For more than two years now, we have seen a growing discussion about the driver shortage problem, but relatively little about solutions. Most of the issues are motor carrier issues, and unless your company is involved in both trucking and warehousing, there is little you can do about these.

However, as a warehouse operator, there are a number of things you can do to be sure the driver shortage does not impact your ability to be well served by common carriers.

Monitor truck detention time

Delays at warehouse shipping and receiving docks are one of the issues frequently mentioned as a source of concern for drivers and for motor carriers. Therefore, those warehouse operators who do the most to eliminate delays are likely to attract the attention of motor freight management.

One grocery product manufacturer has a firm policy stating every truck that enters the premises will be released within two hours. Any truck driver who spends more than two hours on the property becomes the source of an investigation about the cause of delay.

If you do not have a policy regarding detention of trucks, it is not too late to create one. If you are not recording the time each driver spends on your property, is there any reason why you could not start next week?

Drop and hook

Drop and hook is a tactic that eliminates driver delay at warehouses. Under this system, the trailer is parked in the yard, and the warehouse operator uses a shuttle tractor to move the trailer between the yard and the dock. This eliminates driver wait time as the trailer is loaded or unloaded.

Have you examined the opportunity to install a drop-and-hook system? If you already have such a system, have you checked to see how many drop-and-hook opportunities are currently being missed?

Make appointments

Many warehouse operators require appointments, both for inbound and outbound shipments. Motor carriers appreciate the appointment system and are usually happy to cooperate. Obviously, when an appointment is made, there is an obligation to keep it. When either the carrier or the shipper fails to honor the appointment, there should be penalties in place.

If you have not installed an appointment system, what is holding you back?

Pre-staging of outbound loads, utilizing shippers load and count, and honoring appointment times are all steps that will increase driver productivity by reducing delays at the warehouse.

Some logistics service providers offer consolidation programs. By combining a number of small shipments into a single larger one, the number of drivers devoted to the movement can be reduced dramatically.

Another step some distribution centers have taken is to install a counterclockwise traffic pattern around the warehouse. For the driver, this makes backing up to a door easier than if he or she is moving in a clockwise direction.

For most shippers, alternatives to motor freight are few and far between. However, some are able to switch shipments to a rail carrier that offers intermodal (piggyback) transportation. Have you investigated the opportunity to transfer both inbound and outbound movements from motor freight to intermodal?

Finally, those warehousing organizations that earn a "driver-friendly" reputation will receive better service and better pricing from the carriers that serve them. Therefore, your best answer to the driver shortage is to establish your distribution center's reputation as the most driver-friendly destination in your community.

It is never too late to start!