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Maximising productivity

Fatigue and Safety - Talking Turkey About Trucking


All the time a truck is parked up it is spending money not making it, so one of the best ways of making money is to keep the truck moving. This is one of the simplest rules to follow in terms of productivity in the trucking industry.


I have recently spent a week in Italy at the global launch of the new Daily van range and noticed just how our European cousins perform in the productivity stakes. The trucks in Europe spend a lot of time not moving, the inefficiency is palpable as trucks will spend large chunks of the day and night sitting idle.


Now, this is not a dig at the idle Italians or Australian arrogance about our superior trucking industry, it is simply an observation about the practices on the two different continents. The sharp contrast between the two systems serves to demonstrate just how much more efficiently we are using our resources (vehicles) than some of the most sophisticated economies on earth.


The problem for the Europeans is the regulatory environment. Driving hours rules are strictly enforced and extremely stringent when compared to our own. The maximum number of hours a driver can drive in one day is ten hours, and only for two days in a week. The rest of the time they are limited to just nine hours driving. Overall in the week they must not exceed, averaging over a two week period, 54 hours driving.


At the same time congestion on the busy European motorway network means drivers are not guaranteed to reach planned destinations reliably in the allocated time. The combination of limited driving hours and uncertain scheduling mean a lot of slack has to be built into the system to ensure the goods get to the customer reliably on schedule.


The slack built in to the scheduling means there is a lot of idle time for drivers and trucks. A load being shifted to a site 8.5 hours away is not guaranteed to get to the destination in a single shift. As a result, the schedulers have to always assume the worst and get trucks and loads close to their destination well in time for their slot.


Of course, this ends up with loads waiting close to their destination for long periods of time. The punishment for a late delivery can be very harsh. In my own experience, we lost up to $1000 an hour on a load rate if the truck missed its allotted delivery time. This was urgent perishables, but the payment structure certainly concentrated the mind on making absolutely sure the truck didn’t miss its window. Often this meant a truckie getting a good run was on site over twenty hours before delivery time.


This kind of wasted time is very expensive, in terms of productivity. Waiting around all day would be completely unacceptable in an operation in Australia. We are lucky to be able to work with uncongested inter-capital routes and fatigue rules which give some flexibility to the driver in managing rest.


Of course, all of our competitors have the same opportunities and rates reflect this. Therefore, our fantastic productivity capabilities do not result in equally high profitability for Australian trucking. Comparison with the European system does give us an opportunity to understand our trucking industry is at the leading edge of transport and logistics around the world. Looking at Europe we are able to benchmark our industry and realise we are not going quite as badly as we thought!


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