By John Kearney

Ecommerce in the U.S., driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, is booming: by 2024 it’s expected that stay-at-home shopping sales will reach $1.2 trillion, nearly 19% of total retail volume.

Supporting this burst of economic activity is an equally fast-growing coast-to-coast network of distribution centers. Amazon has recently added 33 new fulfillment centers in the U.S., bringing its total to over 100. Walmart currently has over 150 distribution centers. Home Depot has recently added three new distribution centers in Atlanta alone, and plans to spend $1.2 billion on supply-chain facilities over the next five years.

Each distribution center employs a staff of drivers, often called yard jockeys or hostlers. (A hostler is a truck driver whose main job is moving loaded or unloaded trailers around a distribution center. A hostler is a jockey whose duties may also include loading and unloading trailers.)

Traditionally, these entry-level positions involve a fairly low level of training, mostly on the job and behind the wheel. That was never ideal, and the limits of this informal system are now being sorely tested. In addition to adding thousands of new jobs, the ecommerce boom has raised the bar for performance at every level of the supply chain—including yard hostlers. In a ten-hour shift, a hostler might have to back, turn, and move fifty to a hundred trailers, working in a confined space full of people and other vehicles.

Better training needed
To do that well and safely, a few hours of informal training is not enough. These employees need to be given a well-educated understanding of the space they’re operating in. The best way to provide that understanding is through virtual-reality simulator training, which enables workers to learn to operate heavy equipment in a confined space without endangering themselves or anyone else.

We have two major supply chain problems in this country, an exploding ecommerce boom and a looming shortage of truck drivers. Properly trained hostlers can help provide a solution to both.


For More Information

Advanced Training Systems has revolutionized the design and manufacture of high-tech simulators to improve driver training and create both better drivers and a safer world. In addition to hundreds of driving schools, we provide equipment and support for major shippers who do their own training, as well as customized solutions for those with particular training needs. For more information or to schedule a demo, please contact us here.