Inmar Inc. | March 21, 2013

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has released a final rule that addresses driver fatigue and revises the hours-of service safety requirements for commercial truck drivers as well as change to the restart time, which now must include two overnight periods (1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.) during the 34 consecutive hour break.

Supply chain and logistics implications and impacts are far-reaching and could change the landscape for shipping. The amount of goods needing to move will not change. But less driving time, more drivers and more tractors will be required -- ultimately leading to more fuel, thus increasing consumer prices. This will be especially true with time sensitive product. To keep goods moving efficiently, more drop trailers may be needed.

With this potential slowing of goods in transit, proper inventory management will become more critical for retailers who will need to address delivery schedules and adjust order quantities to meet the longer haul times for goods. More collaboration between the manufacturer and distribution centers will be needed to maintain appropriate inventories. By mandating that drivers have two overnight periods, the number of late-night deliveries at big box retailers will decrease, making it necessary to unload trucks during busy daytime hours instead of during off-time hours in the early morning prior to 5:00 a.m.

The new requirements will also lead to more trucks on the road during urban rush hours and during high volume traffic times. The highest percentage of truck-related accidents occurs between 6:00 a.m. and noon.* Potentially, more trucks will be on the road and making daily deliveries during the statistically riskiest time of the day when more passenger vehicles are on the road.

Concerns for compliance extend into unloading times as time spent while sitting at docks during loading and unloading does not count as rest times. This means that drivers can have valuable hours wasted with no accountability for doing so.

The new rule has the potential to negatively impact productivity and stock levels, as well as increase prices to the consumer to cover the cost of the additional drivers and equipment needed to keep inventory levels at current levels. It also is likely to slow down shipping goods back to manufacturers for credit or for remarketing in to secondary markets. The bottom line is a delay in value recovery.

As the new rules roll out, 3PLs will have their hands full helping clients keep their goods moving in a safe and efficient manner without losing inventory or having goods sit in DCs longer than needed. The need to collect data and adjust inventory and ordering practices to meet the new delivery schedules will offer new opportunities to rethink current supply chains. The old model of large centralized warehouses will need to be reconsidered for a newer model that utilizes more facilities strategically located throughout the nation.

* http://www.thetrucker.com/...safetyinthebackseat.aspx

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