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Maximizing drivers’ time with trip planning

Today’s supply chains are in a flux. Trucking companies and shippers can’t find drivers to haul loads and make deliveries. The truck driver shortage may become an even bigger issue once Biden’s Infrastructure Plan goes into effect. Local and state governments use funds to build more roads, bridges, public transport, airports, waterways, and other infrastructure. Why? Because there will be a greater need for construction workers on these projects, and these workers often pull from the same labor pool as truck drivers.

Trucking companies need to be creative to find and hire drivers and then use technology to maximize the driver’s time and keep them moving. Drivers get paid for driving on the road, so the more they travel, the more money they make.

Trip planning is an excellent way to maximize a truck driver’s time. While it takes time to plan the trip each day, drivers are more efficient and productive in the long run.

Maximizing Driving Time

Once you get a driver to accept a load, you want to make sure you can maximize their driving time. One way to do this is with smart trip planning, which are optimized plans that are very accurate as to driving times. Smart trip plans are more than just going from point A to B. You will maximize drivers’ time by reducing detention and providing a more accurate route plan.

Smart trip planning is a feature of some transportation management systems (TMS), such as the Axele TMS.
Whenever a load is assigned to a driver, an optimized trip plan for the driver is computed by the TMS. The algorithms for creating the schedule need to encompass the FMCSA Hours of Service rules. The system will intelligently generate a route from one stop to another stop by detailing the driver’s activities along the way.

When calculating the trip plan, data points should be:

  • Time that driver will be at the warehouse or distribution facility
  • Unload and load times
  • Yard wait times
  • Load stop details like location and appointment time
  • Driver preferences for rest stops, fuel breaks, restaurants, hotels
  • Status information of the driver like driver location, time, and HOS
  • Points of interest, such as heavy congestion areas

The trip plan can be used to:

  • Provide a complete picture of the trip to both Drivers and Dispatchers by incorporating all the rules defined for HOS compliance.
  • Identify the estimated arrival time for every load stop, enabling a dispatcher to precisely predict the load/stop completion ETA.
  • Checking the feasibility of assignments: A planner or owner operator can check if a load assignment to a driver is feasible or not. This involves looking at the driver’s HOS limitations, location of load, and driver preferences, like wants to be home every night.

Another way to maximize driver’s time is to use a team approach. Having more than one driver lets the driving team stay on the road longer. Complete schedules, total pay, plus rest, make drivers happier and more likely to remain on the job. Husband and wife teams especially enjoy driving together for companionship on the road. Team driving makes longer trips less lonely and helps time pass quicker.

Dispatchers and trip planners can visualize a driver’s schedule. Seeing solo drivers and teams on a weekly Gantt chart ensures proper assignment of loads with no overlap. The TMS integrates HOS data from electronic logging devices (ELD) in the trucks, so dispatchers and schedulers can see the availability of all drivers and teams. Clear availability information enables better scheduling of the trip plan.

Best Practices for Trip Planning

Truck drivers should review their trip plan each day as they begin their day to see if they have any questions or concerns. Look at the weather forecast, too. If storms are in the weather forecast for the area you will be driving through, alert your dispatcher to find an alternate route.

  • When driving, take note of roadblocks, construction zones, road closures, and more, and report them to your dispatcher to incorporate this information into future trip plans.
  • When stopping for your break, make sure there is an alternate location close by if your intended rest area is closed.
  • Plan for overnight parking in a safe location, not just anywhere. Know where to go and what to avoid before you leave for your trip, so you are assured that your trip will be as safe as possible.
  • Have extra food, water, clothing, and basic supplies on hand, just in case you need them. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
  • Know where repair shops or tire stores are located along your route in case you need service.
  • States have different fees on fuel, so if you know ahead of time which state has better prices, see if you can stop to fill up there to save money.

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