Driving Relationships with the Trucking Industry 

Great Truckers

How to Use Mobile Apps to Improve Driver Experiences and Grow Your Business

Because 2018 was a strong year for carriers in the United States, it fueled an ongoing need for more drivers. In fact, The Cass Truckload Linehaul Index identified 2018 as having the “strongest truckload pricing achieved since deregulation.” This strong demand for truckload capacity, coupled with not enough carriers to meet that demand, led many carriers to seek new solutions and technology—like mobile apps—to help grow their business.

Carrier using Navisphere technology to grow his business

It’s difficult to know what’s on the horizon. Forecasts for 2019 are still hazy. Analysts aren’t sure if the difference between supply and demand will persist throughout the year, which can make planning for your business a challenge. I expect the most successful carriers in 2019 and the years beyond will begin to focus on creating quality driver experiences. Here’s why.

A new focus on driver quality of life

Until recently, focusing on a driver’s quality of life wasn’t often a high priority for carriers or shippers. Now it’s a sign of a quality company poised to succeed.

Historically in this industry, trucks and profit margins have led transportation and supply chain planning. Issues specifically affecting drivers, such as electronic logging devices, shifted some attention toward driver retention, but now, driver frustrations like detention and dwell times—and the lack of respect for truck drivers—are taking center stage.

Instead of putting up with these frustrating issues, smart carriers are collaborating closely with shippers and third party logistics providers (3PLs) to quickly resolve these challenges. I expect this to really change the way carriers and the rest of the industry will operate in the coming years.

Many shippers and 3PLs are already getting on board with this shift. For example, here at C.H. Robinson, we have ongoing efforts to help carriers and drivers reduce routing waste, get respect from shippers, and plan more effectively at a strategic level.

We’re powering these initiatives through data—we collect and analyze information on 120,000 shippers to match premier carriers with collaborative shippers. Together, this combination of data and experience improves carrier efficiency and profitability.

Mobile apps are changing the business

Another change to the marketplace that improves driver experiences has been the rise of mobile freight apps. These apps make it simple for carriers to find and book loads, which makes it easier for drivers to know where they will be—and more importantly, when they’ll be home.

However, because moving freight is so complex, standalone digital freight brokers’ capabilities are still relatively limited in today’s trucking market. Developing freight matching applications that drive profits while keeping costs low requires data, scale, and a deep understanding of the intricacies of freight transport—something only well-established organizations can accomplish.

That’s why we’ve invested in our carrier and driver mobile apps for years and will continue to do so in 2019.

Navisphere® Carrier provides everything owner operators and small carriers need to manage their business while on the road. With this app, carriers can easily find the freight they want, when they want it. And we designed Navisphere® Driver specifically for the needs of fleet drivers, providing automatic status updates throughout the life of a load. Both apps let users upload documents from the road and issue invoices automatically, facilitating perhaps the most important feature of the apps: faster payment processing.

I’ve heard consistently from both carriers and drivers that these kinds of apps are helping them easily and flexibly find, book, and report loads. In 2019, I expect increased emphasis on these types of apps as an easy way to accelerate business growth because they help automate carriers’ and drivers’ most time-consuming tasks.

Technology’s role will only increase

No one can say for sure what 2019 might hold, but as the industry continues to change, I’ll continue to be thinking about the tools carriers and drivers need to streamline and grow their businesses.

As quality driver experiences becoming more and more central, I’m excited to see how technology will continue to improve the industry. Reach out to your C.H. Robinson carrier representative to start that conversation today.

Learn more about our carrier technologies or download Navisphere Carrier from the app store today.

- Director of Capacity Development- C.H. Robinson

Analyzing the Impact of the ELD Mandate on Truckload Shipping

ELD Mandate line of trucks in Robinson blueIt’s been nearly a year since the electronic logging device (ELDs) mandate went into effect. Some had predicted that the industry would see mass carrier bankruptcies or a flurry of acquisitions of smaller carriers by larger ones, but that hasn’t been the case. Instead, thanks to the strongest truckload shipping market since deregulation in 1980, the ELD mandate’s effect on the market is playing out in other ways.

The anticipated impact of the ELD mandate

As 2018 got underway, drivers’ hours of service (HOS) didn’t change, but the ELD mandate effectively eliminated any flexibility drivers may have taken with paper logs. With ELDs in effect, lane waste and efficiency could be documented for the first time.

The dire predictions of a year ago were based on traditional truckload shipping market fundamentals, with the usual peaks and lulls. In other words, peak shipping seasons like the holiday rush would be followed by slow shipping periods when there would be an oversupply of trucks. If this had been the market scenario when the ELD mandate went into effect, carriers would have borne the financial consequences of inefficiencies or loss of hours in the market. The result may well have been bankruptcies and acquisitions.

That wasn’t what happened. Instead, there was far more demand for truckload shipping than there were trucks available. Since demand outstripped the supply of trucks, carriers didn’t have to take on the costs of the ELD mandate. They simply passed on the costs, raising their prices to compensate for inefficiencies and loss of hours.

The reality of the ELD mandate

So, what has been the actual impact of the ELD mandate on truckload shipping? It had been expected that with all carriers using ELDs, there would be a way to measure the loss of market hours, but the documentation won’t be accurate until ELDs are in widespread use. As of March and April of 2018, a survey of ELD readiness by MiX Telematics and Bobit Research Services revealed that 29% of fleets that needed to comply with the ELD mandate still had not done so.

In the meantime, a few analysts and others have ventured that the loss of market hours is about 3%. Yet, with demand outstripping truck supply, it’s hard to say for sure what percent of price increases should be attributed to the ELD mandate vs. other freight factors vs. simply “demand is greater than supply.”

It does appear that the ELD mandate could be behind price increases for (formerly) one-day routes of 400-700 miles. Drivers are on the clock for 10 hours per day. But once you’ve accounted for waiting times to load and unload, only 7-8 hours are actually spent driving. Shipments that previously had one-day transit times are now two-day. Carriers have changed rates accordingly to earn the revenue per day they need to be at healthy financial levels.

The same principle applies to dray carriers who work out of the intermodal (rail) terminals. It has always been true of intermodal service that the closer you are to ramps (at both pickup and destination), the better the price will be. That is still true today. But the ELD mandate is causing some of the longer dray destinations to be out of reach with hours of service being managed more critically. The longer dray points may need to be destined to closer ramps that have shorter dray. The trade-off may be in total transit days for the shipment. Intermodal can probably still serve these points, but logistics planners need to consider transit and cost trade-offs.

Final thoughts

As we move into 2019 and more carriers follow the rigors of documentation that come with the ELD mandate, the true impact on the market will become clearer. What seems likely in this economic environment is that we will continue to see higher rates and tight capacity in the near term. Some of the impact of higher rates can be mitigated by working closely with transportation providers, and doing what you can to make your freight more attractive to carriers. Being a favored shipper will continue to pay off. If you need more ideas for working with carriers that fit your unique supply chain, connect with one of our experts.

- Director, Research and Market Intelligence

The Secret to Cutting Costs for Small Carriers

Every business has expenses. And in today’s market, if you’re like most, you’re looking for ways to cut costs wherever possible. After all, lower costs often mean higher profitability. For small trucking companies, cutting costs may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.

Understanding which costs to cut

When looking for areas to reduce expenses you first need to know which expenses to focus on. Each month your business—no matter its size—has two types of costs, fixed and variable. drive down small carrier costs

Your fixed costs (think rent, insurance, permits, cell phone bills, etc.) don’t change a lot from month to month. The other type, variable costs, includes things like fuel, lodging, meals, and repairs. Variable costs are fluid and will shift (sometimes drastically) from one month to the next depending on your business in that time.

While you might be able to get a better deal for some of your fixed costs, focusing your cost reduction efforts on variable costs will likely mean greater results.

Easy cost reduction strategies to get started

Cutting variable expenses starts with small changes in various areas of your business. The order is up to you, but I suggest incorporating one change before moving on to the next.

Fuel efficiency and driving behavior

Because fuel is such a large expense for most trucking companies, it makes sense to find ways to save on fuel whenever possible. A lot of driver behavior can affect fuel efficiency. Speeding can use more fuel, while reducing idling can save it.

Maintenance rather than repair

Trucks are complex machines. A lot can go wrong if they’re not properly maintained. And normally such repairs are costly. While it may seem counterintuitive to spend money maintaining your equipment, it can actually save on repair costs down the road.

Emphasize safety always

Promoting safety not only saves money, it can save lives. The cost of an accident can add up quickly, especially if there are injuries. Safety education—from winter driving techniques to ways to avoid back injuries—goes a long way in reducing high accident, citation, and insurance expenses.

Food and lodging budget

Eating and sleeping on the road can add up quickly, not to mention rough on drivers’ health. Some drivers add a refrigerator and/or a bed to their cab to help cut down on these kind of expenses. If that’s not feasible, setting a budget and sticking to it can also help.

Tracking your cost reduction progress

You can change many areas of your business, but the only way you’ll know if your cost reduction efforts are successful is if you have an accounting process to clearly show you the results of your actions. I believe an accounting system is the critical piece to small carrier profitability, and one area that drivers often overlook.

Define your own system

Whatever method of accounting you choose—software, an accountant, or some combination—make sure you choose an option that’s easy, simple, and maintainable. I often recommend developing a process of sorting receipts when you get them and then processing them on a monthly basis.

Working with a 3PL can also help streamline your accounting process. C.H. Robinson makes the accounts payable process fast and easy so you can seamlessly incorporate it into your overarching accounting strategy.

Run your business by the numbers

Most importantly, your accounting system must be powerful enough to offer reports so you can use your information to find areas to improve. After all, in order to achieve better results to you need to take better actions.

- Founder and CEO, LetsTruck

4 Areas of Life to Improve Truck Driver Wellness

No one said being a truck driver was an easy gig. But they might not have told you about all the health challenges you’d face either. Did you know that the FMCSA estimates the average life span of a truck driver at only 61 years old? That’s drastically lower than the national average. And honestly, it’s unacceptable. The lifestyle of a truck driver certainly can make healthy choices more difficult, but they’re far from impossible. Healthy truck driver focused on wellness

The idea of holistic wellness as a truck driver isn’t just about eating like a rabbit and running on a treadmill until you’re beyond bored. Instead, it encompasses four areas of your life that all influence your general well-being. Each is important in its own way.

4 areas of life that truck drivers can improve

1. The food you eat

If you’ve been driving for any length of time, you already know that having easy access to good, nutritious food on the road is a challenge. Truck stops and fast food places are filled with the worst kind of foods—empty carbs and sugar.

I recommend eating food as they exist in nature as much as possible. For truck drivers, this means choosing lots of meat, vegetables, and water. I even suggest truck drivers stay away from fruit because there’s too much sugar. Of course, healthier options are not only harder to find on the road, but also typically require refrigeration—something you likely don’t have a lot of room for.

One way around these issues is to partake in a little meal planning and prepping. When I’m at home, I personally like to can my own meat and ferment my own vegetables. It’s fast, easy, and I know that I’m getting high quality ingredients.

2. Your sleep schedule (or lack thereof)

Sleep is so important. The less consistent your sleep schedule, the harder it is on your body. In an ideal world, you’d go to bed and wake at the same time every day. And it would be good quality sleep, too. Well you and I both know that’s not the case for truck drivers.

Even if your driving schedule means switching from days to nights and back again, there are other things you can do to help promote quality sleep. Start by cleaning up your sleep environment.

Make it as pitch black as possible and turn your phone off (or at least suspend the notifications). Consider a white noise or meditation app to help you fall asleep quickly. And when you wake up, spend as much time as possible outside in the early morning sunshine. This will help your body reset its natural clock and help you feel more rested. It’s certainly a healthier (and more relaxing) option than jolting your system awake with an energy drink.

3. Effectively managing stress

Practically everything about a long haul lifestyle adds stress to your day. When you’re stressed, it makes it hard to sleep and no sleep means more stress. When awake, drivers often face the stress of traffic, equipment problems, and a ticking clock on hours of service. Even unhealthy foods can add undue stress on the body. It’s a vicious cycle that can suck you in and lead to burnout.

Dissipating stress starts with awareness. Identifying what causes you stress means you can apply tools to help deal with them. I’ve found several meditation apps that help me de-stress. Yoga and tai chi are also tools I use regularly. But you might find a kickboxing class or favorite music playlist helps you. I even know drivers who have gotten a pet as a companion when on the road. Try out several ways to lower your stress and find the one that’s right for you.

4. Finding time for movement

Sitting is a real problem. And when you’re on the road, there’s no avoiding it. Now many experts advocate 300 minutes of intense cardio exercise every week to combat the negative effects of sitting. And that’s great, but not everyone is ready for that. I simply tell drivers to move more.

Rather than seeing your mandated 30-minute break as an intrusion on your day, look at it as an opportunity to do something that will make you healthier. I like to use my time to get out in nature. Take a walk, practice tai chi in the grass, and short hikes are my go to activities. Another popular outdoor option is geocaching, a using your phone. Geocaching is a fun outdoor game that gets you out of your truck and often brings you places you would never know exist.

Perspective changes everything

It’s easy to get caught up in the negative aspects of being a driver—especially when they’re affecting your health. But I challenge you to change your perspective and think about the positives, too. As a truck driver, you likely have more freedom than someone working in a cubicle does. Owner/operators especially have great autonomy to set their own hours and lanes. Not to mention, most days you probably have an amazing view out that windshield.

Get started on the path to wellness

We’ve covered many specific changes to make your lifestyle healthier. But the trick is getting started. When it comes to your health, there’s no quick fix. So, if you want to take back your health, choose one or two small changes to make now.

The key is to develop habits that you can stick with. You can always add more goals later. And finally, there’s no better time to start than now. Don’t wait for Monday, make one simple change today, and build on your success tomorrow.

7 Reasons We Love Truck Drivers and Why You Should Too

I’m always glad when Truck Driver Appreciation Week rolls around every September. It’s one short week each year when we try our best to thank the drivers across the country who make our world possible.

In honor of Truck Driver Appreciation Week, I’ve come up with seven reasons why you should thank truck drivers.

1. They keep a tradition that spans generations alive with semi-truck air horn honks

Today, tablets, phones, and other electronics dominate the backseat and often keep kids focused on a screen rather than looking out the window during road trips. Truck Driver Appreciation Week truck driver image with sun shining through the windshield

But what’s one thing that consistently gets kids to pay attention to the world around them? Looking for and asking truck drivers to blow their air horns. Like so many truckers over the years, today’s truck drivers still watch for the familiar arm pump action and indulge their unspoken wish whenever it’s safe and possible to do so.

Thank a truck driver for continuing a tradition that thrills kids (and parents too).

2. Truck drivers draw from their experiences to garner success

Driving a truck across the country is bound to lead to a unique view of our world and life in general. Plenty of truck drivers have used their experiences to reach their goals outside of the industry. Can you guess which of the following actors drove trucks before they were famous?

  • Charles Bronson
  • James Cameron
  • Chevy Chase
  • Sean Connery
  • Rock Hudson
  • Richard Pryor
  • Richard Pryor
  • Viggo Mortensen
  • Liam Neeson
  • Elvis Presley

If you guessed all of them, you’re right! I think that says something about the type of people who work as truck drivers. To me, it says they’re willing to chase their dreams and are capable of achieving them—whether it’s to successfully run a business or become a movie star.

Thank a truck driver for being brave enough to pursue their dreams.

3. Drivers help place three million wreaths on veteran graves every year

It’s true, without truck drivers Wreaths Across America wouldn’t be possible. Every year, truck drivers deliver wreaths so thousands of volunteers can remember fallen U.S. veterans by placing wreaths on graves in over 1,200 participating locations across the country. And that’s just one of the many ways truck drivers give back to the causes they care about.

Thank a truck driver for supporting charities all across the country.

4. Truck drivers see us through the toughest storms

From hurricanes and snowstorms to wildfires and floods, all of these natural disasters have one thing in common: they need relief efforts. Without truck drivers to deliver much needed supplies to devastated areas, bad situations would be much worse. From coast to coast, they’ve seen us through Katrina, Irma, Harvey, Snowmageddon, and so much more.

Thank a truck driver for seeing us through the toughest storms.

5. They’re on the road 14 hours a day for weeks at a time

Those of us with office jobs work between 8-12 hours a day on average. I know the days I have to work 14 hours are rare—not to mention completely exhausting. I can’t imagine putting in 14-hour days on a regular basis. It’s no wonder that both the CDC and OSHA report higher rates of injury and illness for truck drivers than other industries. But it’s their dedication that delivers the products we need every day.

Thank a truck driver for the long hours and the time away from home.

6. Truck drivers invest in safety day in and day out

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, from 1980 through 2014, the number of large truck-involved fatal crash rate per 100 million miles dropped a remarkable 74%. In fact, trucks have an overall crash rate 28% lower than that of other vehicles.

That’s in large part to the extensive driver safety training that all drivers must go through. And on a daily basis, their willingness to plan—for fuel stops, weigh stations, road construction, and weather—all make a big difference in saving lives on our roads.

Thank a truck driver for focusing on safety day in and day out.

7. They move 10.5 billion tons of freight annually

Our country’s truck drivers truly keep our world moving—after all, nearly 71% of all freight moved in the U.S goes on trucks. Thinking of just about any product I use on a daily basis—from my toothbrush to my supper—they all rely on truck drivers. A world without truck drivers is a truly scary place.

Thank a truck driver for delivering the products that keep our world moving.

Truck drivers are the real heroes in today’s world

While the top box office hits feature heroes with superpowers and capes, in my mind truck drivers are the true stars. They deserve to be recognized during Truck Driver Appreciation Week and every week of the year.

Thank a truck driver for the miles they give the rest of us.

- Director of Capacity Development- C.H. Robinson