Road feeder services are an indispensable part of the global cargo supply chain. However, bottlenecks and slow throughputs of shipments at major airports are increasingly hindering trucking firms to run their vehicles according to schedule. The results are supply chain disruptions and reduced quality of air freight processes.
Sebastiaan Scholte, although remaining quite reluctant in view of the daily mounting problem, speaks of “one of our challenges we are increasingly facing.” What the CEO of Dutch firm Jan de Rijk indicates are the many hours his drivers keep spending at airports waiting to deliver or pick up their loads. Hours of dead and senseless time that block the truck’s capacities from being utilized for transporting goods. “What we and other road feeding service providers urgently need are fast turn-around times at gateways, thus enabling a seamless flow of shipments and a constant usage rate of our vehicles,” the manager urges.
Lately, things have turned to the worse, with waiting times getting longer and longer. Particularly at large hubs like Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Heathrow or Charles de Gaulle the downtime for his firm’s but also other truckers is growing constantly, especially at peak times each Friday and Monday.
Low margins in air freight handling prevent basic improvements
Why, Sebastiaan also indicates: “because labor is the biggest cost factor for the handling agents, so they don’t increase their staff on days with heavy traffic in order to prevent additional expenditures in personnel.” Even if they would like to hire more staff their capabilities are very limited due to the extremely low margins obtainable in this fiercely competitive field.
Therefore, slower air freight processing within the handling agent’s warehouses is the obvious consequence. The entire case wouldn’t be as harmful for trucking firms as it is if the handlers would communicate any congestions or delayed pick-up times at an early stage, which most of them unfortunately don’t, criticizes Jan de Rijk’s Scholte. “In that case we would be able to reroute our trucks and change their schedules on short notice.”
He speaks of “three drivers for profitability”, all of which must be met to end up in the black:
high load factors throughout the year
sufficient yields per kilogram and driven kilometer
constant utilization of the rolling asset.
Scholte: “Considering the predatory competition we need to drive as many kilometers as possible to reduce our fix costs.” Unnecessary waiting times at airports prevent his firm from achieving this objective.
More than one egg in the basket
Jan de Rijk currently deploys 850 vehicles, of which 35 percent belong to subcontractors. These partners “we screen thoroughly to make sure they keep up to our own standards, including security trainings of their drivers.” Due to cost reasons about 50 percent of Jan de Rijk’s fleet is operating with a license from one of the Eastern European countries.
Air freight accounts for 40 percent of the Dutch company’s biz, with 60 percent related to warehousing, rail transports and other segments. “In case of a crisis it’s better to have more than one egg in the basket,” Sebastiaan states.