One of the highlights of my career was co-owning our own trucking company. As an early twenty-year-old, I recall countless positive memories of owning one of the largest for-hire equipment hauling companies in the Okanagan.
When I reflect on one of the major pain points we experienced, it would be due to paperwork, and the headaches the chaos of too much paperwork caused.
For those of us that were in the transportation industry over a decade ago, you can remember the times of paper maps, CB radios, paper logs, paper inspection reports, paper bill of ladings, paper dangerous goods paperwork, paper customer reports, and so on.
Over the last handful of years, our industry has seen a steady improvement in removing paper-heavy procedures with thanks to some really smart minds building innovative technology to help automate a lot of these procedures.
Just because I believe so strongly in creating automated workflows with the integration of technology, does not mean that everyone else has to. I get it. But my question to those that are holding back on welcoming different technologies to assist their operation is, do you truly understand the cost of paperwork to your organization and to your professional drivers?
My Experience When Operating a Commercial Vehicle - In The Yard
During my time as a professional driver, my shift normally started around 06:00 MST. After I arrived at the yard, I would head to the lockers to change into my work coveralls and put on my steel toes. As I headed towards the office, I was required to sign in using a "key card", but also I had to record my start time in my pay book.
Upon entering the office, I was required to find my work cell phone, grab my logbook, and find my delivery sheets (bill of ladings) for my morning runs. I knew what I was taking based on the information written on the delivery board. These sheets would provide the equipment details of what was to be loaded, the delivery location, contact details of the customer, and any special delivery instructions. You had to pay special attention to the paperwork though, as sometimes you had more than 1 delivery out the gate, and if you failed to recognize this, a customer would miss out on their early morning delivery.
After conversing with a couple of other professional drivers for a few minutes, discussing what our first loads were and where they needed to be delivered to, we would normally all head out to the yard together. Almost like clockwork, as we exited the office to the shop, we would run into a couple of the mechanics starting their shift for the day.
After completing my pre-trip inspection on my assigned truck, I would then fill out the details on my daily vehicle inspection report and a logbook. Without sounding snarky, this was a good 5 - 10 minutes each morning of writing out details that literally were the same as the day prior (aside from a couple of things of course).
I would then search the yard for the piece(s) of equipment I was required to load, and depending on what my paperwork said for delivery times, I knew which had to be loaded first, second, third, and so on. Approximately 20 - 30 minutes later, depending on how much was to be loaded, I was ready to secure all of the pieces of equipment.
Prior to departing the yard, I would call my first customer and confirm the delivery. I would inquire on things such as "what side of the job site would you like me to place the machine", "will you be on location when I arrive" and "are trucks allowed on location?" These all mattered, as some job sites are huge and when you arrive, you don't know where you're supposed to go. I always suggest contacting the customer first to inquire about these things.
My Experience When Operating a Commercial Vehicle - At the Customer
When I first arrived at the customer, I would provide a second phone call, advising them that I have arrived and double-check the drop location of the equipment. This process was quite simple when the customer was on site because I could meet them physically, unload the piece of equipment, give them a quick rundown on the controls, show that the fuel level or battery level was full, and request a signature on the paperwork.
Ah yes, the signature - how expensive this process can be.
Like I mentioned above, a delivery was simple when the customer was on location. As a professional driver, you enjoy the benefits of a simple drop where you do not necessarily have to think about the location, the safety concerns and how am I going to track down a signature - especially when you have a couple of other morning deliveries still to complete.
What do you do when the customer is not on location, and a signature is required? First off, when making your first phone call to advise the customer of your intentions to deliver, they may not even pick up. You try calling a second time, and still no answer. "Okay," you say to yourself, "I will head to the site and hopefully they pick up when I arrive".
Well, upon arrival, you find a location to safely park out of the way and try the customer again. Nope, still no answer.
You take a look at your clock and see that time to be 07:00 MST. "Crap," you say to yourself, dispatch doesn't get into the office until 07:30. You know you cannot just unload the piece of equipment anywhere on location, because where is the right spot? So, what do you do?
You wait. And wait. And wait. 30 minutes later, while being paid may I remind you, you call the office and ask for another contact, because the customer has not yet picked up, called back, or arrived on location. You explain there is a perfect location for the piece of equipment to be delivered on the southeast corner, next to the blue garbage bin.
Dispatch advises you they need to call the sales department and find out and will call you back, but before they hang up, they remind you that "you cannot leave without a signature".
After another 15 to 30 minutes of waiting, dispatch calls you back. Finally, you can unload the piece of equipment on the southeast corner, next to the blue garbage bin. But make sure you watch out for the soft ground so you don't get stuck. Right, March, in Alberta, after a warm couple of days - the ground is perfect.
The Real Cost of 1 Delivery
As you can tell from my simple real-life example, waiting is expensive for a carrier. Paperwork is expensive. Paperwork can be replaced. Processes can be improved. Costs can be decreased.
When you stop and think for a moment about how many drivers go through very similar experiences as I explained above each and every day, at different job sites, across the nation - it is pretty crazy.
In total, to deliver 1 piece of equipment, I was paid appx 45 - 60 minutes of wait time just to confirm the site location was accurate. Almost 1 hour of the truck left idle because it's cold out and I wasn't aware of the cost of idling. Almost 1-hour delay to my next delivery, which costs the next customer and our brand reputation.
Could Any of these Costs be Avoided?
So, let me ask you - could any of these costs be avoided? Can new processes and systems be integrated into the operation of a carrier to improve overall efficiencies and in return, improve driver experiences and reduce costs?
I would like to believe that yes, yes they could.
Introduce Reliable Technology and Programs to Assist Carriers
First off, let's eliminate the paperwork and start to integrate technology into our companies to help with the process of the bill of lading, signatures, and reporting.
I highly recommend companies like EnviroApps to assist with this process.
EnviroApps consolidates and centralized database, which helps operations and health and safety managers track dangerous goods, waste, and water use documentation, while ensuring compliance, lowering costs, and enables ESG data gathering effortlessly.
Learn more by visiting: www.enviroapps.ca
Secondly, paper inspections and paper logs - seriously? Common now, it's 2021 - let's make this process so much cleaner for ourselves.
I understand that not every company requires an ELD, which is why I highly recommend companies that provide electronic daily vehicle inspection reports, such as:
The first organization I highly recommend is ComplianceBox.
ComplianceBox was created by the team at CayCan Safety Consulting Ltd. They've been in the Transportation Compliance business for over 20 years and they are certified by Alberta Transportation to conduct Assessment of Regulatory Compliance / National Safety Code (NSC) Audits as well as New Carrier Compliance Reviews.
They are dedicated to improving the on road safety of our highway systems and providing tools that assist, rather than hinder, carriers in achieving their compliance goals.
Learn more about ComplianceBox by visiting: https://compliancebox.ca
Another organization I highly recommend is ReadyChek Inc.
ReadyChek Inc is a vehicle inspection reporting and recording tool, which enables fast and accurate regulatory compliance for commercial vehicle safety inspections in Canada.
Make sure you check out our recent interview on the Truck Focus Podcast
Ensure you check out ReadyChek Inc by visiting: https://www.readychek.com
As carriers continue to operate, I encourage them to take a moment and consider the cost benefits and employee experience when adapting technologies such as the ones suggested above.
If you are interested in discussing your options as a carrier, how to manage change management of technology integration, cost-benefit, or more then I encourage you to contact us today.
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Thank you again for taking the time to listen, and I hope you have a safe day!