Inmar Inc. | April 4, 2013

With the Department of Transportation's (DOT) new Hours of Service (HOS) rule looming over the transportation industry with its effective date of July 1, 2013, there is some debate on how prepared partners within the supply chain need to be. After all, there are legal challenges to the ruling and it has been delayed before. With experts coming down on both sides of the ruling — some say it will pass because courts have fatigue with the subject and others saying fear of economic setbacks will see it knocked down in court — it is likely a decision will not be handed down until late spring or early summer giving little time for preparation to adjust to the new rules.

One of the immediate needs will be more electronic on-board recorders (EOBR) in trucks; otherwise there will be no accurate way to verify that the new rules are being met. This is a costly and time-consuming process that will take time to implement.

However, there are some planning tools that supply chain partners can work on collaboratively that could make the potential slowdown in the supply chain much less of a pain point.

Efficiency in loading and unloading trailers at all points — manufacturer, distribution center, retail store — will get trucks on the road faster. This includes flexibility in staffing to have personnel to load and unload because downtime is costly to drivers and ultimately slows down the movement of all goods. With the reduced hours and restart times for drivers, the most convenient times for loading and unloading may not always be feasible. Trucking is becoming a 24-hour business and all points in the supply chain need to be prepared for this.

Carriers can increase the practice of customer scorecards to determine ways to best improve efficiencies with shipments. This practice could provide true collaboration with two-way feedback. One of the metrics on customer scorecards is trailer turns for drop trailers. The use of drop trailers could be utilized where volume is adequate to turn trailers regularly — a two-week minimum — to keep drivers free from load and unload times.

As the ruling makes its way through the courts, the impact on trading partners will be in limbo, but some improvements could begin to be implemented that will be positive even if the rule does not stand and make supply chains more efficient.

I would enjoy hearing your thoughts on the trends you feel are impacting our industry. Please leave your questions or comments below.