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4 Effective Strategies To Reduce Fleet Dwell Time, And Stop Losing Revenues

Fleet dwell time can heavily impact fleet bottom lines but can also be mitigated using simple communication and tracking solutions.
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Fleet dwell time can heavily impact fleet bottom lines but can also be mitigated using simple communication and tracking solutions.

As we come to the last lap of 2022, the supply chains have finally emerged from COVID-19- induced disruptions. But the damage is not completely undone. While lockdowns are no longer the norm, supply chains have to deal with the Russia-Ukraine conflict, a massive diesel shortage, the possibility of labor strikes, and overflowing warehouses. As a result, fleets may experience increased idling times in transit and at facilities. Every minute a vehicle waits at a facility waiting to be loaded or unloaded (or for any other reason), the dwell time for the car and the fleet increases, leading to lost revenues.

Adding to the mix of various supply chain disruptions this holiday season, retailers are sitting on a record $732 billion of merchandise. It’s a struggle to dispose of and sell this excessive inventory as demand dips due to inflationary pressure. As a result, more and more warehouses and facilities are filled to capacity, making it difficult for vehicles to load or unload on time. This directly results in increased fleet dwell time as well!

How can dwell time affect fleets?

Dwell times are common in the over-the-road trucking industry, where trucks are forced to sit while waiting for an empty loading dock to load or unload their goods. It has significant environmental consequences because drivers frequently find themselves idling at the pickup or delivery facility for extended periods. Dwell time also has an impact on the ability of drivers and carriers to meet federal hours of service or HOS regulations that limit on-duty hours. In addition to losing revenue-generating time while detained, electronic logging devices, or ELDs, have made it easier than ever to be caught for HOS violations, which can affect safety ratings or result in financial penalties. Dwell has the potential to cause congestion at ports, facilities, and border crossings. Finally, it significantly impacts the amount of capacity available to the industry as a whole.

How can increasing dwell time impact fleet owner-operators’ revenues?

Carriers typically allow a two hour window for loading and unloading and will levy a detention fee of $50 to $100 per hour for any time spent beyond that limit in order to recoup some of the money lost. Despite this detention fee, dwell can cause fleets to lose out on revenues and goodwill. Once a vehicle has to wait longer to load and unload, there is a cascading effect where all operations are delayed further, and final delivery might suffer as well. All this can lead to decreased consumer satisfaction for fleets, who may lose out on important business. The higher the dwell time, the higher the losses a fleet incurs. In fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimates that detention or dwell time costs trucking companies more than $3 billion per year and costs the general public more than $6.5 billion per year.

4 Strategies fleet owners can apply to reduce dwell

Dwell can be quickly and significantly lowered once you know where the key problems are. A lack of communication is the primary cause of excessive dwell time, which leads to inaccurate schedules and missed appointments. While both shippers and carriers bear some of the blame, there are some best practices that can help improve communication and incentivize both parties to keep a tight schedule that minimizes driver dwell time.

1. Streamline appointments

Streamlined appointments optimized for different types of loads are essential for keeping everything on track. Fleets can keep their employees focused and reduce dwell times by ensuring staggering pick-up times at overcrowded facilities. When the schedule becomes too busy, fleets may want to consider using extended hours, such as  weekends, to reduce congestion and make sticking to a regular schedule easier for loading and unloading complex loads.

Fleet owners can make use of fleet management and telematics software to ensure that their vehicles are not idling for long periods of time. Tracking devices like RFID takes, or even specific apps used by drivers can help fleet managers track vehicle location and movement, ensuring that they are notified when dwell time increases.

In addition, to avoid bottlenecks, there can be a simplified and automatic check-in procedure for arrivals. A paperless check-in process is far more efficient, less inconvenient, and more accurate than having drivers fill out paperwork on-site. Much of the paperwork can also be automated when using a paperless check-in process.

2. Choose Modern Technologies like Live Loads and Drop Trailers for Convenience

Modern technologies enable the possibility of live loading and drop-and-hook systems. Shippers and fleet owners can virtually eliminate dwell time by designating “live load” dock doors that allow them to load a trailer immediately after it docks. These live loads may only be possible under certain conditions, but when they occur, they can significantly impact averages over time.

Drop-and-hook systems, meanwhile, eliminate dwell time by allowing truck drivers to simply unhitch their trailers and continue driving. These systems can virtually eliminate dwell times and keep products moving quickly by keeping loaded trailers available and organized—a win-win situation for drivers, carriers, and shippers.

3. Levy Detention Charges

Charging hourly detention fees is a logical way to compensate for lost productivity and incentivize shippers to be on time. Fleet owners can (and already do) charge their clients detention charges when vehicles in your fleet experience increased dwell time.

With detention or dwell times exceeding two hours in 49.5% of deliveries and pickups, with 9.3% exceeding six hours, dwell time can be detrimental to business productivity for fleets. So while delays can still cause problems in the future, these detention fees can help offset productivity losses for drivers and carriers. According to a 2019 ATRI survey, roughly half of the carriers charge $50 to $69 per hour, with one-third charging more than $70 per hour.

4. Invest in a Fleet Management and Maintenance Solution

While fleet dwell may seem inevitable and may occur due to various factors, fleet owners can gain a competitive edge with complete, real-time visibility into their fleets or vehicles. This not only allows fleet owners to track where their trucks are at all times, but they can also track other essential factors that influence dwell/ detention time, like delayed loading and unloading times, longer driver slack time and more. This is possible through fleet management and maintenance solutions like Fleetpal. Fleetpal enables fleet owners to eliminate the guesswork and manual work involved in tracking vehicles, managing schedules, maintenance, and more. Essentially, fleet owners can get a holistic view of various aspects of their logistics operations, allowing them to make smarter decisions about their fleets.

With dramatically reduced spending on monitoring your fleet and real-time vehicle data and metrics sent straight to your mobile phone, fleet owners and managers can actively keep track of dwell time and even anticipate the possibility of delays!

Dwell time, particularly detention time, is a major issue impacting bottom lines in the trucking industry. Fortunately, both shippers and carriers have several options for mitigating the problem. The majority of these solutions rely on technology at their core to pinpoint problems, improve communication, and adhere to tighter deadlines. Fleet owners and trucking companies must go digital to effectively decrease or eliminate dwell time.

Learn more about Fleetpal and how it can help your company stay on track by increasing visibility, or contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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