A popular phrase of the 1970s was “Keep on Trucking.” Like many catchphrases, this one did not account for all the exceptions to the rule.
While large semis traveling down America’s highways are a vivid symbol of robust commerce and free markets, those freight-bearing eighteen-wheelers are also found stranded at shipping/receiving docks, on roadsides or at truck stops. Through no fault of the drivers, they are delayed by industrial misjudgments, poor vehicular maintenance, and inclement weather. Given all the factors that can slow shipments down, the fact that so many arrive at their destinations on time and intact is nearly miraculous.
When the Truck Arrives, But the Order Is Not Ready
The financial website Investopedia defines a bottleneck as follows: “A bottleneck is a point of congestion in a production system (such as an assembly line or a computer network) that occurs when workloads arrive too quickly for the production process to handle.”
When manufacturers or distributors suffer factory bottlenecks in their operating systems, order fulfillment is postponed until the glitch is identified and remedied. Unless they decide to invest in state-of-the-art CMMS like Leading2Lean , such hold ups are likely to occur again and again, causing chronic delays. The minutes and hours tick by as the truck drivers await their loads. In an era where more truckers are in demand, those on the road can ill afford to be detained by production malfunctions, especially if these delays are common.
When the Trailer Is Full But the Tractor is Failing
Unless the driver is an owner-operator, others must be trusted to maintain the conveyance in good working order. Fleet managers expend millions of dollars annually to repair hobbled vehicles. The many afflictions suffered by highway freighters include:
- Dead batteries
- Under-inflated tires
- Worn-out breaks
- Electrical malfunctions
As is evident, these disabling occurrences are preventable. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation requires annual passage on each maintenance component of the commercial vehicle. Inspection, Repair, and Maintenance for Motor Carriers of Passengers – Part 396
Drivers are also advised to keep a copy of this Safety Audit Resource Guide checklist
When Everything Is Working But Nature Intervenes
Trucking delays, unfortunately, are not always avoided even in the best of circumstances. Weather does not consult shipping schedules or manifests. In fact, bad weather will interrupt shipments with dangerous winds, power failures, poor visibility, and icy or unpassable roads. Depending on the swiftness of public safety responses, freight can remain at a distance from its intended destination for days. For instance, in the wake of the 2017 hurricanes Irma and Harvey, truck routes were re-routed while fuel prices rose. Flooding was one major cause for the revisions.
In addition, shipments have been halted because of downed power lines, mudslides and black ice. Safety should always take priority over timeliness. Reliable weather forecasting and good judgment by traffic managers should minimize truck drivers’ exposure to crippling weather patterns.
Other indeterminate causes can slow down a delivery independent of the driver’s skill and integrity. Miscommunication between shipper and receiver; serious traffic accidents; and unexpected roadblocks can each postpone arrival times for truck deliveries.
Drivers do well to master the variables they can control. However, at the end of the day, other determinants out of their sphere of influence always threaten to interfere with the route. Always be prepared.
© 2018, Allen Smith. All rights reserved.