Heavy Duty Trucking
Technology to the Rescue: The Name of the Game is Detention
By John Bendel, Technology Editor
New hours of service rules have changed the trucking landscape and kicked off a trend, particularly among commercial carriers. These days, the name of the game and the latest buzzword is “detention.” At this early point in the new hours of service experience, truckload fleets in particular are attempting to reduce loading and unloading delays.
To encourage customers to handle trucks more efficiently, some are turning to detention charges, and
existing trucking technologies are proving useful.
Perhaps the clearest example is J.B. Hunt, the second largest truckload carrier in the country and the first major carrier to outfit its fleet with trailer tracking. Hunt is using the trailer tracking provided by Terion Inc., to document detention times.
TRAILER TRACKING VERSUS DELAYS
Mark Palmer, J.B. Hunt’s director of trailer operations, recently spoke before a wireless and mobile technology conference sponsored by U.K.-based eyefortransport.com. Palmer said that among the benefits of trailer tracking is the help it offers in the effort to maximize hours of service.
Palmer said that trailer tracking enabled J.B. Hunt to establish the precise times a trailer arrives and leaves. But Hunt’s trailer-tracking configuration does more. Terion load sensors establish when a trailer is actually loaded and unloaded.
Previously, Palmer said, Hunt relied on drivers to report times. Many customers challenged the accuracy of those reports. Now, he said, at least some customers accept-trailer tracking documentation as accurate. Impersonal trailer-tracking technology acts as a neutral third party, Palmer said.
“We’ve been able to notify customers when they’re approaching the detention clock. We send an email or text message to warn them,” he said. In some cases these notifications have reduced detention charges, which is fine with the carrier.
“Our goal isn’t really to bill detention, but to get our trailers back,” Palmer said. “By not allowing customers to keep boxes too long – to use them as storage trailers – we keep trailers freed up so we can load them.”
J.B. Hunt detention charges depend on whether or not a power unit is involved. Detention for a power unit and trailer begins after an hour of free time and runs specifically $60 per hour, $15 for each quarter of an hour or fraction thereof. The maximum charge is $600 a day. A trailer alone gets 12 hours free time, then $50 for each 24 hours or portion thereof.
TRAILER TRACKING BOOSTS PRODUCTIVITY
Trailer tracking boosts driver productivity in ways beyond tracking detention time. J.B. Hunt's Mike Palmer said Hunt's fleet of approximately 30,000 trailers could have been missing as many as 200 trailers at any given time. Trailer tracking has reduced that number by 96%.
“When you lose an asset, you lose the opportunity for that asset to generate revenue,” he said.
Trailer tracking has freed up at least some productive driver time by reducing bobtail miles.
“No more wild goose chases,” Palmer explained.
Similarly, tracking can pinpoint trailer location within a large yard.
Now a driver who might have spent half an hour looking for a particular trailer among hundreds, can find the right unit in five minutes.
Drivers can also benefit from the geo-fencing that alerts dispatch when a trailer has moved beyond particular parameters, off a highway or out of a lot, for example. Geo-fencing may make it possible for more drivers to visit home, even while pulling trailers. The tracking unit on a trailer will keep a security guard's eye on the trailer no matter where it is parked, Palmer said. That may or may not affect hours of service, but it could benefit driver retention.
Trailer tracking has had general impacts that don't apply directly to drivers or hours of service, but do show up in profits. For example, Palmer explained that trailer tracking will eventually reduce J.B. Hunt's tractor to trailer ratio.
“If you can get the ratio down by 5%, it’s a big hit on the bottom line,” Palmer said.
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