Industry News

Dealing with Uncertainty

If there’s one thing that the culture within the trucking industry has in spades, it is the ability to cope  with dealing with uncertainty,24/7.

Just about every function within the industry has to have an element built in, to cope with the level of uncertainty which surrounds any individual transport task. There can be no guarantees about what time the load will be ready to hit the road. There will be no certainty that the truck will be able to get to the loading location at the correct time. 

Once the load is on the truck, we still can’t be completely certain that the load is secure and that we’re not going to come across problems like a blowout on a crowded freeway, or other drivers acting in a sub optimal manner.

Once out on the road, the level of uncertainty continues. traffic conditions can change, and sometimes even Google Maps can’t keep up with it. An accident may occur on a bend in the middle of the night and blocked the highway, sometimes for many hours.

Even if the truck does arrive at its chosen destination in good time. Again, there is little certainty that the truck will be unloaded as specified. Truck drivers feel at the bottom of the food chain because they are the receivers of bad news about the fact that there’s no space in the warehouse, the forklift’s broken down etc. The silo is not working, the animals aren’t ready to load, the list goes on.

There’s also an uncertainty that the truck traveling down the road, if stopped by roadside enforcement officers from the authorities, would not be liable for a fine or some form of warning. There is so much variation nationally around Australia that smart operators trying to make sure that they are legal in each state, only have to make one small mistake and there could be a problem. More uncertainty and also lost time. 

The fact of the matter is time is of the essence, but so is managing uncertainty. So how is it done? It’s done by being extremely pragmatic, building levels of flexibility into schedules. Making it as easy as it possibly can be for the load to be collected, but there is no such thing as a definite delivery, collection time in the real world.

So how does the industry cope with such a disorganised and unpredictable situation? What it does is it ensures that everybody involved in the freight task has built in flexibility. Drivers know that these kinds of delays and problems are going to happen and they build them into their plans. Schedulers realise that for every 10 loads that they may load in a particular place, three are going to be late, no and one may be overweight, for example. 

What they do is develop strategies to cope with what may eventuate because, every time there seems to be a problem. 

If there’s one thing that just about everybody in the trucking industry should be congratulated for, it is for being so able to adapt to a level of lack of certainty in their everyday lives. It occurs at a level that would drive most people working in most industries around the completely random bend.

I have left the last uncertainty of all, the worst uncertainty of all, the in the final chapter of this process. It’s the uncertainty about getting paid, or uncertainty about when you are going to get paid. Is it going to be at the end of the first month, second month, third months or sometime in the future?


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