Letters: TWIC Cards, Home Delivery, Reality Check, Dirt Is Costly

These Letters to the Editor appear in the Nov. 30 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

TWIC Cards

Why do we have Transportation Worker Identification Credential cards?

The expense we outlaid for each individual was not an issue for port clearances. The question that I have is about crossing the Canadian border and being required to have a passport, as well.



The information obtained by the Department of Homeland Security in the application for TWIC has more information than the information obtained through the passport application. Both are picture IDs. Should the transportation industry and our employees have to acquire more expense to meet the crossover guidelines for border crossing?

Phillip Keller

Division Manager

Guy M. Turner Inc. Moving Engineers

Rock Hill, S.C.

Home Delivery

While I enjoyed reading the article headlined “Warehouse Services: Finding Fulfillment on the Way to Delivery” in the Transport Topics 2009 Top 50 Logistics Companies supplement to your Nov. 9 issue, I do take exception to a few of the comments.

The writer says, “Home delivery services have expanded to include ‘white glove’ installation and hauling away products,” and, “Providing these kinds of services is a new breed of innovative warehouse operators and delivery specialists.”

Specialized “white glove” home delivery for retailers has been done very successfully for at least 75 years. How do I know? Our company has been providing warehousing, distribution and home delivery services for 75 years.

Buying large consumer products on the Internet is new, but last-mile delivery into the home is not. Many new companies get excited about creating networks of providers or cutting-edge technology, but many fail to understand that the key to long-term success is in the person(s) standing in front of the customer and about to enter his or her home with his or her new items.

If you think about services in our industry, it is usually about on-time performance and delivering products from one distribution center to another or to a big retail store. Home delivery re-quires walking into a customer’s home, setting up new purchases and providing a high level of service inside the customer’s home. This is not the controlled environment of a warehouse or retail location; this is a customer’s private sanctuary. Very few service providers are required to perform in that environment.

The delivery team’s service is the last impression the customer will have of your company. If not handled correctly, it can destroy a relationship that took your sales associates years to build.

We have seen many companies, both large and small, try to enter the home delivery business in our 75 years, and most of them fail over time. The reason is simple: This is a service business.

It requires an incredible amount of focus for very little return. You must be prepared to get involved in the smallest details that could have a negative effect on a customer’s experience and ensure it is corrected before ever knocking on the customer’s door.

It offers low margins because of the ease of entering the business. If you have a box truck, you can call yourself a home delivery provider. We now are forced to compete on price, not service.

This is a very difficult service business that must be operated by people who truly care about their customers and are not beholden to shareholders or unrealistic operating profits.

We could not have lasted this long if we were not family-owned and -operated, or if we handed our deliveries off to an agent in some far-off market who does not understand the customer’s expectations.

As we like to say, the most important delivery we will ever make is the next one.

Patrick Cory

Managing Partner

Cory Home Delivery Service

Secaucus, N.J.

Reality Check

I constantly read about oil prices going up and how people at agencies, such as Bloomberg News, think it will be $90 a barrel by the end of the year. Once again, this is all about speculation — not real supply and demand.

Small trucking firms with 60 trucks or less are taking a royal beating every day by customers refusing to pay any fuel surcharge, while you folks only seem to care about the rich and famous.

Does anyone understand how customers are ripping off small carriers? I don’t read anything about reality in the transportation world, and with rates in the gutter and fuel at $2.80 per gallon, it doesn’t look like anybody is going after the people making this happen.

Welcome to 2010.

David Paullin

Director of Sales

Paul Miller Trucking

Spring Grove, Pa.

Dirt Is Costly

In times like these when the economy and budgets are tight, often one of the first steps toward cutting costs is reducing or eliminating equipment-washing programs. There are important

factors to contemplate before doing that.

For example, soil and debris buildup on mechanical components insulates heat-sensitive components and shortens their life; promotes electrical shorts and vehicle fires; creates acids that erode finishes, base materials and electric components; accelerates wear and abrasion and shortens lubrication life.

Effects on your equipments’ paint and metal finish may include a breakdown in the chemical structure of paint surfaces, reducing paint life; promote scratches and scuffing because of the abrasive effect; and require more frequent refinishing — potentially doubling the price.

Cutting back on or reducing equipment washing also encourages more frequent Department of Transportation inspections — which can impede timely deliveries, reduces your employees’ pride in workmanship, means assigned tasks require additional time, promotes dirt and dust contamination of equipment, and reduces the ability to effectively diagnose mechanical issues. It also creates higher maintenance costs, discourages third-party repair facilities from working on your fleet, affects the quality of preventive maintenance inspections, and affects your ability to hire competent drivers and technicians.

And that’s just within your shop. Your customers’ perception of you also can change to a poor one, since your fleet is your billboard and primary form of advertising. It can even have a negative effect on your negotiating ability, mean poor overall perception of your fleet in the community and have a negative effect on pricing.

Dirty equipment can affect your ability to recruit good drivers, imparting an “I don’t care” attitude throughout the driver ranks. It can foster an unsafe working environment, reduce

the quality of communication between operations and maintenance, and create additional employee turnover.

All this can reduce the value of your assets — reducing return on capital — causing negative vehicle residual value — affecting customer confidence and contributing to a higher variable cost structure.

Finally, dirty equipment has an effect on safety. Why?

Dirty light fixtures provide less headlight range and tail/brake/running light brightness. Less headlight range, even a few percent less, means it’s harder to see road debris and other conditions. The resulting tire damage and suspension wear mean a slightly higher accident risk.

Dirty windshields lessen the ability to see and react to road conditions, and there’s more glass wear when wipers are used to clear the dirt, leading to wiper burn and distorted views.

Dirt and grease buildup on steps, frame rails and grab handles increase the chances of slip-and-fall accidents.

Dirt and grease buildups also can interfere with proper operation of hitches and doors, leading to accidents and injuries.

Can you put a quantifiable figure on what it costs if you do not have an effective equipment wash program? The answer is “yes.” Taking into account what a wash program will cost the organization, not having one will increase your equipment costs a minimum of 25%. The key is to have such a program and manage as you do other aspects of the business.

Michael Buck

President

MCG Fleet Management Consulting

St. Simons, Ga.

 

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