Driver shortage solutions

There are no easy solutions, notes Ed Treacy, vice president of supply chain and sustainability for the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) BB #:153708 in Newark, DE.

He said PMA is working with members to educate the industry on best practices for shippers, carriers, and receivers so they can maximize hours of driving and minimize waiting, loading, and unloading.

Attract and retain
Stewart Lapage, director of transportation for The Oppenheimer Group BB #:116424 in Vancouver, BC, said it will take time to help young workers realize truck driving can be a rewarding career, though better pay and improved quality of life are key.

So, Oppy considers its relationships with trucking companies and drivers as a top priority and looks for ways to make the company more attractive than its competitors.

“We know there are choices for trucking companies,” Lapage said, which is why Oppy has been working on reducing wait times and the number of pickups. Since drivers are on the front line and work directly with customers, “how we treat them makes it easier to [for them to] positively represent us.”

Since the Tom Lange Company is a produce distributor, grower, shipper, importer, and logistics broker, it has always had to compete for trucks and capacity, according to Jeff Moore, vice president of sales for Tom Lange Company, Inc.’s BB #:102175 Midwest region.

“Many articles will say, ‘be nicer to drivers,’ etc.,” he said. “Honestly, my experience with transportation brokers, and our company, is we have always had the policy of being nice and respectful to drivers—they’re as much of a ‘customer’ to us as anyone.”

Technology’s role
Further, Moore believes technology can be a tool in continuing to do business despite a labor shortage. “It’s having the right people in place, backed by technology, and a clear understanding of today’s challenges and what’s around the turn.”

Mark Petersen, vice president of temperature control transportation for C.H. Robinson, BB #:100586 headquartered in Eden Prairie, MN, agrees technology is a solution to the driver shortage.

“We’re investing a lot of capital in our technology to drive efficiency and value into our carrier relationships,” he said.

“Through data science,” Petersen continues, “we’re leveraging our scale to drive waste out of the supply chain and better align the right capacity with the right shipment. By doing this, we’re reducing empty miles and eliminating waste. Beyond that, being prepared and having a plan [always provides] a better chance of succeeding.”

Better communication
Kevin Small, founder and CEO of Agri-Fresh Inc., BB #:342499 Lockport MB, believes better communication and awareness of the challenges facing drivers would make business go smoother and lessen the impact of the driver shortage.

“We’re constantly aware of time; we try to make it easy for long haul [drivers] to take the truck and go. Communication is critical in this industry.”

Nevertheless, he’s surprised at how many companies waste drivers’ time. “We still get huge pushback on recognizing detention time problems,” he said. “The sheds that ship produce, they’ve been more receptive in talking about detention and loading times.”

Maximize efficiency
Petersen says C.H. Robinson has identified two major areas to maximize the efficiency of the drivers. First is optimizing loading processes. “To help optimize drivers’ time and reduce wait time, shippers can offer appointments in an expanded window of time throughout the day,” he explains.

Appointments provide drivers with flexibility to more effectively manage hours and make the most productive use of their time as allowed within hours of service rules, Petersen says.

Second is increasing lead time whenever possible. “Short lead times may contribute to higher carrier rejection rates,” he points out. “Ideally, with better planning processes in place, you can provide carriers with at least 48 hours of lead time on every shipment. Longer lead times help carriers meet their network commitments and business goals, and it gives you a better chance of securing the capacity you need before someone else books it.”

Another solution is changing the law for commercial drivers’ licenses to be available for drivers as young as 18 to transport freight throughout the country. Right now, federal law doesn’t allow anyone under 21 to cross state lines transporting goods.

 

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services