It is hard to run a trucking company in 2019. Over 600 companies have shut their doors this year, and plenty of others are struggling just to stay on the highway. In order to stay in the game, these carriers need to be profitable. Surging detention time at shipping facilities threaten that profitability, and by extension, some carriers’ very existence.
Most of this year’s closures have affected owner-operators and very small carriers, but larger companies like New England Motor Freight, Falcon Transport and HVH Transportation have also gone bankrupt.
Carriers experienced expanding margins across the board in 2018, and many grew their fleets rapidly in response. Last year’s strong volumes and tight capacity created an environment that required shippers to become more competitive and drive down wait times at their docks in order to get their freight moved.
This year, that added capacity became a burden for carriers as volumes fell, and companies had a hard time keeping trucks full. Wait times have climbed back up in response. Data inside FreightWaves SONAR shows that current wait times are sitting at about 150 minutes across the country.
“Wait times reflect the sense of urgency a shipper has for loading or unloading a carrier. When a shipper is concerned about their relationship with their carrier, they will not keep them on their dock as long,” FreightWaves Director of Freight Intelligence Zach Strickland said. “Shippers know detaining a truck for long periods of time hurts carrier efficiency and drives up carriers’ costs, and therefore makes them less desirable as a customer.”
KeepTruckin’s latest feature, Facility Insights, empowers carriers to work with shippers that have maintained lower wait times even as the market has turned. The new feature allows carriers to see a facility’s expected dwell times before accepting or declining a load. This helps carriers know what to expect before arriving at a facility, and it gives them the opportunity to make better decisions for both their drivers and their bottom line.
The popular electronic logging device (ELD)-provider and fleet management platform has moved beyond just helping drivers maintain compliance. The company boasts a network of over 250,000 trucks and 55,000 carriers. KeepTruckin CEO Shoaib Makani wants to help them succeed, even in today’s tough environment.
“We have a unique opportunity to leverage that network and the data that is being generated to return value to our customers. It is not just about compliance. There is so much more that is enabled by this data,” Makani said. “We think about how we can help our carriers grow their businesses, not just manage compliance and safety. This is where we believe Facility Insights, and the data that is unlocked by ELDs, will allow them to make better decisions on which customers to serve. It will also allow them to better plan their days to maximize their available hours in order to do the most productive work and maximize rate per mile.”
Lower wait times are not just about saving money and maximizing hours of service. High wait times are also associated with unsafe driving behavior. In 2001, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recognized a “strong positive relationship” between the percentage of time drivers spend loading and unloading and crash involvement.
Creating products and features that lead to safety improvements is in line with KeepTruckin’s core values.
“Our core business is to improve safety,” Makani said. “We want to empower drivers and fleets to run a safer operation, reduce risk and reduce cost.”
Makani also believes Facility Insights will help create stronger relationships between shippers and carriers by providing transparency into dwell times. If shippers are aware of issues at their facilities, they can make changes that benefit everyone across the supply chain.
Increasing transparency into any portion of an industry generally works to drive efficiency across the entire industry, and Makani believes Facility Insights will give both carriers and shippers the tools they need to run more efficient operations.
“Markets become more efficient as information asymmetries are resolved on both sides,” Makani said. “This data will allow facility managers to see how they benchmark against others. Objective, impartial data enables facility managers to improve.”