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The truck driver shortage is real — and it’s not getting any better as more truckers retire and fewer younger drivers pursue truck driving as a career. With the booming economy and growth in the construction market, demand for trucking services continues to grow. Truck capacity is even tighter and will continue to get worse. To increase productivity in the midst of the shortage, heavy building materials businesses need to be able to do more with what they already have.
In the heavy building materials industry, some companies operate their own trucks to ship raw materials and/or finished products to customers, while others use third-party hauling companies to deliver materials. Leveraging third-party haulers is a sustainable, low-capital strategy to increase fleet size as the construction business continues to grow. Materials companies are constantly driven by production, oftentimes reaching out to third-party haulers to find capacity. To make outsourcing logistics beneficial for both parties, suppliers and haulers need trusting partnerships. One way to build this trust is to use logistics technology that provides visibility into the status of an order and enables collaboration between trading partners.
Some of this software automates paper-based processes: today, drivers mark their activities on a paper call sheet detailing what was done; staple the paper ticket from entering/exiting job sites to the haul sheet; then turn the document into accounting for billing purposes. Because documents are on paper, errors are rampant and paperwork is often lost. Invoices are typically paid on a 30-, 60- or 90-day schedule. Automating business processes with electronic documents will not only create transparency into operations but will allow invoices to be generated immediately for quicker payment.
Real-time tracking of trucks provides the visibility that companies need to know where their order is. Solutions are available for use by contractors, materials providers and the third-party hauling company so that each party can see the workflow in real time. Suppliers can monitor trucks in real time and create electronic haul sheets with one version of the truth so that the haulers can get paid quickly and accurately.
Over two-thirds of the heavy building materials industry will be outsourcing their logistics services in the future. Materials suppliers realize they don’t want to manage last-mile logistics because of the expense of owning assets, so they outsource this. Tools will be in place for shippers and haulers for complete visibility of all shipments, improving customer experience and customer service. These logistics solutions will centralize the entire transportation operation for complete asset tracking, monitoring, management and payment. They provide one version of the truth for all stakeholders, and will allow suppliers to do more with what they have.
Matt Brinker is product manager for Command Alkon.
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