In 2014 TLISC partnered with the International Specialised Skills (ISS) Institute to award a Fellowship to Paul Kahlert with the aim of investigating international best practice in the transport and logistics (T&L) industry. Paul recently returned from his three week visit to the United States where he met owners and CEOs of T&L businesses in California, New York, New Jersey, Washington DC and Philadelphia.
ISSI Fellow goes bicoastal in the name of T&L
My decision to spend time visiting T&L businesses on both coasts resulted in over 1,500 miles in hire cars and the ‘pleasure’ of traversing LA’s famous freeways (car parks).
The trip culminated with me attending the American Trucking Associations (ATA) annual convention in Philadelphia with close to 2,000 delegates. This four day event showcased the latest in technology and equipment innovations along with key note speeches from world-class presenters on productivity improvement, safety, driver attraction and retention. The safety session was held by the co-pilot of the plane that successfully ditched in the Hudson River, New York and highlighted the importance of businesses having a true safety culture rather than just a compliance strategy.
A key takeout for me was the impact T&L businesses in the States experienced during the GFC. US businesses appeared to have had significantly more distress than what many Australian companies experienced. This downturn created a survival approach by business owners to improve their productivity and bottom line performances. Employers quickly embraced and committed to technology solutions to measure and report on their workers’ performance in order to make their businesses more sustainable.
I also found the use of smartphone devices to assist with fleet planning and asset management was rapidly evolving with drivers using apps on their phones rather than company provided equipment. There is a noticeable shift from traditional ‘in-house’ server based software applications to cloud-based services utilising the power of Google and the internet. Testimony to this was that there were no PDA hardware exhibitors at the convention with all software providers touting the IOS and Android platforms.
From a futurist point of view exhibitors also had their ‘autonomous’ trucks on show which are capable of driverless operations using a combination of radar, cameras, mapping and engine management systems.
On the HR spectrum, I found that with the US economy now showing signs of an upturn this has created a new challenge with the country experiencing significant driver shortages in long-distance operators with some firms offering up to $6,000 sign-on bonuses to attract drivers to their businesses.
The Chief Economist of the ATA provided statistics showing 89,000 new drivers were required each year to cover the loss of drivers and growth in the freight task. With a workforce of rapidly ageing drivers companies were turning to solutions such as lobbying government to automatically licence ex-military personnel where they had previously operated heavy vehicles. This initiative alone would create over 10,000 new driver positions annually. Other initiatives to attract drivers include the addition of satellite TVs, in-cab Wi-Fi and automatic gearboxes to attract younger generations along with other benefits such as medical and training expenses paid by the company.
I would like to thank the Boards of the TLISC and ISS for the opportunity of a lifetime to research the industry I have worked in for over 27 years. I am looking forward to producing the final report for distribution to key stakeholders.