If you are a shipper in the United States today then you have, by now, been affected by the Interstate Truck Drivers Hours of Service regulations. Since the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) implemented the regulations in July of 2013, the trucking industry as a whole has had to adjust in order to comply with the federal mandate, and shippers across the country have felt the effect on their transportation network. While todays freight industry is safer and more efficient than ever before, costly violations of federal regulation, safety standards and a misunderstanding of the law enforced upon every truck driver on the road can bankrupt a shipper and throw an accessorial laden monkey wrench into the gears of any transportation network. To operate effectively in today's modern freight industry a shipper needs a thorough understanding of the FMCSA regulations.
So just what are the Interstate Truck Drivers Hours of Service? The reason for the regulation is simple enough. According to the FMCSA,
The main reason for the hours-of-service regulations- to keep fatigued drivers off the public roadways. These regulations put limits in place for when and how long you may drive, to ensure that you stay awake and alert while driving, and on a continuing basis to help reduce the possibility of driver fatigue.
There are plenty of valid excuses for late arrival in the freight shipping industry, and if you are a shipper then you have assuredly heard them all. Yet the excuse repeated most frequently by every carrier on the road is:
My driver missed pickup because they ran out of hours
As a shipper, its critical to keep your supply chain moving and your trucks on time. Its equally critical that you take into account a carriers driving limit and exactly how fresh their hours are. The regulations listed in the Interstate Truck Drivers Hours of Service limit drivers to an 11 hour driving limit which can only start after a break of 10 consecutive hours. In abiding by the FMCSA regulation, its common practice for a carrier to deliver their previous load, then drive to be loaded at their next shipper, only to have to immediately power down for a full 10 hours before continuing onto delivery.
In fact, many shippers are surprised to learn that the driver they just loaded cannot legally continue their transit to delivery until they have breaked for what amounts to an entire day of driving. A shipper who is unfamiliar with the FMCSA regulations may unknowingly provide inaccurate delivery information concerning the freights ETA and status to their customer if the shipper had expected the driver to just continue straight through to the consignee.
There is no getting around the federal mandate requiring the carrier to break and rest, and fines dealing with such an offense can be very costly. Carriers are required to break every 11 hours, which places a shipper with longer than average dwell times in the categories of inefficiency and counter productiveness. Shippers who actively combat the length of time a carrier is on site can greatly decrease their total transportation costs, improve their standing with carriers and, ultimately, consignees who expect their freight in a timely manner.
Luckily there are number of ways a shipper can operate under the FMCSA mandate, reduce dwell time, and make themselves more appealing to prospective carriers. In fact, many of the largest carriers and transportation brokers in the industry have developed their own recommendations for shippers, which if followed, provide the carrier and the shipper the best opportunity to service the freight correctly, on time, and within budget.
Designate a dock door specifically for live loads.
Since live loading a trailer is often faster than loading a drop trailer, a dock door designated for that purpose allows for quicker trailer turnover and faster loading and unloading of freight. Furthermore, pre-staging the freight on the dock prior to carrier arrival will add to the overall speed of the loading and unloading process.
Set Pickup and Delivery Appointments in Advance.
The importance of pickup and delivery appointments is often overlooked when examining the greater transportation issues facing a shipper. In actuality, appointments (and arriving on time for them) are critical to a well-functioning transportation network. First-come-first-served shippers may seem more convenient and easy to work with initially, but in actuality shippers who provide appointments do by default have a system to measure carriers on-time performance (OTP) and can then levy that information when choosing to work with a prospective carrier in the future.
Industry standard practice allows carriers who have not been loaded/unloaded within two hours of arriving on site to begin charging detention, which accumulates exponentially until the truck has been loaded/unloaded and departed. Furthermore, the accumulation of drivers who have arrived to be loaded at a first-come-first-served shipper can greatly increase the dwell time of said shipper, with multiple trucks waiting to be loaded with no appointment time or process to keep them accountable.
Establish A Drop and Hook Trailer Pool
For high volume shippers, the best option for reducing dwell times is to employ a drop trailer pool system, referred to simply as Drop and Hook. In this system, the shipper and the prospective carrier establish a trailer pool on site, which is loaded at the leisure of the shipper. When loading has been completed and the trailer made ready to depart, the shipper then contacts the carrier who arrives, drops an empty replacement trailer, hooks to the loaded trailer and then departs for final delivery. A Drop and Hook system often eliminates the issue of a driver being required to refresh their hours after picking up, as Drop and Hook drivers are typically dispatched directly from their yard with a full retenue of hours to drive.
Set Carrier Standards
Finally, it goes without saying that you should be selective when choosing a freight carrier. A shipper has every right to request that a prospective carrier dispatch a driver with fresh hours who can legally continue driving directly on to the consignee. At no point should a shipper ever trust their freight to a carrier who claims to be able to deliver a load faster than the FMCSA regulation allows. A carrier who makes that claim may very well be in violation of the federal regulation and possibly a liability to you and your freight should anything happen between pickup and final delivery.
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