Truckers pulling dry vans wait an average of 33.5 hours a week loading, unloading, and waiting to load or unload, according to a survey just released by the Truckload Carriers Assn.
If drop-and-hook operations are excluded, that number increases to more than 40 hours per week - not much less than refrigerated drivers surveyed in previous years. The excessive waiting time results in more than $1.5 billion in lost productivity, according to the group conducting the study.
The study found that the typical dry van driver has five loading/unloading stops a week. He or she spends 2.4 hours per stop waiting to load; 2 hours per stop waiting to unload; 1.1 hours per stop loading; and 1.2 hours unloading.
TCA President Lana Batts says her group was surprised by the results. "I think we had all expected that the waiting time would be half the refrigerated waiting time. We were expecting it to be about 20 hours. When it was over 30 it was a real shock. And when you took out the drop and hook and it came back up over 40, that was even more surprising. There has always been the assumption that dry van was not as bad as refrigerated, and clearly that's not the case."
Batts says while shippers and receivers have typically had a "head in the sand" attitude, new and pending regulations could change the way they do business. Recently enacted OSHA requirements that drivers have model-specific forklift training will force drivers to unload by hand or with a handjack. Proposed ergonomics rules would limit the amount of weight drivers can lift and the number of times they can lift it. In addition, Batts says, she's "firmly convinced" that new hours of service regulations will make no distinction between on duty driving and on duty not driving.
Batts says now that TCA has quantified the problem, the next step is to try to increase the awareness of the problem. Her group has several speaking engagements lined up at organizations of shippers.
The survey also indicated the fairest and least fair shippers and receivers. The worst receivers are typically food distribution centers, Batts notes, on both the dry van and the refrigerated side. "They have a strange math," she says. "They assume that you can schedule 40 trucks at 8 a.m. to a facility with 20 doors."
TCA plans to talk to the shippers and receivers who were named the best by drivers and find out what they're doing right. "Why is Clorox number one on both the dry van and refrigerated lists?" Batts asks. "We've already talked to J.C. Penney. They said they just get the driver out of the loading totally because they found they could do a better job than he could. FedEx is on both the best shipper and best receiver lists. Clearly they understand the value of time."