Whether truck location data is generated from electronic logging devices (ELDs) or proprietary tracking or routing software, there’s one location – the loading dock – where more supply chain visibility is desperately needed, according to freight industry experts.
“Anyone can learn how to drive a truck; the hardest part for drivers is navigating through all the other issues, one of the biggest being the unpaid time spent driving,” said FreightWaves Chief Insights Officer Dean Croke, moderating a panel on freight visibility at FreightWaves’ Transparency19 conference in Atlanta, Georgia.
Much of that unpaid time is at the loading dock, where delays at shipper warehouses and unloading facilities can cause drivers lost time and money.
Croke said, “That’s where I see a lack of visibility – when you’re on the dock, it’s like a black hole when it comes to data integration. We put so much optimization data into our trucking companies, but then you give it to the driver and it reveals a lack of visibility at the dock level. And I see that’s where the shipper-carrier integration is a really big issue.”
Trent Broberg, Chief Operating Officer at Truckstop.com, which helps truck drivers and freight brokers manage freight, agreed that loading dock delays are the biggest headache for drivers. “There are two things, fundamentally, that every driver wants in their lifestyle – get me paid and get me home. From that perspective, we view freight visibility at the onset of the creation of the load, or even before.”
Croke said it’s also a safety issue. Because ELDs have given trucking companies and regulators the ability to strictly enforce hours of service, there is more pressure than ever on drivers to attempt to make up lost time at the loading dock by cutting corners on the road. “Drivers have to make up that lost time,” Croke said, noting that the average amount of time out of drivers’ 11-hour day spent on the road comes in at just over seven hours for long-haul drivers. “That leaves quite a few hours, and money, on the table.”
Fellow panelist Kim Larsen, Vice President of Data Science for fleet management platform KeepTruckin, argued that there are efforts attempting to address the situation, one of them being to better leverage ELD data. “With the amount of data we have now, you can get pretty granular,” Larsen said. “While I know that doesn’t necessarily solve the issue of detention, it does provide visibility that wasn’t there before.”
The industry is getting better at fixing the loading dock black hole by making inroads in the shipper-carrier data connection, said Grant Crawford, President of freight tech startup Emerge. He said truckers are using services like that offered by Emerge to marry up data with those of shippers to fill truck fleet capacity that can be running 20 percent empty.
“What we’re doing is creating a marketplace to connect drivers with shippers, because at the end of the day, creating more visibility lowers overhead, which means more money in drivers’ pockets.”
But solving the loading dock challenge won’t happen, Broberg contends, if all sides aren’t “willing to play nice” and get to some kind of centralized neutrality to what today is a lot of disparate data systems.
However, “we’re talking about some really sensitive information from a liability standpoint. I think that’s a big hurdle that [the legal process] is going to have to address.”