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Everywhere you turn, you hear about either a shortage of trucks, drivers, or even trailers, regarding the supply chain disruptions we’re experiencing today. When you turn on the news, there seems to be more talk about the supply chain disruptions being a problem, than solutions being offered.  

The trucking industry has gone to nearly every well it can find, in order to find fresh supplies of labor to fill the trucks that move our nation’s commerce. Everything from green card drivers, from other countries, to recruiting women, and now trying to move into the arena of 18-year old drivers to fill the void in today's supply chain. It’s my contention that these are all fine sources of drivers, whether they’re men, women, young adults, and green card drivers - but what’s being done to utilize the existing driver force to its full potential?  

Let's start with some of the simplest things like dwell time at a shipper.  It’s not uncommon to sit at a shipper for hours, simply waiting for paperwork. This is a total waste of a driver's available duty time.  And it seems that with today's technology, the paperwork should be ready within minutes, if not seconds, from the time the last pallet is placed in the trailer.  

If our highway system prioritized freight transit over commuter and leisure traffic, we could also speed up the delivery process. For example; why not dedicate the left lane of urban areas to thru trucks which will not be stopping in that area? Tractor-trailers generally can maintain speed fairly well. One of the problems with traffic, when we get to an urban area, is that we’re, in most cases, segregated into the lanes which would cause us to stop and go the most often. By putting us all in the left lane, or better yet, forcing us to use the left lane if we are a thru traffic, a constant speed could be more readily maintained. It seems to me, there would also be a safety benefit of not having cars jockeying for position at the entrances and exits to the interstate. This also would increase the utilization of a driver's time.  

In a more controversial approach to solve our nation's supply chain woes, we could repeal the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA -pronounced Ice Tea) of 1991. ISTEA is the United States Federal law that posed major change to transportation planning and policy, as the first U.S. Federal legislation on the subject in the post-interstate Highway System era. The ISTEA put a freeze on long combination vehicles. These combos would have greatly increased the efficiency of freight movement, and also in regards to fuel efficiency per ton of freight moved. Here’s an article from my good friend, Jim Park, that explains what happened.

So, while there are many people shouting from the rooftops about a problem, there is not much seemingly being done, to not squander an existing driver's precious time to move our country's commerce. It’s my belief that our industry is resourceful enough to find solutions to keep our nation supplied and rolling, as long as we get just a little cooperation.

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Henry Albert

Henry Albert is the owner of Albert Transport, Inc., based in Statesville, NC. Before participating in the "Slice of Life" program, Albert drove a 2001 Freightliner Century Class S/Tâ„¢, and will use his Cascadia for general freight and a dry van trailer. Albert, who has been a trucker since 1983, was recognized by Overdrive as its 2007 Trucker of the Year.

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