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Making better use of the drivers we have

First of all, I want to say hello to my first ever fan! I was in Regina waiting for a truck to pull off the dock so I could back in and get my load off. The driver of that truck, a flat-top Lowmax Western Star from B.C. came over and said he...


First of all, I want to say hello to my first ever fan! I was in Regina waiting for a truck to pull off the dock so I could back in and get my load off. The driver of that truck, a flat-top Lowmax Western Star from B.C. came over and said he was almost finished. On noticing my accent, he asked if I was the guy that had the magazine column and when I confirmed that, he told me that he enjoyed my column and to keep up the good work. So, I know that at least two people read this column – the other one is my mother!

Now to business; I want to continue with my theme of common sense in regards to the recruitment and retention of drivers. This subject has far-reaching consequences if we don’t address the problems we face.

As I’ve mentioned before, money is not the real issue. I do believe we are all underpaid, but I also believe that even a doubling of rates and wages wouldn’t have a major impact on the profits of the companies that we haul freight for. I also have enough common sense to realize that, no matter what I think, it will never happen as long as we have an apologetic attitude to what we do.

So we have to make changes to the way we do things, while at the same time, still doing the things we do. For starters, do we actually have a driver shortage? Trucking companies say we do, but I disagree.

We have 70 hours a week for work. Pre-trips, fuel-ups and checking in at shippers and receivers takes up, let’s say, five of those, so that’s 65 hours of driving time per week. At an easy to achieve average speed of 50 mph, a driver can make 13,000 miles in a four-week cycle. However this is trucking and there’s always something, so let’s drop that to 12,000 miles. Easy enough, don’t you think?

So how is it that I constantly hear drivers complain that they can’t get 10,000 miles in a month? Why do I hear drivers complain that they spend days waiting for a load? If there aren’t enough miles to get the drivers we have working to capacity, why do we need more drivers?

There are a number of reasons; the drivers themselves could be all talk and no action. We all know drivers who do more miles at the lunch counter than they do behind the wheel. It could be that dispatch is not forward planning. It could be that the customer is making demands that put trucks into the wrong places at the wrong times. Every one of these situations can be addressed without resorting to throwing more drivers at the problem.

In the current climate of a ‘driver shortage,’ drivers can get away with a bit more; something that would get a driver fired in quiet times will often be overlooked in busy times. Now as much as I campaign for the better treatment of drivers, at the end of the day a driver is in essence nothing more than part of the machine. We should all want the best machine possible, so underperforming drivers are a part of the problem and should not be tolerated.

Dispatchers are also part of the machine; if they’re not doing their jobs properly it can have a massive impact on fleet availability. They need to be proactive in finding the next load, so that trucks are not sitting. The standard reply to that situation is that they won’t take cheap freight, but sometimes that cheap freight is nowhere near as cheap as sitting for a day or two.

In areas that are notorious for low freight volumes, the sales department needs to step up to the plate. These areas need more products than they produce, so charge the job from pick-up to delivery and then on to an area where there is freight available, or partner up with a company that does have freight in that area and work out a reciprocal arrangement with that carrier, or even factor in the deadhead back to an area that does have freight and charge accordingly.

The world has changed; our industry needs to take a long, hard look at itself and start making some changes. Quite often we still do things the way we used to back in the day. Well, it doesn’t work that way anymore and we need to face up to that and deal with the problems we face. In times like these, there is a huge opportunity to really make some serious money and the companies that realize this and work out a way of taking advantage will go from strength to strength, while others will fall behind blaming the driver shortage for their lack of success.

The company I drive for has a philosophy, which I describe as: ‘Traditional values, modern methods.’ They now use this as their motto. The traditional values part of it means they are a very good company to drive for and the modern method part of it means that I don’t sit around waiting for loads and I’m more than happy with my miles. We also don’t have a driver shortage and that is definitely not a coincidence.


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2 Comments » for Making better use of the drivers we have
  1. DON J. MILLER says:

    l want to thanks all the truck drivers out there.it can be very hard out there with traffic. l am a bus driver, and l know all about it. good job you guys. keep up with the good job well done. keep on trucking. my brother does it in the States, OHIO. LOVE to drive. get her done. l would love to drive a rig. ABM-Z.10-4. VAN,FLAT BED,TANKER.HAVE A GREAT DAY.

  2. aaron says:

    Mark, good article. As a transport company owner I have a slightly different perspective with regard to utilizing drivers effectively. Some drivers just can’t understand why they don’t have loads that fit within their log hours. It’s in both company and drivers best interest to keep the truck and driver moving, but the company must ensure they are moving with freight that pays the bills. This is especially difficult for us smaller companies that don’t have the network of larger companies both in terms of available freight and disbursement of drivers. Example; If I have an opportunity on a load that delivers into a city that must deliver the day before I know i can load that truck back, what are my options? I can go empty to get that return load on the day required, or, send the truck with paying freight and lay driver/truck overnight to get the return load. Yes, this is a simplified example and we do everything possible to align the freight with drivers logs…but sometimes it just doesn’t work. The crazy new US reset rules further exacerbates the problem with long haul. I send a guy from Ontario to Vancouver that delivers on a Thursday, he’s got about 15 hours left before he requires a reset as he is loading for the US. There aren’t many loads you can get from Vancouver back to eastern or south eastern USA that allow the load to be sitting idle mid-trip for a log reset. Again, we do everything in our power to work around all these complications, but if we can’t pickup and deliver when the customer demands they’ll give the load(s) to someone else.

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