Logistically Speaking: Shifting Driver Expectations

Senior Vice President, Operations, Dunavant Sea Lane Express

February 6, 2020

In 2018, the industry experienced a successful year of high demand, high rates, and profitable outcomes. 2019 leveled out with softened supply and rates. As we face the first quarter of 2020, I expect a year of ever-evolving uncertainty between the upcoming election, a volatile trade situation, and changing retail strategy.

But one thing is certain: the quality of a partner in this industry is critical.

Transparency in the industry is such that the attributes of a singular driver impact performance of companies at large. There is a higher expectation from the customer. Driver safety is ever-important, and visibility is the status quo. Insurance rates are skyrocketing. Further, Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) prompt a level of technology and transparency that cannot be compromised. These elements collectively create a level of compliance that inarguably puts pressure on carriers.

Due to end-user demands for same-delivery, driver demands for regional or short-haul assignments, and customer demands for flexible distribution options, there is less room for error and more opportunity to optimize. This requires a strategic shift to leverage transparency by instilling constant communication between drivers, carriers and shippers.

An intuitive and elevated understanding of the driver’s role in a larger logistics ecosystem is proving to become a new mandate. Though there is less demand for new drivers, there is more demand for sophisticated drivers. It is incumbent on companies to educate and provide the tools to shape this shift.

Consistent driver education regarding industry transparency, insurance, rates, contracts, and broader climate is no easy task. However, a driver’s understanding of the current landscape and potential impacts on the industry is equally advantageous to the driver. Let’s face it: few drivers prefer to sit on the dock or in a lobby waiting for their next load. With an understanding of the supply chain, drivers can become more proactive in using data to find routines and opportunities to better optimize their own schedules. Carriers and the supply chain, as a whole, can only benefit from a driver’s shift from accepting an assignment to contributing to a solution.

The convergence of the evolution of warehouse distribution demands coupled with mandated ELDs has shifted the entire job description of a driver. A driver is our business partner, and we must educate and work with them at a higher level for the sake of the partnership.