Both truckload and less than truckload (LTL) carriers are trying to add new capacity to meet soaring demand, but with equipment backlogs predicted to last at least through 2022 they’re looking to more creative solutions to wring more efficiency out of the market, according to a panel of trucking executives who spoke at the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) Edge conference today.
Fleets would prefer to focus on long-term, five-year plans, but a series of business hurdles keeps pulling their attention to more immediate challenges, said Derek Leathers, chairman, president and CEO of Werner Enterprises. “If it’s not Covid, it’s the driver shortage, equipment shortages, or parts shortages. You find yourself having to look a lot closer at your toes than at the horizon,” Leathers said in a session titled “ A Look Down the Road: Carrier CEOs Speak.”
Not only are automakers backed up on meeting orders to build new Class 8 trucks, but suppliers also can’t fulfill orders for the trailers towed behind them, agreed Darren Hawkins, president and CEO of Yellow Corp. “We can’t get enough trailers compared to what we need, so trailer detention is becoming an ongoing issue,” ” Hawkins said, in reference to the amount of time that truck drivers spend at distribution centers waiting to exchange inbound and outbound freight. “We charge detention fees and it’s good we’re getting paid, but as long as they’re not moving, those are revenue producing assets that are not being used.”
In search of solutions, carriers are funneling more business to warehouse facilities known for quick turnaround times, and avoiding those known as the places “where trailers go to die,” Leathers said. While he acknowledged that some shippers are faster than others at getting truckers back on the road, he declined to blame those warehouses for the tough conditions, saying they faced tough labor shortages that blocked them from hiring enough staff to handle the necessary work.