Is this truckload driving? Drive your car to your home terminal in the morning, climb into a non-sleeper tractor and run the load 250 miles. Turn it over to another driver, climb into another non-sleeper, and drive that load the 250 miles back to your terminal.
That routine is the shape of things to come for many drivers at Werner Enterprises, the Omaha-based truckload carrier operating some 7,400 tractors and 22,000 trailers.
Drivers will work a regular day, cover 500 miles legally, and get to spend the night at home, much like less-than-truckload drivers.
C.L. Werner, chairman/chief executive officer, plans to switch trucks and drivers to just such a relay operation in the company's high-density freight lanes. Based on sophisticated, computerized scheduling and electronic log systems, it is already in use to some extent. About 35% of Werner's freight is now swapped at some point.
It's sort of like the old Pony Express, except that only the drivers change, while the "horse" continues on after each relay. Ultimately, says Werner, a haul from New York to Los Angeles might use five or six drivers.
The scheme is based on a 10-hour day with the daily targets in 500-miles increments. Relays would be 500, 1,000 or 1,500 miles, with drivers who want to be home every night doing a 250 out-and-back.
Werner's automated, paperless log system, developed with cooperation from the U.S. Department of Transportation, is a fundamental building block in the relay system, which demands precise scheduling and recordkeeping.
It's not for everybody. And Werner says around 20% of the fleet will always be irregular route, team operations in big sleepers. But his prime aims are to get drivers home at night, boost safety and improve profitability so all stakeholders in Werner Enterprises benefit.