Category Archives: News and Links

Surviving “The Week Of No Dispatchers”: A True Story

Renee’ Ferris is GM of a local P&D company in Chicago with about 50 drivers. A while back, she had the perfect storm:

  • Her AM dispatcher broke his leg in 3 places and was out of work for a week.
  • Her PM dispatcher went out of the country to visit relatives—the same week.
  • Her boss, the owner, went out of town for the same week.

Therefore, there was nobody in the office with dispatch skills, and they needed to route and manage almost 50 drivers and trucks in an intense, local LTL P&D environment. It could have been a disaster.

You can’t get a great P&D dispatcher from a temp agency. How did she manage? Was it a miracle?

How did the carrier survive that week?

How did the carrier survive that week?

I asked Ferris what got her through the week, and her first reply was, “JSY made it possible.” How come?

Ferris and her staff simply ran JSY’s OneTerminal TMS software, which walked them through every order from start to finish. There was no guessing which screen to use, and they didn’t get lost. She got the morning manifests done (with a little help at 5:00am from a seasoned driver). Then, she and the other three women in the office – a data entry person, a finance manager, and the HR manager – ran the trucking operation for that entire week. They could see everything they needed when drivers or customers called in.

“We’re a high-service, high-priced carrier, and believe me, it was a little unnerving to think about being without anyone who dispatches regularly. The software kept everything going and helped us keep our cool. We even maintained our usual profitability that week. It was a really amazing thing to be a part of,” said Ferris.

If you want to compare notes with Renee’ directly, you’re welcome to contact her at rferris@bhsystems.com. (She’ll probably tell you to just buy software from JSY.) It was an interesting week, that’s for sure, and a great story.

Technology and Embarrassment

EmbarrassedNobody likes to be embarrassed. I hear over and over that poor communication in business, just as in any relationship, creates the most embarrassment. It could be forgetting someone’s birthday or your anniversary. In fact, you might be feeling the heat of a prior embarrassing situation as you read this—the emotion is that powerful.

In trucking, embarrassment often comes up as the response to things like this:

  • “He only picked up 5 skids? Man, there were 7 to pick up. You did this last week too.”
  • “Where is the driver?” (even if he is already at the dock)
  • “Why can’t you tell me who signed for it and when?”
  • “When will you have a POD that I can see? The delivery was six days ago.”
  • “Why are we getting billed for detention when nobody gave us a heads-up?”

People sometimes think that new technology is all about new gizmos, bells and whistles they don’t need, and expensive toys they’ll never use. However, people sometimes don’t spend much timBad moralee thinking about the emotional climate at work, and the cost of that to you and your employees. When I ask gently, most people sure do have the embarrassment issues going on. What does embarrassment cost you and your team in terms of morale?  What does morale cost you in terms of your day-to-day ability to serve your customers?

It might be worth considering technology as an investment in your emotional well-being. Having better and faster answers to these questions can lessen your embarrassment and give your staff and customers new confidence. Enhanced tools, just the right ones for your business, might do wonders for your emotional climate.

As always, something to think about. Have a great week.

–Jonathan Miller

3 Ways to Keep Customers from Leaving You

I hear it all the time:

“Jonathan, my biggest account just went somewhere else, and we had to lay off three drivers. It hurts.”Stanley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hidden Costs of Losing Customers

 

Losing customers is not only painful, it’s also a much bigger loss than just the revenue.

SCORE, a national nonprofit think-tank for entrepreneurial education, tells us (http://tinyurl.com/o975jxg) the following about losing customers:

  • It costs about 5 times as much to attract a new customer as it does to keep an existing one.
    • Jonathan’s suggestion:  Keep your current customers! It’s cheaper!
  • The lowest-ranking employee in a business can lose more customers than can be gained by the highest-ranking employee.
    • Jonathan’s suggestion:  When a customer leaves, find out why. Ask the hard questions.
  • If you make an effort to remedy customer’s complaints, 82 to 95 percent of them will stay with you.
    • Jonathan’s suggestion:  if someone takes the trouble to complain, take the trouble to listen and respond.  It takes time, but isn’t it worth it to keep that customer’s business? Of course it is – because more than 4 of 5 customers will stay if you try to help them. You might even get a grateful hug!

kiss in hall

What To Do Right Now

If you are losing customers, you must take action.  What to do? Here are some things you can do today:

 1.  Swarm your customers with thoughtful service.

Here are some examples:

  • If your customers want online POD, give them online POD.

Invest in a TMS that will give your customers this kind of self-service help.  (Hint:  your phones will be quieter, too.)

  • If your customers want you to call ahead for a delivery, or every delivery, or every pickup and every delivery, just do it. (You might need better systems in place so that you don’t keep forgetting to call ahead.)

You need a system in place where nothing falls through the cracks.

  • If you don’t have this, someone else will, and your customer will go there.

customer leaving at night

2.  Anticipate your customers’ needs.

 (Don’t wait for them to ask.)

proactive

Some suggestions:

  • Ask your top 10 customers what they dream of when they are shipping freight.
  • See what you can do to make their dreams happen.
  • If you can justify raising your rates as a result, so much the better – everybody wins.

And finally:

change ahead sign

3.  Adapt your systems

to your customers’ needs,

not the other way around.

 

You know the old joke:

        Everyone is all in favor of change,

        …. Until they have to change themselves.

  • If you are not set up to swarm your customers with thoughtfulness, another trucking company will be, and you will lose the business.
  • You may have to step out of your comfort zone to push through some needed changes with some of your stubborn employees.  (“We’ve always done it this way” ain’t good enough when the world outside your dock doors is changing all the time.)
http://www.dreamstime.com/-image20785598

Get out of your comfort zone!

If you’re losing customers, keep your head out of the sand!  If you are keeping your customers, let’s make sure you can maintain that momentum. Either way, contact me at jmiller@jsysoftware.com or 630-517-0705 for a free consultation. We’ll see what resources we can marshal in your favor.

Contact me today.

–Jonathan Miller

Editor, Local Trucking Blog

Mobile Fleet Devices in Local P&D: BYOD, COPE, or both?

There is a great article in FleetOwner about evaluating how to deploy mobile devices in a fleet. The basic choice is between these two options:

  • using drivers’ existing personal smartphones for business purposes or
  • having company-owned phones with selected personal features.

Read on for a great discussion about BYOD (“bring your own devices”) vs. COPE (“corporate-owned, personally-enabled”) smartphones. A lot of it depends on who your drivers are, since you can only demand so much from independents, while employee drivers have less choice. A good read for any fleet owner or fleet manager.

http://fleetowner.com/technology/smart-devices-and-fleet-desires?page=1

You’ll need to register for FleetOwner.com to read the entire article.

–Jonathan Miller

Local Hauls (<100 mi.) Exempt from 30-Minute Break Rule

This is good news for local trucking companies:

http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/documents/hos/30-Minute-Guidance.pdf

Effective August 2, 2013, all drivers (CDL and non-CDL) that operate within 100 air miles of their normal work reporting location and satisfy the time limitations and recordkeeping requirements of 395.1(e)(1) will no longer be subject to the 30-minute break requirement.

  • Also, non-CDL drivers that operate within a 150 air-mile radius of the location where the driver reports for duty and satisfy the time limitations and recordkeeping requirements of 395.1(e)(2).

FMCSA will also be initiating a rulemaking to include text in the HOS regulations noting that the 30 minute break provisions do not apply to short haul drivers.

Jonathan Miller, Editor

New HOS Rules Posted, Local Exceptions Retained

Here are the new HOS rules from the FMCSA:

http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/documents/hos/Interstate-Truck-Driver-Guide-to-HOS_508.pdf

Note that the exception for 100-mile-radius trucking remains intact, which is good news for local trucking operations.  The 150-mile non-CDL exception is also preserved.  In either case logbooks are not required.   The exceptions are listed in detail on page 18 of the document.

–The Editors

How To Harness Big Data (When You’re Not That Big)

We read all the time about how Big Data will transform your life. We see headlines like this: “Big Trucking Company XYZ Saves $6 Million with Big Data.” You can read such an article here:

http://tinyurl.com/c6hu4bw

But what about the small-to-medium sized carrier?  Can a firm with 20 to 75 trucks use Big Data?

Of course you can.

For my customers — local trucking / cartage / P&D / intermodal carriers — I’ve seen the impact when my customers have tools to measure and monitor things like this:

  • Driver revenue per hour (hugely valuable for employee drivers)
  • Truck / route revenue, per day, week, month, quarter
  • Profitability of certain customers (am I billing a lot but losing money on that big customer?)

You won’t have as many data points as the big guys, but who cares? The important thing is that you can develop your own KPIs—Key Performance Indicators—and track them.  You don’t need expensive consultants to get your own powerful Big Data. You just need to know what is happening in your company every day.

And let’s not forget operational data – info we need to get every order done and every job billed:

  • Arrival / departure times and POD info as pickups and deliveries happen
  • Detention charges that you can actually document and justify
  • List of daily or weekly pickups that need to get schedule but aren’t yet scheduled
  • Complete rating information in one place so anyone can auto-rate on the fly

For more information, contact me.  Let’s work together to develop your KPI’s and get you the tools to measure them.

You can contact Jonathan Miller at 630-517-0705 or jmiller@jsysoftware.com.

 

Leveraging Your Current IT Investment In Local Trucking

If you’ve survived the recession, you have probably made some IT investments over the years. You are probably using QuickBooks. You might have GPS. Your drivers might have smartphones.

But without a back-end system that is designed to tie together your other IT investments, you might be wasting time and money in one or more of the following ways. Do any of these ring a bell?

  • You write up quotes using rates that are on paper or in a binder.
  • You dispatch with T-cards.
  • You dispatch in Excel.
  • Your drivers have GPS or smartphones.
  • You do invoicing in QuickBooks.

All of these things are fine. People use them for good reasons. But each of them has limits and liabilities. If you use one of these, you are throwing away payroll dollars every pay period. And if you use more than one, chances are good that your office payroll is a sinkhole.

You may be thinking, “Come on, be serious.” We are completely serious. This is the #1 area where local P&D companies fail.

Why Rating By Hand Wastes Money

Rating with binders or rate sheets usually mean that only one person can rate at a time. What happens if that person is away, on vacation, or sick? What happens to your quoting activity? All the staff time it takes to rate and quote, not to mention finding old paper quotes – you are pouring money down the drain in the form of office payroll.

Why Dispatching with T-Cards Wastes Money

Using T-cards often means that some essential information about an order – accessorials, arrival/departure time, upcharges, changes to the order – could get missed when the order goes to billing. That’s money you leave on the table.

Why Dispatching in Excel Wastes Money

If you dispatch in Excel, someone has to type order information at least twice – once to dispatch and once to invoice. Sometimes it ends up being entered three times. Once again, think of all the wasted time in the office and what that costs you.

Why Driver Smartphones Waste Money

It’s great to have drivers be equipped with technology. Does your smartphone connect to your back-end system? If not, someone in your office is probably doing double-entry of arrival and departure times. Your dispatchers are still taking time (=your money) talking to drivers. And if you’re not capturing POD information in real-time, your customer service people will spend too much time on the phones answering calls that ask, “Is it there yet?” All that time costs you.

Why Invoicing in QuickBooks Wastes Money

If you invoice in QuickBooks, you have serious limitations on searching for old invoices, and what happens if someone disputes an accessorial or detention charge? It can take hours to research and resolve the issue – and you’ve probably then paid more in staff time than the disputed charge was worth anyway.

There’s a better way. Now we’re sure you love the people in your office and you don’t want anything bad to happen to them. What would your life be like if your office staff could handle all their current responsibilities in half the time? That’s what the right TMS does for you.

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