The Grawe Gazette – Executive Leadership from Ops Chair
Prep to Win the Holiday Season
By Gary Randall, November 2021
“Happy Thanksgiving!” “Merry Christmas!” – good wishes that can strike fear into even the most experienced Operations leaders.
Amid the highest profile supply chain crisis in recent history, the added crunch of the holiday season will challenge the trucking industry even more than usual. A smooth holiday season is a winning holiday season that can put a big exclamation point on a trucking company’s year, and getting a smooth holiday season takes thoughtful preparation.
Prepare for the holiday season in 4 key areas:
- Weather Delays
Many of your drivers will want to be home for the holidays. Failure to plan for this is not an option. What can you do to balance home time and service needs successfully?
- Communicate with your fleet – review expectations and schedules (both yours and theirs).
- Clearly identify the holiday runners vs. those who want to be home for the holidays.
- Preplan the holiday runners – ensure you maximize their hours of service. There is nothing worse than having a driver who is willing to work and finds themself spending the holiday at a truck stop without a load.
- Set clear expectations with the portion of your fleet who expect to be home.
- Home by when?
- For how long?
- Dispatch them home while under a load (only if you have documented they have a safe/secure place for the load while at home).
- If they go home empty, pre-plan their next load ahead of time in order to minimize any unproductive time as they come back to work.
Protect your freight award. Maximize your utilization. Proactively communicate any service delays.
- Know facility holiday schedules and contact information for your shippers and consignees
- Position yourself as a resource for your customer when others fail.
- Shippers may want to load your equipment early. Explore the possibility of increasing your trailer pools to do so. This may also allow you more flexibility when picking up your loads.
- Know the consignees that will allow you to arrive early and get unloaded or drop the trailer.
- You will experience some additional cost while managing your trailer pools. Understand and manage those costs with the goal of achieving your utilization goals throughout the holiday season.
- On-time service is a critical, often emotional issue during the holiday season. Proactively communicate any delays with your shippers and consignees (make sure your staff has the contact information they need). Late loads are a problem, not communicating you’re going to be late could be unforgivable.
Trucking never sleeps, even during the holidays. Your staffing needs to reflect this reality.
- Vacation and personal time must be managed throughout the year. Too much unused time-off can be a problem as the calendar year comes to an end. Get ahead of these issues by knowing who has time-off that still needs to be scheduled. Plan accordingly.
- Throughout the holidays staffing may be working on-site or remotely, make sure equipment and communication channels are all working smoothly.
- Amount of coverage and hours worked must support the business needs.
- Remote workers must be supported with the necessary tools to communicate effectively.
November and December signal the transition from fall to winter.
- Freezing rain, snow, and strong winds become a reality.
- Utilize the information your weather tools provide to proactively communicate any issues/delays with your drivers and customers.
- Listen to your drivers. Only they know what road conditions they are experiencing.
- Empower your drivers and your people to choose safety and caution over service.
The holiday season can be full of challenges. These challenges can be overcome by planning ahead, preparing for the impending challenges, and ensuring your workflows, expectations, and communication channels are in top shape.
Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and Safe and Happy Holiday Season to you all.
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