Last mile service might have finally reached a point where it is more important than even freight delivery to the brick-and-mortar stores. It’s rapidly becoming the most frequent interaction between people and the supply chain during the COVID-19 pandemic, and as last mile deliveries skyrocket in volume, drivers are on the frontlines, says Mike Antich of Truckinginfo, further straining relationships with shippers and carriers. In fact, the importance of a positive relationship between shipper and trucker is now paramount, and shippers need to take the upper road to understand the challenges placed on last mile delivery drivers, how it requires data and clear, concise communications, and the steps to improve such relationships and add value to the supply chain.
Last mile service and logistics have always been subject to challenges. By definition, the last mile is the phase of the shipment journey during which the actual interaction with the customer occurs. Unfortunately, this fact presents a new problem for last mile delivery drivers. The final interaction could put the health of drivers at risk, but the demand only continues to climb. Meanwhile, final mile service is getting really complicated. It is no longer a just-leave-on-porch standard. Today’s customers have high expectations, including assembly of furniture, installation of software, removal of debris, and a personal tutorial on how to work their new item. Yes, the last mile is expanding to become much more complex, requiring more time for delivery and lessening the earning potential for drivers. However, other problems remain. The trucker shortage forms another issue in the last mile, and it is even harder to attract new drivers. As explained by American Trucker:
“Tens of thousands of people who could have been long-term truckers have come into the industry and are put into a one-year training contract. They must pay back the training, so they can’t move. The company pays them well below market wages. They sit unpaid at docks for hours at a time. They’re on the road for weeks. A lot of them come in having been promised better wages. They’re told they can make $55,000 but end up making $34,000 and working 80 hours a week. It’s not even minimum wage. So, they decide instead of basically making $8 an hour they can go work for at least $10 and see their families.”
Without something to balance the scales of pay and demand for last mile service drivers, the whole function could snap. Fortunately, better relationships between shippers and drivers are the best way to avoid a last mile supply chain collapse.
Last mile delivery is immensely reliant on whether the delivery occurs on time, but again, what exactly is the last mile delivery driver responsible for? In short—everything. Everything leading up to a delivery is meaningless with the right amount of service in the last mile. Moreover, last mile truckers are not just there to leave packages—at least not in today’s age. However, last mile drivers are often left to age-old misconceptions and judgment. As explained by Freight Waves:
“Most people think of truckers as people who drive tractor-trailers, who may or may not be involved in loading or unloading a truck, which is usually done by people at the warehouse where the tractor-trailer ends up. The driver is really a driver primarily, and he has paperwork that the warehouse will sign for the cargo. It is not a surprise that companies are looking to automate this function.
In the last mile ecosystem, drivers do not head to warehouses to unload cargo, but rather visit the homes of people and have a lot of end customer-centric interactions as a part of their work description.”
Moreover, the rising demand for more deliveries of large, bulky items and the continued growth of e-commerce will put added strain on available last mile drivers. Fortunately, integration between systems and a mindful approach to managing the last mile can go a long way in both improving customer service and building healthy relationships with these essential drivers.
The only way forward is to recognize the value of last mile truckers and their vital role in the supply chain.
Is it best to start giving out Participation Awards to last mile drivers? No, but it is possible to improve relations with some simple measures that rely on data and fact, including:
Better last mile service begins with trucker schedules that reflect the real world, access to the right information, and creating a positive experience for the driver. Shippers need to recognize the value of last mile drivers in the modern supply chain. It’s time to revere them for their sacrifices and ability to interact with more customers than most warehouse workers will ever see on the job. Fortunately, the Cerasis Rater is built with last mile service in mind, and it is ready to help you build those positive relationships with truckers automatically and intuitively.
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