September 2010 | Sponsored | Thought Leaders

Want Better Service? Take the Driver-Friendly Approach

Tags: Trucking

Lee Miller is President, Miller Transporters

Q: How are you addressing the shipper's concern about capacity now and in the future?

Miller: I believe shippers understand that capacity issues are stimulated more by the driver shortage than any other single factor. At Miller Transporters, we are asking our shippers to help us be more driver- friendly. Keep detention low and utilization high. When our drivers adhere to the shipper's schedule, be mindful of the driver's time and his quality of life. When drivers are asked to wait, keep them informed of what is going on and treat them with the respect they deserve. Good communication can go a long way.

We spend a great deal of time analyzing productivity. We constantly look for ways to improve. We ask shippers to be flexible in their scheduling so we can offer lanes that are attractive to our drivers. Where we are able, we have shifted our focus on lane assignments to shippers who can make changes to their schedules for better utilization. If a load only takes five hours to drive, we ensure we can load and unload the same day so the driver does not have a layover. The same can be said for longer hauls and appointment times. The more flexible the hours, the better a driver can manage hours of service and get to the next load.

Another way to attract and retain quality drivers is using dedicated drivers and equipment. There are several added benefits to this approach. The first addresses the shipper's concern that their load is covered. They get preferential treatment because that driver is now a part of their supply chain. The driver, the dispatcher, and the equipment handle load after load for the same customer, and the shipper knows where that unit is at all times. Utilization improves as loads are scheduled knowing exactly what that unit is doing today, tomorrow, and through the week.

Second, as a tank truck operator, dedicated equipment can eliminate cleaning of the internal trailer residue. This is better for the environment and helps us all be "greener." This effort speaks to anyone who has a commitment to sustainability.

Finally, dedicating drivers and equipment also appeals to the sales staff of a shipper. That driver is an extension of the shipper as we make the delivery. Familiarity with the handling of a shipper's product, customers, and needs allows for better customer service and becomes a selling point for shippers.