Truck Drivers and Load Planning in the Freight Industry
Truck drivers on the road may power businesses in the freight transportation industry, but every trip begins with proper load planning. Whether drivers are making deliveries to customers or shipping products from a distribution centre to a retail store, load planning can affect productivity and expenses enough to make the difference between profit and loss.
Although the freight transport industry in South Africa has recorded a 12,4% increase in its income for May 2022 compared with May 2021, rising fuel prices and protest action pose significant threats to the industry’s sustainability. Implementing the most proactive fleet management strategies – such as load planning, can help companies mitigate the effects of these external factors and maintain a healthier bottom line.
This blog breaks down the practice of load planning and the role of truck drivers in implementing efficient load planning for freight transportation companies.
What is “load planning”, and how does it work?
Businesses must consider the overall load plan when preparing for trips. It is one of the most critical factors for success in the freight transportation industry, alongside effective route planning, optimising driver safety and employing the best drivers for hire possible.
So, what exactly is “load planning”? The freight transportation industry comprises of many elements crucial to ensure the business runs smoothly. Load planning is vital for companies as it involves carefully choosing where, when and how many shipments will be carried and in which type of truck.
Fleet managers ensure that every load or shipment gets packed so that safety, time, regulations and resources are all considered. They must calculate the truck capacity so that they can all be filled to reduce the number of vehicles used and improve efficiency.
A successful load plan considers every detail of the packing procedure to avoid damages, wasted space, time delays and safety problems while increasing efficiency and total cost savings.
Load planning can be a highly detailed procedure depending on the type of truck and types of cargo. For example, fleet managers and drivers loading cargo onto heavy trucks must follow a Weight Distribution Diagram that specifies where to load the heaviest freight. There are also best practices for what fleet managers should load first and how to stack the cargo correctly to avoid any issues and get the most out of each truckload.
Truck drivers and load planning
While truck drivers are the ones who generally take responsibility for loading and hauling, they are not always the ones responsible for loading a truck. Often, the company’s shipping department or a third party will be responsible for ensuring the truck is loaded efficiently and safely, especially when shipping large or hazardous materials (e.g., Hazchem driving).
They may offer advice, but as long as the load meets all traffic laws and industry regulations for freight transport, the truck can be loaded as required for maximum safety, efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
Long haul drivers and load planning
Long-haul drivers are an example of drivers who are more hands-on and experienced with load planning. Long-haul drivers transport freight long distances – typically hundreds of kilometres or more. They operate truck and trailer combination vehicles, typically loaded with livestock or other materials such as wood or steel products.
They supervise the freight’s loading, ensure that the weight restrictions are not exceeded, and securely fasten the cargo to prevent damage. They must also work with dispatchers to schedule deliveries and monitor the condition of their vehicles and equipment during the trip.
Cross-border truck drivers will also carry freight over long distances. Still, they will typically focus on transporting finished goods and raw materials over land to and from manufacturing plants or retail and distribution centres in other southern African countries.
Cross-border drivers require extensive documentation, including a packing list, quota permits and import or export permits, depending on whether they travel to or from a foreign country.
Hazchem drivers and load planning
South African law requires that all hazardous cargo be transported in a vehicle certified to carry such goods, including anything from gas cylinders and fuel tanks to medical waste and explosives.
Hazchem drivers are truck drivers who have received their national flammables/Hazchem permits, allowing them to transport all hazardous goods legally. Companies transporting dangerous cargo must ensure that all their drivers have the correct licensing and permits to operate their vehicles and that their vehicles also pass the permit inspection test before they can begin trading.
Bendi truck and forklift drivers
Drivers licensed to operate forklifts are an essential part of the load planning process and are considered part of the first line of defence in identifying load problems. Their duties can include:
- Loading and offloading loads
- Carrying and stacking loads onto pallets
- Transporting them between storage areas
- Backing trucks into loading docks and onto trailers for storage or shipping
- Identifying damages and reporting shortages or quality deficiencies
Tips for effective load planning
Fleet managers can make the most informed choices with a complete picture of all available loading options. They need to know the type, quantity and density of the materials being shipped, the volume, weight and dimensions of the loads and the distance to be shipped.
Likewise, they also need information on how much capacity is available, what equipment is available, where they can use them, and the cost of shipping it by each method. Having this level of visibility, managers can deploy the most efficient and cost-effective loading methods available to their organisation, no matter where the transportation is going.
Hire qualified and experienced truck drivers
By investing in hiring the most qualified, trained, and experienced drivers for hire, they can prove to be valuable assets to a business by contributing their skills and knowledge to the load planning process.
Controlling which drivers will be assigned to which loads provides a sense of security and peace of mind that has many benefits in an industry where cargo is the most important element. Hiring qualified drivers from a reliable and reputable carrier has many benefits over the long term:
- Give companies more control over driver costs
- Experienced drivers contribute to increased safety and risk mitigation
- Saves money on recruitment, training and onboarding costs
- Builds stronger relationships with drivers and subcontractors, which leads to a better overall experience for freight transportation companies
Employing qualified and experienced truck drivers for hire can also give you the peace of mind that your freight will arrive safely and as scheduled while being monitored by a driver who knows what they are doing.
Take the load off with MASA
As discussed in this blog, load planning is one of the most critical considerations in building a profitable company in the freight and transportation industry. Optimising every element of load planning can ensure that the business continues to grow and becomes profitable in the future.
If cargo is the lifeblood of the company, then hiring the most qualified and skilled truck drivers is essential to keeping business flowing efficiently. The MASA Specialist Driver Division is Africa’s foremost supplier of drivers across the spectrum.
From forklift to Code 14 licenced, we have a vast pool of experienced drivers ready to be mobilised on demand. MASA’s Driver Division can provide clients with the skilled personnel required to ensure that freight transportation runs like a well-oiled machine.
Contact us today so we can analyse your needs and provide drivers for hire in South Africa to take your business to the next level.