serious problem. These are dealt with daily by the trucking company and will almost certainly come up in conversation between the driver and customer staff at some point.
Job Requirements – Customers, I implore you to set fourth incredibly clear job requirements to your service provider and your staff. If Company A is only responsible for dropping & hooking their assigned trailers and NOT for removing seals, opening trailer doors, etc., please communicate this very clearly to the trucking company as well as your staff. Everyone working with Company A daily, from warehouse workers to guards, need to know what is expected of Company A’s drivers. It goes without saying that this needs to be reciprocated by the trucking company as well. If both parties do an exceptional job preparing their employees for the day-to-day requirements, then both parties will be rewarded with exceptional (and most importantly consistent) performance.
Decision-Making – This is probably the most difficult area to directly train staff on. Measuring the decision-making ability of your staff is even more difficult. Problems are bound to happen (on the customers side as well as the trucking companies side). These problems need to be dealt with in a rational and efficient manner to benefit every party involved in the best possible way. Skipping an unload due to a lunch break (thereby backing up multiple trucks) is probably not a good decision. If waiting to eat lunch for another 45 minutes means that 5 drivers will get rolling quicker, trust me when I tell you that absolutely everyone involved in the transportation process will appreciate that decision.
Accountability – This is the most important area to assist in creating a consistent work environment. Develop a system to hold not only your own employees but also the customers employees (drivers & dispatch) and their performance accountable. Everyone makes mistakes. The real concern is when they are not acknowledged and remedied and instead continue to get made over-and-over again. I feel as though many companies have metrics to track OT%, etc., but nothing to track their own issues that could also be contributing to load delays, etc.
Rate Structure – Make the rate structure easy! I see this becoming more and more popular as the industry changes (flat rates, etc.). Late fees, detention pay, layover pay, and all those other excruciating accessorial pays that no one wants to waste time punching into a calculator; drop them. Make a flat rate, don’t charge the carrier fees for when they make mistakes (like late fees), and allow for easy pay calculation and remittance. I guarantee that any carrier will be willing to give a break on rates if all of that is done.
The six items listed above are items that every trucking company deals with daily. I mentioned this briefly within the job requirements, but I will expound. All the items listed above need to be reciprocated by the trucking company. Although this article is meant to be a message to shippers, I am sure many readers can think of trucking companies that could improve in some of these areas as well. Again, this is a TEAM effort and it needs to be treated as such by both parties. This involves creating and maintaining a steady line of communication regarding all the topics mentioned above. In an economic environment where people outside of the transportation industry are now starting to become aware of the problems faced each day, this is a message that I hope shippers, receivers and customers hear. If you want to pay less for transportation services, do more to work with providers as a team to ensure everyone is successful.