Volume 50, Issue 1 - January 2015


Finding Solutions for the Transportation Challenges Affecting Glass Lead Times

By Megan Headley

"It’s hard to find
truck drivers who want to haul glass. Glass is a tough industry."

—Michael Card, Combined Transport Inc.

Much has been said of the lengthy new lead times for glass and metal products, but less on one of the significant reason for this delay: a shortage of drivers.

That’s right—in addition to the boom in the construction industry, lead times are becoming longer and longer due to several challenges impacting the glass transportation industry.

“The float industry ‘shares’ flat glass hauling equipment in the sense that the independent glass haulers offer services to all floats,” explains Stephen Weidner, vice president at NSG Pilkington. “There’s a finite amount of glass hauling assets—trucks and drivers—in the industry to deliver all the glass from all the floats.”

“There are only about six carriers,” adds Dave Cobb, director of glass transportation sales and customer service for Maverick Transportation in Little Rock, Ark. He emphasizes that these delays relate specifically to open stock flat glass shipments.

As orders increase for glass products, demand is likewise increasing for carriers—and carriers are facing their own unique challenges in meeting this explosion of new demand.

What You Need to Know
Before You Switch

Switching transportation companies may not get you closer to your destination as this shortage is also being felt industry wide, but if you are considering a switch—or broadening your delivery range— Dave Cobb, director of glass transportation sales and customer service for Maverick Transportation in Little Rock, Ark., suggests asking the following questions:

• What is the size of the tractor fleet and what is the trailer to truck ratio?

• What are your growth plans for drivers and what are you doing to get there?

• Do you have satellite tracking?

• Do your trucks have electronic logging devices (ELD’s)?

• What is your DOT safety rating?

• What is the maintenance schedule on your trucks and trailers to ensure no breakdowns?

• What safety policies are in place for glass securement so there is no
transit damage?

Restrictive Regulations

To understand why glass manufacturers need to rethink the way they ship, it helps to understand some of the challenges transportation companies are facing.

“We’re seeing a lot more restrictions when it comes to electronic logging, speed limiters, regulations: all things are combined to make [trucking] really difficult,” says Michael Card, president of Combined Transport Inc., a glass hauling company based in Central Point, Ore.

Weidner has found that one of the reasons for this turnover rate is the new Federal Department of Transportation regulations implemented in July 2013 that affect the Hours of Service rules the trucking industry follows. The new regulations put limitations on drivers’ “34-hour restarts.”

“A driver used to be able to take 34 consecutive hours off at any time to restart his clock, but now there are regulations that state there needs to be two nights within that 34 hours and the 34-hour restart can only be used once in seven days,” Weidner explains.

In addition, the regulations now require regular rest breaks. The regulation states that drivers may drive only if eight hours or less have passed since the end of the driver’s last off-duty period of at least 30 minutes.

Finally, trucking companies—much like glazing companies—are having a hard time finding young employees.

“While [glass] supply is going up we as a trucking company are really struggling to find truck drivers. Sadly, our capacity hasn’t grown to meet the increased demand of the glass shipments,” Card says.

Trucking is not an easy job, particularly for the erratic routes required by glass companies.

“Glass haulers may pick up a load at our Laurinburg, N.C., facility and head north to, say, the New York City area,” Weidner says. “As an example, the same truck and driver then heads to PPG/Carlisle to pick up a load to deliver in Cincinnati. The truck then heads to the Detroit area to pick up a load headed to Memphis. It may be a week or two before the driver gets home to see his wife and kids. You get the picture: not a happy family.”

“The driver shortage is real,” Cobb agrees. “It takes months of careful training to place a new driver behind the wheel of a truck.”

Moreover, Card shares, “The average age of a truck driver is in the upper 50s now nationwide. There are some young guys coming in but there are a lot more older people getting ready to leave the industry.”

In other words—it’s a problem that’s likely to get worse before it gets better.

“It’s hard to find truck drivers who want to haul glass,” Card says. “Glass is a tough industry.”

The end result is that, as with many glass companies, transportation companies are being forced to extend their lead times as well.

Glass haulers are often faced with demanding schedules taking them to several points throughout the country, putting them on the road for weeks away from home.

What This Means for Manufacturers

Like glass companies facing similar problems, glass haulers as a group are looking to educate their customers about how to plan ahead in this new transportation environment.

“The manufacturers are painfully aware of the issues and have really opened up to new ideas such as preloading and staging glass,” Cobb says. “They also have embraced ‘dedicated’ capacity within certain mileage bands.”

Cobb adds, “Fabricators really need to be in tune with their production scheduling and order in advance. Waiting until the last minute or calling Friday afternoon for a Monday delivery could result in disappointment.”

“The importance of lead time and pre-planning shipments is becoming more and more critical for the glass users,” Card agrees. For example, it used to be during slower periods that [a glass fabricator] could pick up the phone, order glass, and get it shipped the same day or next day, no problem. That is not the case any longer. It’s really important that the end-users pre-plan their demands better.”

These transport companies used to see every glass company planning for the next week by placing an order on Friday afternoon. “Fridays became extremely busy and we’ve run out of trucks to haul all the shipments that happen on some Fridays and that puts the glass user behind. If they could plan their shipments on a more level basis over the week or year—which is difficult, we realize—but that’s what needs to be done to ensure you get your glass delivered on time,” Card says.

The trucking industry is facing its own unique challenges that have also made lead times difficult for the glass industry.

Cobb reports seeing several larger fabricators moving to scheduled deliveries. For example, fabricators are placing orders every, say, Wednesday at a specific time, rather than right as an order comes in. He also suggests that consignees consider more liberal open hours for receiving to allow some flexibility. “For example,” he says, “We have consignees that only allow a one-hour window each day and not meeting that window can result in a 24-hour delay in the shipment.”

According to a new report from IBISWorld, “Navigating Risk and Change in Surface Transport Markets,” “Being a good customer goes a long way in this market, and discount availability remains high despite the upward price trend. Shippers that reduce a carrier’s costs through consistent shipments of similar volumes that are well packaged, and loaded and received smoothly, are well positioned to negotiate for customer-specific discounts and freight class exceptions. Freight class exceptions are applied before discounts, multiplying their effect, and they also reduce a shipper’s risk of incurring penalties associated with misclassifying goods.”

Summary of Hours of Service Regulations for Property-Carrying Drivers

• 11-hour driving limit: may drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty;

• 14-hour limit: May not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty time does not extend the 14-hour period;

• Rest Breaks: May drive only if eight hours or less have passed since end of driver’s last off-duty or sleeper berth period of at least 30 minutes;

• 60/70-Hour Limit: May not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A driver may restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty. Must include two periods from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. home terminal time, and may only be used once per week, or 168 hours, measured from the beginning of the previous restart;

• Sleeper Berth Provision: Drivers using the sleeper berth provision must take at least eight consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, plus a separate two consecutive hours either in the sleeper berth, off duty, or any combination of the two.

Price Growth for Surface Transportation
Annualized Growth
2011-2014 (%)
Forecast Annualized Growth
2014-2017 (%)
National Trucking Services
Deep Sea Cargo Transportation Services
Rail Cargo Transportation Services

the author

Megan Headley is special projects editor for USGlass magazine.
She can be reached at mheadley@glass.com.

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No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.