Parking in Brundidge, AL

In a previous post I mentioned the difficulty that truckers experience in parking.  I was recently in Brundidge, Alabama, which is a texbook example.

Brundidge is a nice little southern town — that is, if you don’t drive a truck.

Open the following link in another tab or window — you’ll have to cut and paste it into your browser:

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&q=31.720000,+-85.829167&jsv=145d&sll=31.719634,-85.828328&sspn=0.006653,0.00957&ie=UTF8&geocode=FUAC5AEd0Vni-g&split=0

Make sure you’re looking at the aerial view. Click the satellite button if not.

If you’ll zoom in a bit, you’ll see an intersection with a few buildings to the right.  The building at the northeast corner is a truckstop.  The one in the southeast corner is a fast food chain. The one immediately south of that is another truckstop.

Both truckstops and the fast food are posted “No Truck Parking – Violaters Will Be Towed”.  Just to the east of the fast food is a small lot with room for maybe 8-10 trucks.

Are you with me so far?

Now, zoom out a bit. You’ll see to the southwest of the intersection a very large warehouse complex, owned by “a large national retailer” . This facility gets probably at least a hundred trucks a day – probably more.

Let me pause here a moment and explain about the types and timing of deliveries.

There are two basic types of unloading — “live unloads”, and “drops” (aka “drop & hook”).  Live unloads can be further broken down into customer unloads, and driver hand unloads.  I’ll discuss loading and unloading trucks in a future post.

There are three basic types of timing. Deliveries can either be a “by”, “window” or “appointment”. “By” deliveries are what the name implies: have the freight there by a specific date and time.  Windows are similar, except there will be a “not earlier than” time and a “not later than” time.  Some places are *very* particular about not wanting their freight early.  The final basic type is the appointment.  Most places give a 30 minute window around the appointment time, although some are more, and a few are less.  Missing a delivery appointment is one sure way for any driver to end up deep in the (insert noxious substance here).  For busy warehouses, it might take 3 days or more to get another delivery appointment. (Unless they really want whatever it is, in which case they’ll work you in).  For some manufacturers, missing a delivery appointment that causes their production line to shut down can result in chargebacks to the carrier that can be enormous. (I’ve heard of one auto manufacturer that charges back $6000 a minute – that’s $100 a second).

Even if a customer doesn’t charge back for late or missed deliveries, most still track on-time service.  Particularly in these bad economic conditions, competition in truckload freight is cutthroat. As customers scale back shipments, a carrier with a higher percentage of late or missed deliveries is at a distinct competetive disadvantage.

Now, throw into this mix, the federal hours-of-service (HOS) regulations.  These regs are very specific about when and how long a driver can drive.  Violations can result in anything from fines on up.  I’ll explain these regs in detail in a future post.

As we can see from this discussion, there are many constraints on truck drivers delivering freight.  Drivers also have to allow extra time for traffic, scales, fueling, etc.  Ideally, for a morning delivery, drivers like to arrive (or at least get close) the night before.  This gives you the maximum available hours to run after making your delivery.

The problem is then, finding a place to park near your delivery.  In the case of Brundidge, Alabama, parking is effectively non-existent. The “large national retailer” won’t let drivers park there. At all. Ever. Doesn’t matter if you’re out of hours and can’t legally drive out on the road. Still can’t park there. Don’t even bother asking.

If you’ll look back on the map window you have open, you’ll see that the warehouse of that “large national retailer” has lots and lots of space.  They could let all the trucks that go in and out of there on a daily basis park there, and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference to them — except they just don’t want to do it.

Now, open another browser window and cut and paste the following link in:

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&q=42.698611,+-84.641667&jsv=145d&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=48.374125,78.398437&ie=UTF8&geocode=FXOHiwIdfXj0-g&split=0

This link takes you to the Lansing, Michigan distribution center of a large regional retailer — Meijer, based in Michigan. At all of their warehouses (at least the ones I’ve been to) they have what is known as a “bullpen lot”; in other words, a place for trucks to park, so drivers can take their mandated 10 hour breaks.  If you zoom in a bit, you can see it’s quite a large lot that they provide to drivers delivering to their warehouse. Kudos to Meijer for being good corporate citizens, and being more truck-friendly than most.  If they can do it, why doesn’t the “large national retailer”  (with probably 100 times their profits) do it?

Personally, I think it’s because they just don’t care.  It wouldn’t cost them much to do it,  it would improve their delivery service levels, as well as make it easier for drivers to comply with the HOS regulations.  Then, instead of saying “*&^* large national retailer”, drivers would just say “large national retailer”.

I could understand it if they just didn’t have the room, but they do, and they still won’t.  Even their security guards on the gates have told me they wish they would.

This is why there needs to be some regulatory relief put into place that would mandate companies with adequate space to allow truck parking.  If you’re a regulator, or safety lobbyist and you’re reading this post, how about making something happen?

Comments and questions welcome.

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