Do more with less

by Lou Smyrlis

Handling the Hours-of-Service (HoS) available to drivers in the most effective and efficient manner is going to become critical as fleets head into the long-awaited recovery. It will be a key differentiator in the market. The likelihood of stricter Hours-of-Service in the US, continuing  provincial inconsistencies in Canadian HoS, and a pickup in freight activity will combine to make the need for drivers a great one.

Yet, the harsh reality fleets will have to deal with that drivers are likely to become an even more scarce resource. Consider that prior to the recession, research conducted on behalf of the Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council found that:

– Almost 60% of fleets reported they were unable to find an adequate number of drivers;

– Among those who face a lack in personnel, 42% of fleets said the inability to find drivers affected their ability to move freight;

– 73% of them had to refuse or delay the movement of goods; and

– 39% had to delay or cancel expansion plans.

Prior to the recession, driver job vacancy rates had increased to 12.3%. The economic recession and the freight recession that preceded it led to layoffs of company drivers and to owner/operators throwing in the towel. Will they come back? If they don’t, the driver force numbers will be in even worse shape. And their numbers are also certain to be depleted by the impact of CSA in the US.

So how can fleets make the most out of a bad situation? One key strategy should be to become a lot more efficient in how they track and use the hours available to their drivers.

I recently hosted a panel at Shaw Tracking’s user conference on automating the HoS function through the use of electronic logs. Representatives from three fleets – Kriska, Tandet and Concord – shared their experiences with going in this direction and it was an eye opener.

A major concern over automating HoS is the fear that electronic log keeping will result in more rigid schedules and situations where drivers run out of hours just as they are about to get home or drop off an important load. Yet what fleets using e-logs are finding is that the reverse is true and that drivers entering their HoS manually often cheat themselves out of time by rounding. Writing down that you started at 9:15 instead of 9:11 or 9:05 several times over the course of a week adds up and it does make a difference.

The carriers also reported that having a computerized report that everyone could accept as legitimate is making it easier to bring up issues of needless delays at shipping and receiving locations with their clients.

Drivers are a scarce resource and if fleets want to make more efficient use of it, they will need to be open to new ways of thinking and to leveraging the efficiencies provided by new technology.

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