Labor Day weekend is just around the corner, and with it comes another long weekend of increased online sales and road congestion. The holiday, which dates back to the late 19th century, is not only a tribute to the everyday American worker but a day to look closely at how we can turn appreciation into action by improving working conditions. And while many in the workforce enjoy a three-day weekend as a part of the commemoration, truckers remain in full work mode — even during a pandemic.
Over the course of the past year and a half, drivers have placed themselves at risk by standing on the frontlines to keep the economy moving forward. Some of these risks are obvious, like contact with multiple on-site personnel during pickups and delivery. Others like fewer open rest areas due to shutdowns and social distancing measures, or longer wait times for loading and unloading as a result of worker shortages add to risks in other ways.
In the early days of the pandemic, we all hailed truck drivers as the heroes they are. The attention shined a spotlight on how much we rely on them to keep shelves stocked and the economy moving, but it also highlighted the challenges they face while on the road. Now, as the industry struggles with a driver shortage, this Labor Day feels like the perfect time to turn all that appreciation into action once again.
How can shippers improve conditions?
With capacity continuing to tighten and fewer drivers choosing to get behind the wheel, it’s more important than ever to keep drivers safe this Labor Day and beyond. When workers feel safe, they feel appreciated. And when workers feel appreciated, more will want to enter the workforce. Fortunately, there are a variety of technologies available that not only help to increase driver safety during the pandemic, but also improve conditions for drivers and operators in a post-COVID world.
Improve route safety and efficiency
For truckers, spending long days on the road is all part of the job. But with COVID-19, those days have become a challenge, and conditions have brought a number of issues. Shutdowns and social distancing measures have made it difficult to find a place to eat, shower and park for the night, with a survey from Professional Driving Agency showing that 49% of truckers list this as their top job-related concern during the pandemic. In order to keep their trips as short as possible and ensure they have access to the amenities they need to stay safe and comfortable while on the road, route optimization software can make a big difference.
Implementing technology solutions that enable things like stop optimization to ensure that drivers can avoid high-risk locations and real-time weather monitoring to reroute around potential hazards provide drivers with peace of mind while on the road. Not only that but with fuel costs accounting for up to 24% of the total operational cost per mile of fleet vehicles, even incremental improvements to drivers’ routes can help them serve clients faster and significantly improve your bottom line.
Cut down detention times for safer pickups and deliveries
Long days on the road might be part of the job, but long wait times at the loading dock remain one of the biggest frustrations for drivers, especially when delivering in high-risk areas. In one study that asked how trucking is different from a year ago, the most popular answer was detention-related. It found that nearly 36% of drivers have been experiencing longer wait times at loading docks compared to one year ago, with 60% reporting detention times of 2 hours or more.
Among the most common causes of delays at loading docks is when the shipper or receiver changes or miscalculates the scheduled appointment time. In order to avoid this, shippers should look at software that provides accurate, real-time ETAs that go beyond standard point-in-time location, factoring in all the complex variables that can impact arrival times, like weather and traffic conditions. By having access to accurate information on when a shipment will arrive at its destination, schedules can be adjusted and communicated well in advance, giving receivers the opportunity to adapt and prepare for quicker loading or unloading.
Reduce the risk of infection at loading docks
Social distancing remains a challenge for all essential workers, including truck drivers and employees at pickup and delivery locations. In fact, the challenge has even been directly addressed by the CDC, which states that “frequent and close contact with other people during pick-up and delivery and touching possibly contaminated items (such as pens, clipboards, handheld scanning devices, etc.) are likely to pose the greatest exposure risks to truck crews.” Any shipper who is looking to provide a safe and comfortable working environment for their drivers should examine methods for reducing these forms of contact.
To help accomplish this, supply chain and logistics leaders should look to moving towards a paperless workflow to minimize risk. By leveraging electronic bills of lading and proof of delivery, shippers can cut down on the level of physical contact required during deliveries by allowing carriers to upload documents and receivers to sign for the deliveries electronically, while routine procedures like gate check-ins can be managed automatically. The efficiency and time savings realized through these methods could be a benefit to the supply chain long after the impact of the pandemic.
Truckers have long been the backbone of the American economy. While worker safety was often overlooked during the Industrial Revolution, over the past 100 years, advancements in workplace safety and regulations have improved conditions across all working environments, while recognizing and supporting the importance of their health and safety. Now, with Labor Day fast approaching, marking one of the busiest travel times of the year, keeping truckers safe on the road isn’t just essential for their health and well-being. Their safety directly impacts other motorists on the road, their families back home, the communities they serve, and their shipping company’s bottom line.
In the age of COVID-19 and an ongoing driver shortage, corporations need to do more to keep drivers safe and appreciated. By embracing technological innovation, promoting worker safety becomes a win-win for everyone involved.