Executive Vice President Doug Hoehn of Milestone Equipment Holdings
stressed that the “most important thing to do for a motor carrier or
driver is to provide a good piece of equipment,” and described
technological and equipment advancements being made to accomplish that.
“We have taken several steps that help customers and drivers know
what equipment is available,” Hoehn said. One of them is an emailed
daily utilization report that provides real time information. Another is
accessing equipment supply through chassisfinder.com. Fleets and drivers can select equipment on the web or by phone.
Another approach in use at some locations, Hoehn said, is equipping
chassis with GPS to help managers better understand movement patterns so
that utilization can be improved.
Eventually, Hoehn believes that “GPS won’t be something that is an
option, but will become almost required equipment” for chassis.
Currently, Hoehn believes that upgrading to radial tires, disc wheels
and LED lighting on all company chassis gives drivers the assurance
that they won’t have a breakdown. Milestone chose that equipment to make
its equipment more attractive to users, compared with the older chassis
that might not have those features.
Hoehn said the market is embracing newer chassis as ownership of
equipment shifts more toward motor carriers, 3PLs, cargo owners and
forwarders who are willing to pay slightly more for equipment with the
belief that lower total cost of ownership will be the result. He also
favors the trucker choice model.
“Having a high-quality chassis readily available for a driver’s use
is one of the best ways to improve [drivers’] productivity and
experiences,” said Direct ChassisLink Senior Vice President Ron Joseph.
DCLI has invested nearly $45 million to equip over 27,000 units with
radial tires and LED lights on 80 percent of its fleets. More than
16,000 new chassis have been added to the fleet, with further investment
planned in 2019.
Joseph believes that equipment utilization in chassis pools “is
actually quite good” and that “as a general rule, there are enough units
in the right locations to meet the needs of our customers.”
He advocates improvement of that utilization through increased and
collaborative communication among all links in the supply chain.
“Having access to information about what shipments are coming in,
what equipment is needed to move them, where they’re going, when they’re
needed to arrive, etc. are the key data points that drive the
utilization equation,” Joseph said. “The data needed to be efficient is
available – it’s just a matter of collaboration and sharing that
information between parties that turns such data into useful information
that can improve the efficiency of the whole system.”
There also are a series of technology-related steps that could aid
utilization and efficiency, he said. They include telemetry systems that
can monitor light, tire and brake system conditions. The resulting
benefits would include alerts for maintenance and repair to assist
drivers in identifying issues before they become a roadside event.
Other benefits related to technology were he cited include fewer
roadability repairs before failures occur, improved regulatory
compliance, higher customer satisfaction and the ability to better use
equipment condition information in terminals to enhance operations.
Chief Operating Officer William Hamlin at ITS Technologies &
Logistics also provided multiple perspectives on how to enhance drivers’
experience, including the formation of a working group by IANA’s
Operations Committee to evaluate how industry-wide approaches can
accomplish that goal.
“Everyone in the chain has a piece of the responsibility and has to
be committed to doing their part to improve the system economics and
efficiencies,” Hamlin said. “By bringing the broader intermodal
stakeholder community together to find ways to improve the overall
driver experience and turn time, we can make some measurable
improvements,” he continued. “The improvements will come from
technology, automation, information flow and improved operations working
“There are a variety of factors that impact the driver experience and
the efficiency of the move. The issue is that there are many facets of
the driver experience depending on the nature of the movement,” he told
Insights, including marine terminal, intermodal rail terminal, container
yard, distribution center, warehousing and customer facilities. Driver
experience can be influenced by cargo availability, gate congestion,
facility delays and equipment availability, which are being tackled by
steps such as automated gates and appointment systems.
“By bringing the broader intermodal stakeholder community
together to find ways to improve the overall driver experience and turn
time, we can make some measurable improvements.”
— William Hamlin, ITS Technologies & Logistics
The system’s efficiency is tested by a number of operating
conditions, Hamlin explained. For example, cargo owners desire to see
freight moving, but freight isn’t always ready to be unloaded, so
truckers and their equipment utilization are hurt. Mega ships’ cargo
volume may be too large to move efficiently through parts of the supply
chain. Chassis availability can be influenced by heavy street volumes,
equipment condition or balance issues.
Appointment systems as well as better information flow on when trucks
are arriving will be important to enhance operational planning and
execution, Hamlin believes. Another step forward is off-terminal
container yards that can help to improve overall turn time by reducing
delays at congested facilities.
Port of New York and New Jersey Assistant Director Beth Rooney
outlined multiple actions taken at the port to enhance drivers’
experience. One is the trucker resource guide, updated annually, which
is available as a downloadable ibook and printed versions, in English,
Spanish, Mandarin and Polish, the four top languages spoken by drivers.
The guide is designed to inform drivers about every aspect of their port
One feature Rooney cited at New York and New Jersey is the port’s
information system that gives status on export and import cargo,
functioning as a one-stop web portal. Port Truck Pass, as it is called,
also registers and effectively authorizes access to terminals through
radio-frequency identification tags. The result is that location as well
as track and trace information is available to drivers and port
operators alike, in addition to data such as demurrage, free time and
circumstances such as customs holds.
Appointment systems have been an evolving story at New York and New
Jersey, beginning at Global Container Terminal. Appointments now are
required for part of the workday, but not at all times. Later this year,
all trucker moves will require appointments, Rooney said. Two other
terminals in the region are slated to be converted to appointment
systems this year.
“Generally speaking, it is all about transparency and communication.
If everybody knows the plan, the better off the whole supply chain is.
Part of the experience at the terminal includes chassis,” Rooney told
Insights. “When the chassis leaves the depot, it must be known to be in
good condition and roadworthy.”
Glenn Farren, director of tenant services and operations at the Port
of Long Beach, said the port’s overarching goal is to make operations
more efficient for drivers and all other stakeholders, making the
important point that there is a disparity in turn times among port
terminals that penalizes motor carriers.
He offered a series of steps that could be taken to continue those
improvements, such as taking empty containers off dock to eliminate the
existing condition where 30 percent of gate traffic is empty returns and
pickups. Two such chassis yards are operating now.
Opportunities also exist in pool operations, through enhancing the
mechanisms for determining whether there is a surplus or deficit of
equipment for each terminal and equipment provider.
While he favors establishing a neutral, or gray, pool, Farren also
noted that the “pool of pools” structure in place in Southern California
is a significant improvement over market conditions in place before
IEPs adopted that approach in 2015.
Appointment systems would work better, he believes, if they were used
for all transactions, not just import pickups. Farren also endorsed
Farren also touted “peel piles” because they can produce eight times
as many boxes moved in an hour, compared with conventional operations.
“Generally speaking, it is all about transparency and
communication. If everybody knows the plan, the better off the whole
supply chain is.”
— Beth Ann Rooney, Port of New York and New Jersey
Efficiency also is a critical part of Southern California’s Clean
Truck Program, since drivers need to make sure they can make enough
moves to turn a profit and cover new truck costs.
One other key improvement will be sharing information between modes to promote greater cargo visibility.
At the Port of Los Angeles spokesperson Phillip Sanfield outlined several steps that can aid drivers’ experience.
He cited the recently implemented PierPass 2.0 program, which
requires appointments to pick up import containers, saying that could
help to improve turn times. Dual transactions are another advantageous
step, he noted.
“What slows drivers down is the picking and choosing of containers
that are stacked in a pile,” Sanfield said. “Often, the container the
driver is after is at the bottom of the pile, thus causing long turn
times. Peel off piles eliminate the picking and choosing and the driver
takes the containers from the top and works their way down the pile.”
Drivers’ experience also is enhanced by bringing their own chassis, he added.
A particular focus at Los Angeles is technology known as the GE Port
Optimizer, developed in conjunction with the port to improve cargo
planning and driver efficiency.
“We are working on technology such as the Port Optimizer to get a
better line of sight on cargo,” Sanfield said. That technology is
cloud-based software designed to deliver real time information through a
single portal. It’s driven by data integration from multiple sources in
the port region and uses machine learning,
The technology is scheduled to be in use at all Los Angeles container
terminals this year, Sanfield noted, to “help the supply chain monitor
and respond to dynamic conditions … and enable maximum port throughput
and delivery performance.”