Launching Your Contract Fleet
The power of integrated planning.
For your business and its customers, there’s a lot riding on smooth implementation of a dedicated contract carriage strategy. It’s true whether you’re transitioning from a private fleet, changing 3PL partners, or shifting from sole reliance on transactional freight carriers. Lynn Doster, Landair’s vice president of trucking operations, discusses success factors for launching a new DCC fleet and relationship.
Q: Is there a most-important success factor when implementing a dedicated contract fleet?
A: Definitely. It’s having a solid, integrated implementation plan. Put yourself in the place of that supply chain or transportation manager. They’ve just completed an intensive 3PL selection process. Their organization’s focus is on getting this fleet up and running on time, operating at a high performance level quickly. Customer satisfaction, sales, profitability — all ride on successful implementation. So it’s critical to have a thorough plan, bought into by all parties.
Q: What are the operational considerations in building a DCC implementation plan?
A:There are quite a few. We study current routing to optimize the underlying transportation model and assumptions. Define the customer’s performance metrics and their customers’ delivery requirements. We identify and make the key IT systems integrations. Gear up to provide maintenance. Negotiate and acquire equipment, if we’re designing a fleet from scratch. Plus, get in sync on payroll and HR issues for the drivers. So, it’s a lot of ground to cover.
It’s why we assign a cross-functional team, as does the shipper. All core disciplines are represented, so discussions and decisions can happen collaboratively and quickly. The left hand and the right absolutely know what the other is thinking and doing.
Q: You mentioned drivers. Where do they factor into a DCC implementation?
A: Drivers are the front-line contact to the shipper’s customers, so they’re critical, especially in today’s tight labor market. Part of a smart plan is nailing down driver duties and formalizing their job description, or more than one if you’ve got multiple freight types and delivery scenarios. Will they handle unloading? What’s the short- and long-haul mix? What experience level and safety record are we setting as our baseline?
Q: Is recruiting drivers a challenge when implementing a dedicated fleet?
A: It can be. Fortunately, because Landair operates its own truckload fleet, besides managing customers’ fleets, we’ve got a strong recruiting team and process. But for a new DCC, the first thing we do is look to carry over proven drivers from the customer’s private fleet or previous 3PL. Those drivers know the routes and the freight. Retaining them is one of the keys to minimizing change during a DCC implementation. Once we’ve got the driver team in place, we give them an orientation tailored to the customer’s operations, so everybody starts with clear expectations.
Q: Any other keys to effective DCC implementation?
A: You’ll want to test your strategy and IT connections well before the “go” date. Even if all the new leased or purchased equipment hasn’t arrived, if your 3PL also carries transactional freight, ideally they can deploy some of their assets to put your fleet through a test run.
Beyond that, while you need to plan and work your plan, you also have to be flexible and able to react. Despite everyone’s best planning and efforts, maybe all the new equipment isn’t ready on time. Then it helps to have a 3PL that can flex equipment or even drivers from its fleet to help achieve a smooth, on-time launch for yours.
For more keys to effective logistics management, including managing a dedicated fleet, check out 10 Supply Chain Value Secrets: Is Your 3PL Sharing Them With You?
VP, Trucking Operations
Lynn Doster brings more than 18 years of experience in dedicated fleet and freight transportation management to her work as an operations leader at Landair.