Want to maximize driver hours? Develop individualized sleep planning and appointments

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We have been fortunate to be surrounded by some of the brightest minds in freight here at FreightWaves. One such person is Dean Croke who is the foremost expert on driver behavior and physiology. He has delivered over 500 classes to truck drivers on the science of sleep and how to maximise their productivity within the hours-of-service regulatory framework. Dean joined the FreightWaves team back in February to lead up our data science team. Before coming to FreightWaves he led the data-science team for Sperion and Omnitracs (formerly Qualcomm). He started his life as a driver, running freight in Australia for his family’s trucking company. He still has a CDL and owns a Peterbilt.

One of the things Dean has been helping us design are models that use telematics data to predict driver behavior and identify risks. He was instrumental in developing our ELD detention study that we conducted on major US cities and their average detention times.

Recently, our data science team started focusing on how appointments times impact utilization and here is what he told us based on studies he has conducted:

“Using electronic log data. we looked at the end of driving on line 3 and the start time of the 10-hour break, and what we found at large truckload carriers in the one-way freight OTR market, was that drivers averaged 7 hours driving on line 3 and consistently stopped driving between 4:30 pm and 5:00 pm each day. Operation Managers told us that the end of work day event was driven primarily by the desire to find a parking space for the night at truck stops. Drivers still had ~2 hrs to run before the 14-hour rule kicked in so there was a conscious decision being made to trade off rolling time with a safe place to sleep, eat and park for the night.”

What does all of this mean? Early bird gets the worm.

If fleets want to help drivers maximize their available driving hours, they should introduce biocompatible scheduling practices into their load planning process. Biocompatible scheduling introduces the science of sleep physiology into the scheduling of pickup and delivery times.

This means a driver's sleep personality (morning lark vs night owl) plus their preferred sleep and work pattern becomes an important factor in how pickups and deliveries are scheduled. If a driver is a morning lark then a 4am appointment time would be ideal, but the driver needs to be in bed by 8pm which is their preferred bedtime. That gives them plenty of time to run their miles, delivery their freight, fuel up for the next day, do some housework and hit the hay. Conversely, a driver who is a night owl prefers to sleep-in until 10am but is quite happy to run at night right up until around 2:00 am.

This won’t work for every fleet, nor for every client, but is useful for fleets that have a lot of drop and hook freight and the flexibility to add in biocompatible scheduling into their load planning process. If you can encourage your appointment teams to get the earliest possible window for pickups, it means you can operate your fleet with maximum utilization. The opposite is also true for drivers who prefer later pickups after peak-hour traffic has died down allowing to them run right into the night, unload the freight and head to a truckstop and find a parking spot as all the morning larks head out to start their workday.

About 15% of the driving population are night owls and another 15% are hard-wired morning larks - the remaining 70% are what we call intermediate sleep types who’s preferred sleep pattern is 10pm to 6am give or take an hour either way. The intermediate sleep types can run freight either at night or during the day for short periods of time, they just can't do it all the time, otherwise they’ll burn out and quit.

In one published 6-month study where Dean taught over-the-road truckers the science of sleep, the results were amazing. In the fleet of 3,530 drivers, 50% of drivers attended Dean’s 1.5-hr sleep class in addition to classes on hours-of-service compliance and the use of electronic logs. The remaining 50% were the control group who were just traught how to use electronic logs.

After 6 months, drivers that attended Dean’s sleep classes consistently ran 10% more miles per tractor-week, were 33% less likely to quit and were 7 times more likely to run on time and make their appointment. One of the most amazing statistics from the study was that drivers who attended the sleep class had just one rollover in the 6-month period while the control group had 14. The average severity cost for the well-rested group was also 7.2 times lower than the control group.

The same sleep science applies to slip-seat short-haul operations where night owls should be on night shift and morning larks on day shift with the optimal time for the shift change being 4am. This allows the day shift driver to get a good night's sleep and the night shift to get home and into bed before sunrise. Anytime a shift ends after sunrise both sleep quality and quantity diminished significantly, and in the case of over-the-road drivers who have to take their 10-hour break after sunrise, they are lucky to get around 4.5hours sleep during the day over the 10-hr period.

The human body is designed to wake with the sun and go to sleep after the sun goes down, so anything your appointment teams can do to better schedule driving, pickups and deliveries around a drivers preferred sleep patterns will immediately boost driver productivity, turnover, safety and customer service.

Remember, a driver can be 100% compliant with hours-of-service regulations and be sound asleep at the wheel at the same time. If you want improve safety and turnover and at the same time get more productivity out of your drivers, then biocompatible scheduling is the answer.