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Home > Feature Articles > Logistics and Vehicle Fleet Management > Trucking & Logistics for Efficiency, Fuel Savings, and Air Quality

Greening A Trucker's Hours of Service

Trucking is a logistics system with shared Hours of Service responsibilities

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trucking hours of service The US DOT continues to decrease the number of "Hours of Service" a truck driver can work within a 24 hour period. This policy's intent is to improve safety on the road for both the driver and the other vehicles sharing the roads.

The impact of Hours of Service regulation, like so many other behavior regulations -- is that drivers (and their clients) try to figure out ways around it.

The problems in logistics aren't small -- logistics has overtaken manufacturing's role as the leading sector in the US economy. Logistics touch every sector of the economy-- from postal services, water transport terminals, rail freights, port cargo, warehousing to storage and more.

The statistics for health, accidents and employment turnover show that long distance drivers face some of the toughest working conditions of any occupation in the US today. They have sedentary jobs. They leave their families repeatedly for up to two weeks at a time. They have long, frustrating, boring waits at delivery and pick-up points -- time spent for which they don't earn a penny. And they face the challenges of the open road -- equipment breakdowns, weather, thievery, security, road conditions and very human challenges to cope with long hours of boredom -- overeating and smoking!


Customers for the logistics and
freight movement industry share responsibility
for these working conditions.
By mandating fast delivery times -- especially for reefer (refrigerated items) loads, they push drivers to work on the edge or past the borders of DOT regulations.

But they aren't fully responsible. The road culture also plays a role. High prices for anything a trucker needs to cope with his human hygiene and work. Unlimited buffet bars that cater to the 300-pound weight syndrome. Prostitutes. Hyjackers. Drug dealers. And law-enforcement officers who sometimes are more diligent than they need to be when they see a profit-loaded truck coming their way.

And truckers aren't angels, either. They hanker after the open road culture. They're the cowboys and wildcatters of today's working culture. They sometimes prefer opinion over facts. They like to get away with behaviors they wouldn't consider if they were at home! And they sometimes don't even monitor their own high risk behaviors.

Like I said...enough responsibility to go around.

So...if we're going to depend on truckers to deliver all our raw materials and our finished goods...and other drivers to deliver us to our vacation destinations and our family obligations... we might want to think about the SYSTEM that logistics operate in..and how we can make it more sustainable, more humane, and safer for everyone involved.

Hours of Service Impact

Multiple stops and load delays (load ready times, production line delays); unload delays and duties other than driving such as counting, loading, scaling, sorting, etc. all cost somebody. The question is who would be best handling these more productively.

Shorten Delays at Terminals

Delays at terminals -- whether they are ports or coolers or air ports -- can stretch out as long as 3 to 8 hours! That seems to be a productivity problem under the control of the terminal's staff. Yet the truck driver is stuck in the muck -- not earning a penny since they are paid by the mile.

Access to Lifestyle Facilities

Truckers frequently can't leave their vehicle at these locations because they are not secure. They don't have eating or hygiene facilities...and certainly no exercise facilities -- heaven forbid!

What does this mean to you -- whether you are a broker, an owner-operator or a food company buying or selling the cargo? Each of these items can and will affect cost and time because available driving hours can impair a driver's ability to effectively meet delivery and production schedules.

Customer Productivity Improvements

Flexible Stop Strategy and Stop Pay

Customer action can include reduction of multiple stops or compensating the drivers with an increased stop pay. They just can't make up the time if they are stuck at a dock!

Access to Health Facilities

Customers can work with state rest stops and truck stops to establish secure, humane parking areas for extended/overnight stops. A park might be nice here and there...maybe an exercise machine. Maybe a movie...some local hospitality by legitimate greeters!

Extended Hours & Service at Docks

Customers can extend shipping/receiving operating hours at docks, coolers and ports. Union workers can have their duties expanded to meet the real-world needs of their coworkers in the logistics industry. A team spirit goes a long way in improving an industry and a community...and our country's economy.

Driver Duties

Driver involvement needs to be examined. How much physical labor should be required of the driver vs. the dock staff? A little work is certainly a nice break from sedentary driving, but after 14 hours on the road, heavy lifting might not be very practical or healthful.

Accurate Ready Times for Loading

And above all...by communicating accurate ready times, the whole system works better. Communicating those times at least 24 hours in advance can help a driver pace themselves to meet a realistic timeframe. Change-orders can be improved in the complex logistics supply chain to benefit the amount of fuel that is spewing emissions; the cost to the driver in lost driving time; the freshness of food and the cost of labor.

Accountability

Accountability is best served with some humble pie. Worker education includes not only the driver, but the dispatchers, the brokers, the buyers and the sellers. Together these hardworking teammates can refine the logistics supply chain and alleviate the negative impact that the status quo causes when realities change.

Global Competitiveness

The reality is that the rest of the world is beginning to eat our lunch. And we are responsible for working smarter than we've ever worked before. If we don't, we suffer, our companies shrink rather than grow...and our children will be left with less hope and prosperity than our parents left for us.



Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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