How to Make Your Warehouse Driver-Friendly - Nov 2018

The American trucking industry is facing a driver shortage that’s expected to reach 50,000 open driver positions in 2018, according to the American Trucking Associations. While the obvious answer to this is to hire more drivers, the industry is losing drivers to retirement or career changes faster than they can hire them. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to help ease the tension on your carriers and increase capacity, however.

Ensuring that your warehouse or distribution operation is driver-friendly can help drivers and the carriers they work for optimize their time, which in turn will help them offer additional capacity. When capacity is limited, carriers will take notice of which clients work to help them get the most out of their drivers. In turn, the carrier should show their appreciation by keeping you at the top of the list when additional capacity becomes available.

Here are a few suggestions for making your facility a driver-friendly one:

  • Drop and hook. If drivers don’t have to wait in line to load and unload, they can knock countless hours off their daily schedule—especially at very busy facilities. In drop-and-hook operations, truckers can enter your yard, drop their trailer in a designated spot, then pick up a new trailer and be on their way without the need to chock their tires and wait. With Hours-of-Service regulations limiting the time drivers can spend behind the wheel, this can mean the difference between stopping for the night or getting several hours into the next delivery before pulling over.

  • Dock door appointments. If you don’t have the yard space for a drop and hook operation, you can schedule dock door appointments or specific delivery windows for each load. Without a clear appointment time, you risk multiple drivers showing up at the same time, which can cause significant lines and delays for both the driver and the loading dock crew. Implementing appointments or delivery windows can help you to optimize the loads coming in and out, and drivers can plan their rest breaks accordingly to save time. Do your best to make sure wait times are never longer than an hour.

  • Trucker lounges. Drivers – especially over-the-road drivers – spend countless hours in the cab. Oftentimes they must sleep in their truck. Needless to say, the opportunity to stretch their legs does not go unnoticed. In the unfortunate event that a driver has a long wait, having a place to cool off and relax can make the experience far less frustrating. Consider putting in amenities such as comfortable couches or cots for naps, free internet access, water coolers, vending machines, and bathrooms, to ensure that the driver will have everything they need to be comfortable as they wait. Available restrooms, sleeping areas, and food can also help drivers synchronize their rest periods with the wait at your facility. Larger scale investments might include gym equipment, showers, or nap pods.

  • Upgrade your technology. Delays can be avoided in many cases simply by optimizing deliveries with technology. Integrating your transportation management system with your carriers can help you collaborate to track loads, predict deliveries, and optimize routes to ensure that waits at the dock are kept to a minimum. Using technology to streamline your processes also helps avoid short lead times and adjust delivery windows should drivers be delayed by traffic or other factors.

  • Create a truck detention policy. Establish regulations for your facility about delays. This policy should include a maximum wait time, and any truck that is delayed longer than that amount of time should be a cause for investigation by management. This will enable you to get truckers in and out on time, and identify and address the issues that cause delays at your warehouse in the first place.

  • Provide backhaul. When trucks move empty, the carriers aren’t making money. A comprehensive backhaul program that guarantees two-way loads will keep carriers happy, while also ensuring that dunnage gets out of your facility and where it needs to go. It’s a win-win for any operation.

Instituting these practices in your warehouse or distribution facility will make you a preferred client for all the carriers you partner with. The trucking shortage is going to get bigger before it turns around, and trucking capacity will continue to ebb and flow for the foreseeable future. When capacity is tight, being a preferred client with a driver-friendly facility can mean the difference between moving your cargo and having it stuck in your warehouse waiting for a driver.