ATLANTA, GA – Executives from four major carriers – Schneider National, J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Swift Transportation Co., and Werner Enterprises – all believe the industry will have its hands full dealing with new hours of service (HOS) rules that go into effect next year. Minimizing their impact, however, may relay in large part on how much support trucking companies get from shippers.

“The shipper community has the most opportunity to help mitigate the impact of these new rules,” said J.B. Hunt CEO Kirk Thompson. “A driver’s time is a meager and limited resource – we can’t afford to waste it anymore.”

Speaking on a panel at a special HOS productivity summit hosted here by truckload carrier Schneider National and Georgia Tech’s Logistics Institute, Thompson said shippers can help drive out the ‘hidden costs’ in trucking operations today by eliminating what he calls ‘non-revenue activities’ truck drivers deal with.

“Poor information about appointment times, inaccurate ready times, and missing drop numbers takes time away from driving,” he said. “Bobtailing, trailer spotting, and yard management also takes time away from driving as well.”

Thompson added that increasing shipping and receiving time windows, pre-booking loads, allowing drivers to sleep in their rigs on a shipper’s premises, re-engineering dock practices, minimizing wait times, and forming efficient trailer pools so empty trailers can be located quickly can all help minimize non-driving time for drivers.

“We can’t stop the clock by going off-duty anymore,” added Werner Exec. VP Dan Cushman. “We now have to find ways to run drivers without stopping so there are no productivity losses.”

These efforts are also critical to making sure drivers themselves don’t lose money, said Swift Sr. VP Bill Riley. “Drivers can’t come out on the short end,” he said. “They will be much more limited in work hours. Taking 2 hours to change a flat tire, fueling up at a truckstop for an hour, waiting 3 hours to get their truck in and out of a maintenance bay – all of that now counts against their work day and drive time; their ability to make money.”

In the end, said Schneider’s Transportation Sector President Scott Avres, a truck driver’s time must be managed much better – especially as trucking capacity is getting tighter.

“Over 11,000 trucking companies have gone out of business over the last 3 years. The ones left can’t afford extra capacity anymore as we are dealing with higher fuel and insurance prices,” he said. “We run tight, we run lean and mean, and we see that trend continuing. So we have to manage our driver’s time better in order to minimize the impact of HOS on us and on shippers and receivers.”