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Talking up port traffic


MONTREAL, Que. — Drayage drivers working the Port of Montreal (PoM) rely heavily on dispatchers for real-time traffic conditions there. If available, however, they would happily receive this information via smartphone applications too.

This was one of the findings of a study issued this October, commissioned by The Asia Pacific Gateway Skills Table and Montreal Port Authority (MPA). Titled Port of Montreal Drayage: Labour Profile & Communications Study, it presents detailed survey results on drayage drivers, including age and income, the communication tools they use, and those they would prefer to use more.

The study sought to better understand the drayage sector at the port, and to get a better understanding of how to improve practices; ie., reduce idling time, namely through better and more acceptable communications strategies. The ultimate goal was to identify measures that will help the MPA reduce greenhouse gas emissions from trucks.

R.A. Malatest & Associates carried out the study. The company came away with 413 completed drayage driver surveys and 32 surveys from drayage employers.

On the driver demographics side, 97% are male, their average age is 46.2 years, 51% speak French and a third have high school diplomas. Sixty-four per cent work for a trucking company and 32% are owner/operators. They have an average of 10.8 years of experience and their average length of employment with their current company is 7.8 years.

Although drivers over 30 reported relying on CB radio and dispatchers a lot more than the under 30 crowd to get information, many of them would drop these options like hot potatoes if they could.

Looking at what drivers currently use, and what they would prefer to use, dispatcher and CB use would plummet, and smartphone apps would skyrocket; ie., from just 8% now to 44% in the 30-44 year old group. Lest one think that the over 55 crowd would hang on to CB for dear life, use of CB by that age group would drop by half, and the use of an app would jump from 5% now to 24%, given the chance. The under-30 crowd were least likely to use the CB, and much more likely to be use GPS already, and to continue using it. Of note, all the drivers over 30, on average, are, and would, pretty much pan GPS; usage hovers around just 6%. There was a fair bit of interest in getting port traffic condition usage over public radio.

The study revealed that 81% of employers think getting real-time port traffic information is important. Sixty-four per cent of them relay traffic and port condition information to their drivers. This is an important service, it would seem, considering that the study revealed that half of drivers never or rarely check traffic and port conditions before their trips, and that 58% are not aware that this information is on the PoM Web site. (The only information on the PoM Web site I could find were traffic cams. In the Business/Information for Truckers section there is nothing visible, although perhaps something may be stashed in a password-protected area).

Some respondents suggested that the PoM Web site needs more traffic cams, and that wait times, not currently available, would be useful. One respondent suggested that a map feature that showed problem areas, including if the train is blocking the port road, would help inform them whether they should delay trips to the port.

Some respondents expressed a desire for passive methods of receiving traffic condition information; ie., e-mail or SMS alerts via smartphone. The study notes that the Truck Appointment System used by the Port of New Bedford in Massachusetts uses web-based text messages, e-mail notifications and estimated truck time arrivals.

Although presented in some detail in the study, the conclusions reiterated some of the more important findings: Traffic and port information is crucial to efficient drayage trucking operations. Employers think the information is very important, yet quite a few think that getting this information is the driver’s responsibility.

Too, the study concluded that few drivers are aware of traffic information available on the PoM Web site.

When developing communications tools for sending information to drivers and dispatchers, the study authors recommend a combination of passive and active methods. The PoM Web site information should be “deepened” and the location of the information made more prominent. The authors also recommend developing a communications strategy to make drivers and employers more aware of the available resources.

The fastest way to obtain the study is with an Internet search of the title. The study contains a lot of driver information, as well as the titles and where to locate a number of traffic studies, for those wishing to drill deeper into the topic.


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