How to Have Safer, More Efficient Driver Check In

by Vector | Oct 7, 2021 2:46:42 PM

We learned a lot about the global supply chain during the pandemic. In general, we got some answers to questions that weren't previously on our radar. For example, how do we make driver check-in safer and more efficient?
That said, the scope of this article is twofold:
1. Review the driver check-in process.
2. Look for points in the driver check-in process that can be made faster, safer, and more efficient.
Here's our objective: Observe the current life cycle of driver check-in for an inbound or outbound shipment.  
And here are the five milestones we'll cover today:
  1. Driver Check-In Checklist
  2. Routing to Door/Yard Location Checklist
  3. Loading/Unloading Checklist
  4. Completing the Process and Exit Strategy Checklist
  5. Digitize/Look into Vector
The bottom line is this: driver check-ins can improve.
To recap, we know that the transportation industry didn't stop during the pandemic. Drivers and carriers kept everything moving! Much of the rest of the world may have grabbed a laptop and set up a home office. However, for the transportation industry, the pandemic was a "just keep truckin'" moment.
Office workers still videoconference as much now as during the pandemic. Likewise, drivers need to keep using and building on the tools they picked up during the pandemic.
Put another way, one study suggests the videoconferencing market was $1 billion in 2020 but will expand to $13 billion by 2027. What's the equivalent tool of videoconferencing for the transportation industry?
I believe it's probably document digitization tools like the kind offered by Vector. But first, let's review the driver check-in process to find out! Climb aboard.

First Milestone: Driver Check-In Checklist

The first milestone a driver encounters is check-in. The question we're asking is: how long should that take? Also, what are the issues we run into when we arrive prepared versus unprepared to the gate? How long does it take for a driver to check in at a distribution center from arrival to the next stage?

A prepared driver arrives with their paperwork in order. This includes confirmation number and BOL, plus the driver arrived on time for their appointment. In contrast, if all you have is a BOL, you're unprepared.

Below is a checklist of other information and documents a driver should be prepared to provide at check-in:

  • Purchase order number (Company number)
  • Trailer number
  • Bill of lading
  • Packing list
  • Appointment ID number
  • Shipment number
  • Carrier name
  • Trailer number
  • Driver’s license 

When a driver arrives unprepared, this creates inefficiency. The guard shack will try to find a confirmation number tied to that driver's BOL. The driver will need to pull over to the side and call their dispatcher for the missing information. And that takes valuable time.

Before we move on, here's a question. How does your driver provide or communicate the information noted above?

  • Does the driver provide all this information verbally to the guard shack?
  • Or is it on paper and a physical handoff?
  • Is the driver using a kiosk phone?
  • Is there a vacuum tube system for paperwork?

In terms of safety and efficiency, if the answer was yes to any of those questions, then there's room for improvement.

Here's a tip. If you want to avoid the paper pushing, ask what system the distribution center uses. If they're compatible with a digitization app like Vector, you might be able to transfer all that data with the click of a button.  

Second Milestone: Routing to Door/Yard Location Checklist

OK, let's assume your driver has made it past the guard shack. The next step? Routing to the correct door or yard location.

In other words, after the driver is allowed through the gate, where do they go? Do they then park in the staging area, also called a bullpen? Or does the driver get out of their cab and enter the inbound shipping office?

Here's a checklist of potential exchanges with a typical shipping/receiving office:

  • Driver gives the shipping office clerical staff a paper BOL and packing list.
  • Driver and shipping office confirm and align on load contents and parameters.
  • The clerical staff prints a receipt.
  • Xerox copies or scans are made of all documents.
  • A shipper may also enter this information directly into their yard management system (YMS).

As we know, many distribution centers are huge facilities. Thus, the driver needs to find out more about how to navigate the yard. For example, drivers might receive any of the following additional paperwork and instructions:

  • A map of the dock doors, building, or site
  • A gate pass
  • Site rules or instructions, such as where to drop a trailer
  • Security rules
  • Safety rules, including vest requirements
  • Safety training or information (for example, ammonia training if it's a food warehouse)

Much of this information could be exchanged digitally. As such, there are safety measures in place. They're important to everyone's health and well-being. But in times of pandemic, limiting the potential spread of disease is especially vital.

Here's an obvious bonus: both parties can share digitized documents from a safe distance!

Third Milestone: Loading/Unloading Checklist

So, the next step is the loading and unloading process. After the driver interacts with the office, what's the next process for loading, unloading, or hooking to a trailer? 

Here's a checklist of the typical process and requests a driver might encounter when they back into a dock door:

  • Confirmation that what was received matches what was ordered
  • Delivery receipt
  • BOL
  • Scan and email copy to carrier and to the headquarters team
  • Trailer inspection form

In addition, here's a checklist of the key information the distribution center needs. Someone at the distribution center will typically log this information into a trailer inspection form: 

  • Breakdown of purchase order by each specific item and quantity of each item
  • Appointment number
  • Seal number
  • Trailer number
  • Date 
  • Team member ID of person or people who loaded and unloaded
  • Written list of product categories
  • Temperature readings  
  • Audit of load attributes
  • Notation of trailer condition (for example, odor, insects, rodents, visible dirt)

Perhaps you noticed that there's some redundancy? Honestly, certain redundancies support the overall process. But wouldn't it be nice if we just had easy access to the same information? The fact is, visibility can add a lot of value to the supply chain.

Beyond that, there are some differences. For a driver, a trailer-hook is a different process than a live load. To give an example, does a driver have to get out of the cab during the process? For a trailer-hook, are drivers involved at all? How does the driver interact with the loader?

Fourth Milestone: Completing the Process and Exit Strategy Checklist

Depending on how the loading or unloading process went, a driver may need to go through more steps. In other words, how do drivers communicate to the shipping clerk that the loading process is complete? At this step, a driver will then often photograph the seal, trailer, and temperature readings.

What comes next after a driver unloads, loads, or hooks a trailer? Here's a driver checklist for what to expect:

  • Providing paperwork to the unloader
  • Applying the seal and shutting the trailer doors
  • Recording additional information, such as dock door or temperature tail
  • Supplying a driver's signature
  • Including a signature from the dock or office
  • Sharing information across devices or through digitization systems

Final Milestone: Digitize If You Haven't, and Look into Vector

As you can see, the documentation for any given load can pile up. But bear in mind, that the goal is to prove that a load was picked up in accordance with the BOL, within specified ranges. This process protects everyone involved. This process also protects the supply chain. 

That said, there are better, safer, more efficient ways to conduct business. Check out Vector's value proposition. Vector has the ability to streamline everyone's workflow, up and down your organization.

We must strive for continuous improvements to our processes. Also, the transportation industry mustn't fear change. It's time to adopt the digitization technology that will allow us to streamline the process.

This post was written by Brian Deines. Brian believes that every day is a referendum on a brand’s relevance, and he’s excited to bring that kind of thinking to the world of modern manufacturing and logistics. He deploys a full-stack of business development, sales, and marketing tools built through years of work in the logistics, packaging, and tier-1 part supply industries serving a customer base comprised of Fortune 1000 OEMs.

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