CHICAGO -- Distributors seeking to reduce transportation costs might start by mending relationships with carrier fleet drivers.
One of the main reasons for driver shortages, high turnover rates and rising workman's compensation claims in the carrier industry -- all of which lead to higher costs for distributors -- is improper treatment and inefficient operations at food industry warehouses, said Lana Batts, president, Interstate Truckload Carriers Conference, Alexandria, Va.
Yet some relatively modest and inexpensive changes in behavior and operations could go a long way toward reducing costs, Batts said at the American Frozen Food Institute's distribution and logistics conference here. "I'm not talking about mollycoddling the drivers, just treating them like other members of the work force."
Distributors need to treat drivers in a more professional manner, she said, citing letters received from companies that barred drivers from using company restrooms, telephones and cafeterias. The letters further stated that drivers were required to unload trucks with manual pallet jacks and prohibited from using laborers-for-hire.
Such regulations are degrading to drivers, she said. "Here's a driver that can be trusted with a $100,000 vehicle but he can't use the company's cafeteria."
Batts also stressed that making drivers responsible for unloading trucks is inefficient and results in high workman's compensation expenses and increased risk of labor hour violations.
In the past, drivers performing manual labor at a warehouse often wrote their hours down as overtime and then continued to work the rest of their daily route. The Department of Transportation, however, has begun cracking down on such practices, she said.