New hours of service have been a benefit for private fleet operations, with driving time increasing from 10 hours to 11. Where it might hurt is in reduction of driving time for the company's outsourced transportation, if the dedicated carriers have to pass increased costs back to the customer.
As the logistics manager for a major utility notes, there are great advantages to operating in a controlled environment. “We own the warehouses, all of the major distribution centers and have a private fleet,” the manager notes. “We own every building and work center we go to and have the keys to all of them, so some of the things that are problems for other industries aren't a problem for us.”
The utility has a huge private fleet, including a logistics division with 1,000 delivery vehicles for both pickup & delivery and line haul. It also has a fleet of 57,000 service vehicles, and additionally, it uses a blend of private, third-party for-hire carriers and dedicated trucking to service its 10 strategically located distribution centers, nationwide.
“We know where the drivers are going the next day,” the utility's logistics manager points out. “We know the locations and the people at the delivery site on a first name basis. We know what time deliveries will be made.”
A large fleet and facilities scattered around the country do pose some problems for logistics operations. There are 100 dedicated flatbed trailers that are used in a drop-and-hook operation. The flatbeds aren't coming back to their originating terminals, ending up in different yards around the country. If a trailer is left in another yard, local mechanics don't work on it because it's not domiciled there. As a result, maintenance isn't happening and licenses are expiring.
To solve the problem, logistics management has been looking at battery-operated global positioning system (GPS) technology for untethered trailers. The utility uses Qualcomm GPS units for its 57,000 service vehicles.
As with other operators of private fleets, they must prove their worth every day. As the logistics manager says, “I tell the drivers the best job security is an efficient operation, so it is incumbent on them to do two things: work safely and work efficiently. Logistics isn't rocket science. I tell local terminal managers to get the shipment to customers on time, to the right building, to the right person in that building, undamaged — and do it safely.”
Keeping track of your hours
Software providers are offering means for tracking and managing time spent in moving shipments from one point to another, particularly important in avoiding increased charges based on driver time used. As drivers spend time waiting for loading and unloading at customer facilities, costs for time lost are passed back by carriers to shippers. Here are two solutions available for private fleets or any carriers in need of monitoring driver time.
In reaction to the new hours of service (HOS) rules, TMW Systems Inc. (www.tmwsystems.com) has added Detention Tracking to its TMWSuite enterprise offering. The tracking feature automatically notifies dispatch and customers when a truck is being detained. If contracts permit, detention time charges are automatically billed where warranted. Reports generated aid in comparing charges and costs throughout the customer base. Neither carriers nor customers want additional charges for detention, so the carrier can work with customers, demonstrating reasons for extra charges in the hope that they may be eliminated through more efficient loading and unloading.
Web Scheduler from Logistics Management Solutions (www.lmslogistics.com) allows shippers to track carrier arrival and departure times, and to compare scheduled and actual time used to load. It is highly scalable, being able to track inbound and outbound shipments for one or many manufacturing facilities, distribution centers and warehouses. Web-based, current data is visible to all authorized personnel, whether carrier, customer or facility manager.
Motoring for the future
Carriers — whether private or not — are going to have to meet tough U.S. Environ- mental Protection Agency engine standards for on-highway trucks by 2007. Though aware of changing requirements, the trucking industry has not rushed to purchase new engines, apparently waiting until new offerings prove themselves.
Caterpillar Inc. has committed to delivering demonstration engines that meet new performance and emissions standards by mid-2005. The manufacturer intends to do so by employing its ACERT combustion technology.
Combining Caterpillar's electronics, fuel injection and combustion technology, ACERT reduces emissions at the point of combustion.
Richard Thompson, group president for Caterpillar's engine division, explains the company's reason for producing engines for evaluation in 2005. “It is critical for truck fleets and owner operators who must gain comfort with engine performance and reliability in advance of the 2007 deadline,” he says.
Private fleet plans
Logistics Today recently polled visitors to our website — www.logisticstoday.com — about their plans they have for their private fleet operations. As our Quick Poll survey indicates, only 38% of respondents are making significant changes in the ways they handle private fleet operations, with 27% seeking to outsource the function and 11% getting rid of their private fleets altogether. On the positive side, 61% plan to maintain or increase their private fleets.