Where Are All the Trucks?

In May, I was invited to speak at the Houston chapter of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) on my favorite subject, the shortage of dray trucks.

Inefficiencies

I smugly declared, “There is no shortage of dray trucks, just waste and misuse.” Then I supported my seemingly contradictory claim with a long list of examples:

  • Lost in congested lines terminals
  • Parked on congested freeways with commuters, attempting to make that universal 8 a.m. appointment
  • Waiting at the dock for the two hour free time (Why rush, we have two hours to get this palletized load handled?)
  • Waiting for rail billing
  • Waiting for hazardous materials documents to be corrected
  • Waiting for paperwork or data to be prepared
  • Trying to find a road worthy chassis
  • Trying to find someone to fix the POJ chassis, the container was pre-loaded on by a the rail or port
  • Waiting through a roadside inspection by local law enforcement, incentivized by month end quotas
  • Waiting to get yet another empty off the stack our customer will accept (third try)
  • Making an unplanned trip to ditch a container because the broker rolled the booking at the last minute
  • Finding a terminal that will take a chassis because the assigned terminal filled up
  • Rerouting due to an accident
  • Getting to the overflow warehouse that was not on the original order
  • Verifying the weight at the scale house(driver says it pulls heavy)
  • Accommodating for miscommunicated, inaccurate, or not timely information

While all those inefficiencies still exist, the number of drivers has diminished in the last 4 months!

The Fracking Effect

The recent rise in oil prices have rekindled the Permian Basin and the Eagle Ford Shale. Their demand for oilfield truck drivers has driven up wages.  Last week a former driver stopped by on a break from the Permian Basin. He told me he loved working for Excargo, but at $6K per week he couldn’t say no to the oilfield. He has a young family and bills to pay. Just last night a fellow fan at the Rockets’ game told me his friend is making $7K a week.

While some drivers are taking advantage of the fracking windfall, some threats and obstacles maintaining successful driver capacity are pervasive and others are changing.

Ultra Large Container Vessels

One of the latest challenges comes in the form of the larger container ships. The inconsistent dray work caused by less frequent sailings uncertainty and irregularity into every aspect of the supply chain, including dray drivers’ schedules. At Excargo, we’ve experienced this challenge firsthand, trying to hold on to our drivers during these peaks and valleys in the supply chain by diversifying services.

Seize the Dray

Dray provides the lifestyle so many safety-minded, family-oriented drivers prefer. Excargo is seeking to diversify with domestic and other freight services to add work for drivers in between vessels. To maintain driver capacity, we must work together with customers to continue to make it make sense for these driving professionals. Eliminating wasted time at customer docks so drivers can have productive, efficient days, and maximum their revenue is key to the success of the entire supply chain. Waiting is neither profitable nor fun. Steady, consistent workflow benefits us all.