Detention Times Threaten Supply Chain Efficiency, Panelists Say

Supply Chain panel at 2019 MCE
YRC Worldwide CEO Darren Hawkins listens as (from left) Jess Baumhoff of Wayfair, Yone Dewberry of Land O'Lakes and Bob Welsh of Walmart Transportation discuss the effects of detention times. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

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SAN DIEGO — Three supply chain executives said the industry must make big improvements in how it manages detention time. The remarks were made during an Oct. 6 session of American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference & Exhibition.

Many drivers have said that since electronic logging devices (ELDs) were made mandatory almost two years ago, their schedules have become very tight, and high detention times can ruin their day if the driver is held at a warehouse or other facility waiting for his rig to be loaded or unloaded.

“It’s such a major issue. We all as a supply chain community have to maximize the time that drivers have the ability to actually drive and take that friction out of the supply chain whenever we can,” said Bob Welsh, senior director of transportation sourcing and procurement for Walmart Transportation. “To be a shipper of choice, you have to be able find ways to minimize paperwork, bureaucracy, whatever, to make sure you keep those drivers moving. It’s a big issue because we have to continue to make the driving jobs attractive.”

Welsh said Walmart does aggregate information on detention time, and it tracks which suppliers and shippers may be slowing down its supply chain. That team then works with the shippers to improve operational efficiency.

Jess Baumhoff, manager of middle-mile logistics with e-commerce furniture and home decor company Wayfair, told the audience her department can, and often will, make adjustments to a driver’s schedule to avoid detention time. But she added her team needs accurate information to make those changes and to forward it to the driver.

“Let us know and communicate with us if they’re going to be early or late, because we have the ability to pull different levers, so it’s not a surprise. Baumhoff said. “We can help in that space before it results in what could be a detention issue.”

Yone Dewberry, senior vice president with Land O’Lakes Inc., a member-based food cooperative and agribusiness company, said, “It’s not a carrier issue, it’s not a shipper issue, it’s an industrywide issue and one that we have to work on together. Sometimes the trucking industry, the shipping industry, we don’t always work together well.


Dewberry by John Sommers II for Transport Topics

“Let’s be realistic about it. We have to do a better job of sharing information and being able to come together to truly work on this problem. It is everyone’s problem, it is slowing down everything. There is not enough capacity. It is a big deal.”

The panel also expressed concern over the growing threat of cyberattacks and the possibility of a company’s computers being hacked and its data being held for ransom.

The panelists said the recent breaches have raised awareness of the issue.

“There is so much data that flows within our organization. It’s vital to make sure we are protected and not only our internal information, but the information that comes from the supplier community and the carrier community,” Welsh said. “We all know what can happens if that occurs.”

Also discussed was the importance of freight visibility and why previous simple track-and-trace methods are no longer seen as a means of providing true end-to-end supply chain visibility. “For us, it is critically important, partly because of what we offer to our end customer and the ability to schedule their own appointments, and they can see where the freight is moving,” said Wayfair’s Baumhoff.

There is so much data that flows within our organization. It’s vital to make sure we are protected.

Bob Welsh, Walmart Transportation


“From an e-commerce perspective, we are completely reliant on that repeat customer and our ability to grow,” she said.

“For us, visibility, even though we are not a big e-commerce player, shipping directly to the customer is still very important to us today,” said Dewberry, who noted Land O’Lakes relies on freight visibility, especially when supplying agriculture commodities directly to businesses in its network.

“It has to be timely, and it’s really getting to a real-time basis right now,” Walmart’s Welsh said. “You have to be able to make snap decisions at a moment’s notice, and it doesn’t matter if it’s e-commerce, or if it is in our brick-and-mortar stores. Information is key for us to make the right decisions, at the right time.”

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