Retailers need to be flexible when dealing with their carrier partners.
If you don’t personally transport furniture—whether its LTL (less than load) or last mile (in-home delivery)—you might skip right by an article about HOS (Hours of Service) and ELD (Electronic Logging Device) regulations because that’s so far up the supply chain, it doesn’t affect you, right?
Regardless of whether you outsource deliveries or handle your own, knowing the regulations that affect the supply chain could give you a better understanding of why your carrier can now do nine deliveries a day instead of 14 or why the driver who’s been sitting on your dock for 30 minutes waiting on your warehouse guy to get back from break is getting frustrated or why your delivery fees have gone up.
First, consider the federal Hours of Service regulations all property-carrying drivers must adhere to. Drivers may drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty; they may not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty. They may not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A driver may restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.
This means they cannot be working (driving, loading, unloading, paperwork, etc.) more than 70 hours every 8 days. Each day when a driver clocks in it starts a 14-hour clock. During these 14 hours they can drive a maximum of 11 hours with a break of at least 30 minutes required after 8 hours worked. During this same 24 hours they must have at least 10 hours of rest. This can be broken into multiple periods, but one period must be at least 8 hours.
This is a challenge for a driver trying to get in 11-hours-worth of stops during a 14-hour work day while trying to navigate around retailers’ delivery hours.
For example, if you can only receive deliveries from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (and not from noon to 1 p.m.) you’ve given the driver seven available hours. If they’re scheduled to deliver your product at 1 p.m. and your warehouse guy is 15 minutes late getting back from lunch or something’s come up and you have a meeting and ask the driver to wait—you’ve cut into more of his drive time.
Grant Laidlaw, regional sales manager at SunBelt Xpress, a specialized furniture carrier that covers 36 states and two Canadian provinces, says one of the most important things retailers can do to help their carrier partners is be flexible.
“Drivers are up against time constraints they have no control over,” Laidlaw says. “And, the drivers in our industry, stick haulers, are unlike a lot of other industries in that they’re not only expected to drive and deliver the product, they unload it as well. Half the time they’re unloading to the ground because no dock exists.”
In other industries the drivers—known in the trade as drop and hook or steering wheel holders—convey the freight, drop the load and they’re done. Both types of drivers make roughly the same money, but the stick haulers (drivers in our industry) are expected to do more work.
This is where flexibility comes in—retailers who are more aware of scheduling issues and who can be flexible when carriers either get stuck in traffic or held up by weather or road conditions make better partners.
Carriers understand the dilemmas retailers face as well.
“There are a lot of retailers out there who get it,” Laidlaw says. “They’re understanding and flexible. They treat the drivers as part of their team. We know many retailers have staffing issues, too. They’ve been forced to reduce staff and their warehouse guy is the same guy who delivers their furniture. The key is for everyone to work together.”
With the new Electronic Logging Device rules, the driver’s hours are strictly accounted for and every minute counts toward keeping product flowing and deliveries on time.
While right now these regulations are applicable to long-haul deliveries, Rob Davis, vice president of client solutions at Diakon Logistics, a last-mile home delivery service provider, says “we see that change is coming.”
He recommends retailers look to their third-party logistics (3PL) partners for expertise and insight to make sense of the big picture of how disruptions in the supply chain can affect their business. If you don’t have a 3PL partner you should have someone within your organization who is well versed on these trends and potential impacts on your organization. In many cases loss in productivity and negative economic impacts are avoidable but require additional considerations to account for best locations to place distribution centers, cross docks and new stores.
For example, to accommodate a customer’s long-haul carrier needs, Diakon had to relocate a cross-docking facility, moving it one and a half hours outside of Pittsburgh. While the original location was ideal for access to the customer base and a strong workforce, it was 30 miles outside of range for the long-haul carrier which would require them to stop to reset hours for the day/week thus preventing them from completing the transfer of goods. This change in location decreased productivity by about 30 percent and shrunk the driver recruiting pool, both of which resulted in a substantial cost increase to do business for the retailer.
HOS and ELD regulations have a ripple affect along the supply chain, but staffing is also a major concern.
The pool of truck drivers is decreasing as demand increases. The average age of a truck driver is 55, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and as these guys retire, the new recruits aren’t there to replace them. And, according to a report from the American Trucking Association, more than 70 percent of U.S. goods are moved by truck and the industry needs to hire about 900,000 drivers to meet the demand.
There are lots of reasons for the shortage.
“A lot more is expected from delivery drivers today,” says Davis. “The requirements have gone up. Ten years ago, it was simply getting a sofa in a home. Today it’s possible the delivery team is the only human your customer will interact with, so they must have excellent soft skills, plus more technical skills to set up and demonstrate merchandise that’s more complex than ever before. You also have to find someone who can pass rigorous background checks and qualify for affordable insurance. But even with requirements increasing the financial earnings have not, so there are fewer and fewer new workers coming into the business.”
Laidlaw added that while some companies hire drivers right out of school, SunBelt Xpress and many others require a minimum of two to three years of experience for insurance purposes.
The Home Furnishings Association recognizes the importance of this issue and how it affects the supply chain. One of the questions on our annual advocacy survey pertained to HOS and accommodating deliveries. Preliminary data shows that some respondents have either increased their receiving hours each day or added an extra receiving day during the week. To further this conversation, HFA is hosting a webinar, May 23, given by the American Home Furnishings Alliance. Visit myhfa.org for registration details.