With the continuing difficulty in securing reliable warehouse employees, some firms are starting to take a harder look at how to make their employees comfortable and motivated. Employers are realizing that work is not all about money. In addition to a fair wage, a comfortable “workstyle” can result in the maintenance of an efficient and dependable workforce.
In spite of the thousands of words being written about how to make the lives of truck drivers more tolerable, however, much is yet to be done. Here again, it is not all about money. While a fair wage is important, lifestyle issues will not be resolved by a few dollars a month. Shippers and receivers need to work with carriers and drivers to make these jobs more comfortable and less stressful.
Highway delays spark road rage. Delays in stifling airplanes provoke air rage. But delays at a distribution center? The frustrations hopefully do not erupt into dock rage, but they certainly can create simmering resentment. While DC managers are quick to vent about the truck drivers who visit their premises -they are rude, and miss appointments – they often are rude and dismissive themselves. All too often the results are miscommunications, delays, and other inconveniences.
Yet these problems are hardly unsolvable. Following are some simple, but often overlooked ways to improve relationships with truckers and guarantee a more efficient dock operation.
Insist that carriers make appointments for both pickups and deliveries
More often than not, this will require some advance planning and scheduling. Most distribution centers do not have the luxury of excess dock space and extra truck doors; but if you carefully schedule arrivals and labor in advance, you can minimize loading and unloading delays. Some facilities offer incentives for on-time arrivals and pay penalties if drivers are held for more than two hours.
Be willing to take a tough position on non-adherence
Though there always will be extenuating circumstances, a distribution center cannot afford to disrupt its scheduled operations to receive tardy shipments. Do not be unreasonable. If receiving a late trailer will cause no inconvenience or if the product is in short supply, by all means, take it in; but if doing so will interrupt workflow, insist that the carrier reschedule, even if the driver has to return the next day.
Establish a drop and hook operation for truckload carriers
Since distribution center personnel will be loading and unloading truckload shipments, dropping trailers for later handling will greatly facilitate the flow of traffic. By using a shuttle tractor, trailers can be loaded and unloaded and moved to the yard for later pickup.
Establish a central check-in point for incoming and outgoing freight
How often do we see drivers leaving their rigs in traffic lanes while they try to find someone in an office or on the dock who can tell them where they need to be? Particularly at campus-style operations with multiple buildings, drivers sometimes must get out of their tractors three or four times looking for their destination and wasting valuable or disrupting operations. Establish a point of contact at an entrance area guard shack so that a driver can get to the right door quickly.
Move all truck traffic counterclockwise around the buildings if possible
While this may seem counterintuitive, if a driver proceeds in this direction, he/she will never have to back into a door from the blind side. This may save only one or two minutes per driver but multiply by the large number of doors that are used many times in a day, and the savings add up.
Maintain a secure and comfortable driving area
This is important for two reasons. First, for security reasons, it is important that drivers not be allowed to roam the facility at will. On the other hand, if they are going to be confined, common courtesy dictates that the waiting areas should be comfortable. Telephones, restrooms, and a place to sit while waiting should be available. Driver facilities at many locations are sub-standard at best; and in some cases, there are no facilities for women at all.
Remember that organizations that take the steps to earn a “driver-friendly” reputation will receive better service and often better pricing from their carriers.