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Treat Your Truckers Well

By Clifford F. Lynch

DC Velocity, August 2003

Highway delays spark road rage. Delays in stifling planes provoke air rage. But delays at the distribution center? The frustrations probably won’t erupt into dockrage, but they certainly create simmering resentment. Though DC managers are quick to vent about the truck drivers who visit their premises – they’re rude, they miss appointments – they’re often rude and dismissive themselves. All too often, the result is holdups, miscommunications and delays.

Yet these problems are hardly unsolvable. What follows are some simple, but often overlooked, ways to improve relationships with truckers and guarantee a more efficient dock operation.

· Insist that carriers schedule appointments for both pickups and deliveries;then honor them! More often than not, this will require some advance planning and scheduling. Most distribution centers don’t have the luxury of excess dock space and extra truck doors; but if you schedule arrivals and labor carefully in advance, you can minimize loading and unloading delays. One West Coast distribution center has become so confident about its dock scheduling capabilities that if the carrier shows up within 10 minutes of its scheduled unloading appointment, it will guarantees the release of the trailer within two hours, or it pays a penalty to the trucker. That incentive has sparked almost 100-percent compliance with appointments.

· Be willing to take a tough position on non-adherence Though there will always be extenuating circumstances for late arrivals, the distribution center can’t afford to disrupt its scheduled operations to receive tardy shipments. Don’t be unreasonable. If receiving a late trailer will cause no inconvenience or if the product is in short supply, then by all means take it in; but if doing so, interrupts the workflow, insist that the carrier reschedule, even if they have to come back the next day.

· Establish a drop and hook system for truckload carriers Since distribution center personnel will be loading and unloading truckload shipments, dropping trailers for handling at your convenience will greatly facilitate the flow of traffic. By using a shuttle tractor, trailers can be loaded or unloaded and moved to the yard for later pickup.

· Establish a central check-in point for incoming and outgoing freight How often do we see drivers leaving their rigs in a traffic lane while they try to find someone in an office or on a shipping dock to tell them where they need to be? Particularly at campustype distribution operations with multiple buildings, drivers sometimes end up climbing in and out of their tractors three or four times looking for their destination, wasting time and even bringing outside operations to a halt. Establish a point at an entrance-area guard shack so that someone can quickly direct the driver to the right place. But make sure buildings and doors are marked clearly. It does little good to tell a driver where to go if he can’t find the right door.

· Move all truck traffic counterclockwise around the buildings if possible While this may seem counterintuitive, if a driver proceeds in this direction, he will never have to back into a door from the "blind" side. This may save only one or two minutes per driver, but multiplied by a large number of doors that are used a number of times daily, the savings add up.

· Maintain a secure and comfortable driver waiting area This is important for two reasons. First, for security reasons it’s important that drivers not be allowed to roam the facility at will. On the other hand, if they are going to be confined, common courtesy dictates that the waiting areas should be comfortable. Telephones, restrooms and a place to sit while waiting should be available.

"We treat our truckers like customers," says Buzz Fly, vice president of Patterson Warehouses in Memphis, Tenn., "and we’ve seen the benefits first hand."

 

 

 

 

 

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