At the beginning of fiscal year 2007, the Transportation Officer of the 842d Transportation Battalion had a vision that resulted in a standard tool for collecting data and evaluating the performance of commercial line-haul carriers serving the Port of Beaumont, Texas, and its area of responsibility throughout the Gulf Region. This tool is known as the Carrier Association Reporting System (CARS).
CARS is a unique, locally developed tool that uses Microsoft Access to monitor and track the line-haul services of commercial carriers supporting the 842d Transportation Battalion’s freight management operations at the Port of Beaumont. The goal of CARS is to measure and track timely surface movements of retrograde and reset equipment from Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
The greatest challenge faced in developing CARS was implementing a system capable of monitoring the performance of more than 100 carriers that provide the 842d Transportation Battalion with high-volume freight moves. The carriers’ information, including service failure codes and electronic transportation acquisition nonuse codes, was entered into a carefully constructed table. The next step was creating selected tables, assigning data fields, and, ultimately, establishing a relationship among all the tables. The task of planning and setting up a workable database proved to be time consuming and format sensitive, but the final product was a functional database.
In the past, some in the motor carrier industry believed that movement of military cargo was just business as usual—nothing more, nothing less. Some drivers failed to meet scheduled pickups, supplied the wrong equipment, refused to provide additional protective services, or just refused to carry a military load altogether. Such incidents required the traffic management specialist to reschedule truck operations, resulting in delayed equipment movement to the warfighter.
CARS, by design, is both a monitoring tool and a means of sending a message to the commercial motor carrier industry that the 842d Transportation Battalion is serious about its traffic management business and the customer’s required delivery dates. It will hold drivers and their companies, agents, or brokers accountable for their actions. Penalties to the carrier can range from a written warning to notice of non-use for a specified length of time.
Management of the CARS database has generated a new responsibility for the traffic managers in its terminal operations. However, CARS replaces a manual Microsoft Excel spreadsheet-based system with a more automated process. The traffic management specialist can record incidents immediately by inputting remarks in the database field. This database enhances awareness, creates focus, and provides increased proficiency, which results in a 1-day reduction in the established 10-day port clearance standard.
The CARS concept meets the guidelines in Department of Defense (DOD) Regulation 4500.9–R, Defense Transportation Regulation, Chapter 207, Carrier Performance, which states that the Carrier Performance Program (CPP) is designed to ensure that DOD surface shippers get the best available service from continental United States commercial cargo carriers. The CPP establishes specific elements of services as key indicators of carrier performance. It also establishes minimum levels of satisfactory performance and describes procedures for denying DOD cargo shipments to any carrier who fails to provide satisfactory service. Chapter 207 also outlines procedures for accomplishing the CPP objectives and assigns the transportation officer enforcement authority and responsibility for various segments of the CPP.
The purpose of CARS is to streamline a business process and add automation to an old system—to invigorate the CPP, identify and assess challenges, and develop possible public and private sector strategies to mitigate their negative effects and focus on possible solutions. It is Lean logistics in its basic form, connecting transportation procurement and benchmarking the process.
CARS became the 842d Transportation Battalion’s first charter project 1 in the Lean Six Sigma certification for Green Belt qualification. The emphasis on helping improve the business service process will identify best value and reliable commercial carriers up front and identify elements of carrier service failures. CARS is proving to be a successful measure in the 842d Transportation Battalion’s efforts to eliminate waste and harvest savings that benefit its customers, mission, and employees.
Fran Willis is a traffic manager for the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command and the transportation officer of the 842d Transportation Battalion at the Port of Beaumont, Texas. She is the battalion’s Lean Six Sigma Green Belt.
Cheryl L. Freeman is a traffic management specialist for the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command and is assigned to the 842d Transportation Battalion at the Port of Beaumont. She holds a B.A. degree in business management from St. Martin’s University. Ms. Freeman is a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt.