Drayage: Truck Turn Time


Congestion and transportation disruptions at coastal ports can add millions of dollars to shipping costs while also threatening the economy. This was a constant problem during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to long delays, slow deliveries, and price increases. As a result, shippers and carriers began re-evaluating their drayage services and port logistics.  

Efficiency on the loading dock depends on balancing the cargo coming into the port and the drivers to transport that freight.  

What Is Truck Turnaround Time?

Cargo in and cargo out. That is drayage truck turnaround in its simplest form. It is the total time a truck spends in the dock area picking up or dropping off a container.  

As with all things, truck turnaround time is never as simple as dropping off or picking up. Loading and unloading must be considered as well as inspections and document completion. Turn time also depends on several other factors, such as location-specific conditions, distance, drayage strategy, on-terminal chassis supply, congestion on strategic points, and trouble tickets.  

You can see where things can back up, even in the best times. The leading causes of long turn times are: 

  • An increase in container volumes and more containers per ship (up to 10,000 reload containers) slows the pick-up process. 
  • Vessel congestion 
  • Security checkpoints and inspections create bottlenecks 
  • Peak volumes with smaller equipment capacity, labor force, and parking. 
  • Labor disputes and strikes provoke further delays and congestion. 

How do drayage lags affect drivers?

Delays negatively affect drivers. Terminals won’t pay motor carriers for waiting hours. Additionally, ocean carriers won’t compensate for late containers’ return due to congestion. In those scenarios, drayage drivers lose money as they receive payment by trip between pick-up and drop-off. No one reimburses waiting time. Meanwhile, drivers are burning fuel, polluting the air, and wasting time. The drayage industry structure leaves no chance for drivers to protect themselves from losses. 

How to Improve Truck Turnaround Time

Capture Data to Track Truck Drayage

Nothing provides peace of mind like real-time data. This data keeps track of a truck’s location and helps to lessen turn time by detecting exactly where a shipment is. Once the truck leaves the port, it can also identify an ETA to the destination. This allows for more honest conversations between the shipper, carrier, and customer. 

Using Analytics to Gauge Performance

Coupling real-time data with analytics can improve truck turnaround time. You will better understand how your trucks are performing and adjust accordingly. You can track per diem rates and how long the trip takes, so carriers receive payment on time. You can even check the capacity of a container or trailer. Using analytics allows you to work efficiently while optimizing your process.  

Avoid Overbooking Drayage Carriers

Overbooking can cause significant hassles and mistakes. It causes major errors and port delays, disturbing the entire supply chain. It can also contribute to a decrease in capacity at ports. 

One way to avoid this mistake is by cross-docking. Carriers using this strategy move freight from one mode to another without needing storage. It is best not to rely on a single mode of transportation. This limits the time shippers need to wait for kinds of equipment.  

Make Sure the Warehouse is Ready to Receive

Technology can help locate warehouses and determine whether space is available when transporting goods. Conversely, the same technology allows warehouses to identify what they are willing to bring in and service. This helps decrease turn time by keeping everyone on the same page, like booking a hotel. A hotel would never book you a room if there was no space available. 

Plan for the Unexpected

We should all take a major lesson from the pandemic: situations and regulations can change quickly. It is never a question of ‘if’ a wrench will be thrown in your plans, but ‘when.’ 

You must have backup plans ready to go in case of post congestion, major storms, labor disputes, truck traffic, etc. Even when traveling over a short distance, you want to make sure your truck is leaving port as soon as possible to lower the risk of delay. 

Partnering with a 3PL, such as PLS Logistics Services, can help you with your truck turn time. Get a quote today. 


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