660 Minutes Revisited

How to Increase Freight Capacity Without Adding a Single Truck

If you’re having trouble recruiting good drivers, you’re certainly not alone. Competition for those good drivers is heating up as companies offer ever-higher sign-on bonuses, increased detention pay rates and other perks.

So, if hiring new drivers is proving to be so difficult, are there other ways to respond to the industry’s record-setting capacity needs? A white paper offered by J.B. Hunt and entitled “660 Minutes,” may offer you some ideas on how you might be able to get some help from your customers.

J.B. Hunt looked at how shippers could help carriers increase their freight capacity by improving driver efficiency and productivity by up to a third. It lays out a scenario in which a carrier has a fleet of 100 trucks averaging 700 total miles per load, (which includes 61 miles of running empty). With a 33 percent productivity enhancement, each driver in that 100-truck fleet could move 63 additional loads each year. The result would be the addition of at least 25 trucks worth of capacity.

The white paper is based on a study completed by the small business banking firm – BB&T on a 5,000-truck fleet. J.B. Hunt reported that after the hours-of-service regulations first went into effect in July of 2013, the BB&T study found drivers in that 5,000-truck fleet spent 390 minutes on average behind the wheel each day. That’s only 59 percent of the 660 minutes of daily drive time the federal HOS regulations permit. The BB&T study concluded that the new HOS regulations, which were temporarily suspended in late 2014 and reinstated two years later, reduced average available drive time by 48 minutes each day.

Although the white paper was first published three years ago, now that the revised HOS regulations have since been re-instated, and enforcement of the ELD mandate is set to begin soon, carriers would do well to revisit it.

Increasing freight capacity would most likely interest just about any shipper. Particularly as the most recent figures from truckload freight marketplace provider DAT Solutions and freight transportation consultant FTR clearly show constrained industry capacity, resulting in the strongest freight rates in years. FTR estimates capacity utilization among truck fleets runs in the high 90 percent range. Meanwhile, DAT reports that a surge resulting from the industry’s record-setting tight capacity pushed up van rates in the spot market by 59 cents per mile from the $1.67 rate per mile in January of 2017. And reefer rates were up a stratospheric 71 cents per mile year over year.

The white paper could offer some recommendations for talking with your customers, and provides examples based on the BB&T study. It’s good stuff. For example, it suggests asking your customers to:

Re-examine policies on wait times for loading and unloading. If the limit on wait time is two hours, consider reducing it to one hour total for each shipment.

When a driver must spend time at the dock supervising, assisting or simply waiting as freight is loaded or unloaded, that must be counted toward the driver’s limit of 14 hours or 840 minutes of on-duty time, of which drivers can spend 660 minutes behind the wheel. The study found that drivers spent an average of 108 minutes supervising, assisting with or waiting at shippers and receivers to load or unload. When you add that to the average of 150 minutes drivers spent each day doing things other than driving or waiting to be loaded or unloaded – such as mandatory pre- and post-trip inspections, stopping at weigh stations, and fueling the truck, drivers were already cutting into their 660 minutes of allowed driving time.

So, in order to accommodate any further delays, drivers would have to forfeit even more drive time, taking a significant pay cut. Limiting the loading and unloading time for each shipment to one hour means a driver could regain 50 miles each day or 12,500 miles annually.

Provide onsite parking and amenities or help identify adequate parking nearby or along the driver’s route.

According to the white paper, drivers spent over an hour, on average, searching for a safe, legal location to shut down. If a trucker drives at an average speed of 50 mph and spends about 250 days on the road annually – that trucker would lose about 50 miles of productive drive time each day or 12,500 miles annually in search of parking. By providing those drivers with parking or parking location assistance, shippers could help carriers recover that lost drive time.

Offer more flexible pick-up and delivery times – including weekends and evenings; consider adapting the warehouse and dock to a round-the-clock operation, if possible.

By making pick-up and delivery times more flexible, carriers can better accommodate shipping schedules while maintaining compliance with HOS regulations. When customers can ship around the clock, 24-hours, seven days, that provides you a tremendous asset since inflexible appointment times can create both detention time and dwell time.

As you may know, detention time occurs when the appointment time has passed, but your customer still has yet to complete loading or unloading, or the accompanying paperwork, for example, before your driver can get underway. Dwell time is the time your drivers must spend waiting in between a delivery and pick-up of the next load.

The 660 Minutes white paper estimates that if the average driver in the BB&T study had been able to return to the road 15 minutes after the delivery, rather than the average of a full 60 minutes, the driver could spend 45 more minutes traveling on average, an additional 37 ½ miles each day, or 9,375 miles per year. (Again, that’s assuming the driver spends 250 days on the road each year).

Replace live unloading with a drop-and-hook trailer operation.

By establishing a drop-and-hook trailer operation, drivers can get back on the road on average 48 minutes sooner. If the driver averages 50 miles per hour, and spends 250 days on the road annually, that loss translates to 40 miles of drive time each day, or 10,000 forfeited miles annually.

J.B. Hunt’s white paper concludes that if a driver in the BB&T study were able to eliminate all of the above inefficiencies, that driver could travel 44,375 miles further each year. Using the aforementioned 700-mile average per load, shippers could have harnessed 63 additional loads of capacity from that one driver alone. Impressive!

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