Closed rest stops, increased waiting times at borders and long hours behind the wheel. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic puts immense pressure on transportation workers globally. It’s their job to keep supermarket shelves stocked and medical facilities supplied. It’s every logistics leaders job to ensure that drivers are as safe as possible at all times.
There’s a variety of technologies at our disposal that increase driver safety, but also help run more efficient operations
“The current crisis puts a spotlight on safety in logistics and transportation,” says Carly West, Director Analyst, Gartner. “As capacity continues to tighten and we have fewer and fewer drivers on the road, it’s a requirement to keep them safe. And while safety is especially important now, it should be a key issue for logistics leaders at all times. Fortunately, there’s a variety of technologies at our disposal that increase driver safety, but also help run more efficient operations now and in the world after COVID-19.”
Safety on the road
To ensure an adequate supply of critical goods during the coronavirus pandemic many government agencies have released temporary exceptions related to driver hours. Drivers can now work longer hours. This measure eases the supply shortages, but also increases the risk of fatigued driving.
Transportation incidents already constitute the work injury with the highest number of fatalities, most of them in long-distance trucking. Telematics solutions are one possibility to keep that number low and drivers safe on the road.
Organizations can use telematics to review how many hours their employees spend behind the wheel and make adjustments to the schedule. Organizing a handoff with another driver will still move the product and prevent fatigued driving.
Vehicle routing and scheduling solutions are another must-have feature. Due to the volatile situation, logistics organizations must react in real time if need be and, for example, reroute and redeploy products from drivers and hand off to another driver for final-mile delivery into a red zone. In some cases, drivers may need to be rerouted away from high-risk locations.
“In the long term, these solutions can not only improve driver safety, but also keep costs down,” West says. “In the period from 2010 until 2018, average cost per mile to operate a truck increased by 17%. In that same period, the insurance costs as part of the cost per mile rose by 43%, more than any other category in motor carrier costs. Safety technology is a formidable way to keep insurance costs at an acceptable level.”
Safety on arrival
Social distancing is a challenge for both truck drivers and employees at pickup and delivery locations, such as warehouses, stores or medical facilities. Supply chain and logistics leaders must make it a priority to facilitate these interactions as much as possible to prevent infections from COVID-19.
Technology solutions help reduce physical contact to a minimum. Routine procedures like gate check-ins and paperwork signing can move to the cloud via a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution. Real-time transportation visibility platforms flag shipments carrying essential goods so staff can already prepare with protective gear, such as face masks, and be in place to retrieve or offload quickly.
Proactive alerts are also a good practice for the last-mile delivery to end consumers. Tracking technology enables them to see when a delivery is approaching their home. The driver sends a picture of the package on the doorstep, the customer confirms receipt via text message or a custom application, and the delivery process completes without physical contact.