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July 21, 2014 4:00 AM, EDT

Letters: Focus on Detention; On HOS, E-Logging

These Letters to the Editor appear in the July 21 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Focus on Detention

Greg Fulton’s “Detention Time Is Too Important to Ignore” provided a solid perspective with a number of good suggestions on how to avoid detention and the loss in truck productivity. Moving the industry in this direction is certainly a worthy effort that should benefit all shippers, carriers and receivers long term.

I would like to offer additional perspective from outsource managed freight logistics:

• Not mentioned by Fulton but also important is the effect excessive “dwell time” has on the shipper downstream from the receiving location when a truck is delayed. Not only is there an effect on a driver and a carrier’s asset utilization, but the pickup performance of that truck’s next load is very likely going to be affected. This creates more consequences, including the potential for either the downstream shipper having to replace the scheduled truck with another carrier (often at a spot-market premium price) or a late delivery to that shipper’s customer.

• On July 1, 2013, Armada moved our detention free-time policy from two hours to one hour, in large part to help our carriers recover some of the productivity loss that resulted from having to comply with the federal hours-of-service mandates. We have been working closely with suppliers and receivers in our clients’ networks to reduce load/unload dwell time and implement increased use of drop-and-hook options. These efforts have reduced average dwell time and detention billings.

• The industry is becoming more aware of the problem of excessive dwell time, as evidenced by numerous trade publication articles on the importance of becoming a carrier’s “customer of choice.” The National Industrial Transportation League and the Truckload Carriers Association also co-authored a pamphlet, “Voluntary Guide to Good Business Relations,” which outlines preferred behavior of shippers, carriers and receivers to help “expedite the movement of cargo and equipment” (copies are available at www.nitl.org or www.truckload.org). 

Kudos to Fulton for bringing this topic to the surface for discussion. Now the hard part comes — committing to changing behavior to improve transportation efficiency that will benefit shippers, carriers and receivers.

Paul Newbourne

Senior Vice President,

Logistics Operations

Armada

Pittsburgh

Regarding detention time (“Detention Time Is Too Important to Ignore”), this is what our company has done:

In 2005, when we first entered the hours-of-service epic, we installed a time clock on our dock. Our goal was to get drivers in and out as quickly as possible. We have dropped trailers from some of the carriers that we load, and then we have live loading from other carriers. When a driver reports for a load that is a live load, we tell him which dock door to back into, and then we clock a timecard, our supervisor initials it and then the driver signs it as well. When we are finished loading and have presented the driver with his bills, we punch the timecard again.

We file this timecard along with our copy of the bill of lading. This shows us how long we detained the driver as well as how well we did getting the driver out. On a recent day, our average delay was an hour and 32 minutes. This was a busy day, making the wait a little longer than normal.

We want drivers to want to load here. We have a break room and have coffee available, and we are also next door to a Cracker Barrel restaurant. We can provide overnight parking for drivers who need to rest, and try to make our operation as driver-friendly as possible. If we do happen to have a detention, we know about it and pay it because we created the delay. This might not work for all shippers, but it works for us.

Ron Hazel

Traffic Manager

GEA Farm Technologies Inc.

Naperville, Illinois

On HOS, E-Logging

Anyone who knows anything about the trucking industry knows full well that the original hours-of-service rules had far too many interpretations and were quite honestly abused by the majority. As far as I’m concerned, the first changes in 2003 were just about as good as it gets.

You may recall then that there was virtually no push-back from the drivers or leadership in the industry. I do recall some from folks in California having issue about a half-hour break, but overall HOS was well-accepted. That was because it was working and it was good for all, especially for the safety of drivers and the motoring public. When enforced, those HOS rules highlighted bad owners.

The most important thing they did was mandate a running clock. I know there are some that do not like this, but for the driver — and I refer to every single driver — this is the safest and best part of the new regulation, leaving no room for interpretation. Everyone had to play by the same rules, with no exceptions. I recall thinking that the only thing we also needed was an electronic logging mandate.

The first change to HOS in 2003 also allowed a 34-hour restart at any juncture, and I thought that was another great move for safety. I was surprised the restart was not 48 hours, but the key was that it was allowed any time. It gives the driver a good rest, and if circumstances are such that a load is not ready or a truck breaks down, the driver can take a good rest and not lose workdays.

Bottom line, they got it right with the 2003 changes. If I had to make any adjustments to the changes, I would eliminate the 16-hour exception and make the restart 48 hours instead of 34, but allow it to be taken at any time. Get rid of that silly superfluous half-hour break; it’s another political football that allows interpretation or cheating back into the game.

Just as important as getting these rules right is the electronic logging mandate. Without that mandate, all of this is speculative at best, because it’s all but impossible to enforce the rules in full.

I speak as a former driver who circumvented the hours-of-service rules at every opportunity. And as I built my small fleet, I looked the other way until I realized the error of my ways about eight years ago. That’s when we began to enforce the rules on every one of our company drivers and owner-operators.

And six years ago, we installed e-logging in all of our trucks, both company rigs and owner-operator tractors. This promotes safety, and it brought our turnover into the single digits — another benefit of electronic logging and how important it is for this industry.

When we switched to e-logging, we learned something else: how good it is for small carriers. We had 23 drivers and owner-operators when we made the switch. E-logging is the best thing you can do for your employees and yourself, no matter the size of your fleet. Those who say something different simply aren’t telling the truth. 

For the first time ever, we have a tool that helps keep us all safe and legal with no exceptions.

I strongly believe that if you are not on board with electronic logging combined with the first HOS change circa 2003, then you are holding this great industry back.

Steve Rush

President

Carbon Express Inc.

Wharton, New Jersey