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  September 25th, 2023 | Written by

6 Innovative Techniques to Maximize Trailer Space Utilization

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Empty trailer space may be small, but in reality it’s a significant waste. Fleets must use all available truck capacity to become as cost-effective as possible. Many understand the need to maximize trailer utilization, but irregular loads, fragile items and other complications make it difficult.

In other cases, fleet operators may not realize they have underutilized space left in their trailers. Whatever the specifics, most logistics providers can improve in this area, and thankfully, there are many potential solutions. Here are six innovative techniques fleet owners may have missed to use more of their trailer space.

Use More Vertical Space

Capitalizing on vertical space is one of the most common ways to increase warehouse capacity, and it works for trailers, too. When fully loaded, the average stacked pallet is 48 inches tall, and dry van trailers’ doors are around 9 feet tall. That leaves enough room for two layers of fully stacked pallets.

Of course, some goods aren’t ideal for stacking. Soft boxes and fragile items can’t support additional weight on top of them, but crews can place these items on higher layers. Ratchet straps or similar tools can secure higher-level items in place to prevent shifting in transport.

Another way to use more vertical space is to install decks within the trailer. Several companies now offer both pre-built double-decker trailers and aftermarket shelving solutions. This hardware lets employees safely stack at least two layers in each trailer, regardless of the load’s fragility.

Use Drop Deck Trailers

A similar way to maximize trailer utilization is to use more below-deck space. Drop deck trailers offer more space by lowering the floor below the height of the wheels where possible. That can provide at least two feet of additional storage area without creating a dangerously tall vehicle profile.

Most people are familiar with drop deck trailers in the form of open beds, but enclosed drop decks are another option. Loaders won’t be able to fit an entire additional pallet in this space, but it’s enough for a few boxes. If the trailer also utilizes a racking system, the weight on top of these items isn’t a concern, either.

Shipments in drop deck trailers can also stack in multiple layers on top of the dropped section to maximize space. However, fleets should keep their trucks’ maximum load weights in mind when filling trailers this much.

Choose Boxes Carefully

Fleets can also use more of their trailers’ space by rethinking the boxes they store shipments in. Crews can free a surprising amount of room by using different packages, compiling smaller containers into larger ones and assigning products to other package types.

An often-missed but important rule of thumb is to pack heavier items in smaller boxes and lighter objects in larger ones. This strategy ensures crews can fill every package as much as possible without making them too heavy to carry. Boxes are also more unstable the smaller they are, so the additional weight will help prevent excess movement.

Logistics providers can also account for smaller boxes’ instability by packing several of them in larger containers. This box-in-box strategy lets crews standardize larger package sizes, making it easier to create an even level for stacking additional layers.

Find Inefficiencies With Route Optimization Software

Another unique but effective strategy is capitalizing on route optimization software. These solutions have gained popularity for their cost reduction, as some fleets have attained 25% efficiency boosts through them. Fewer fleet operators realize the same software can reveal trailer underutilization.

Route optimization software will show when vehicles can make more deliveries per day than operators initially expected. When teams know they can complete more deliveries, they can pack more in the truck without fear of overloading. Fleets can also match vehicles to specific routes more effectively, ensuring they use vehicles that fit the exact size of their daily delivery schedule.

Efficiency gains from route optimization help, too. Underpacking often results from running out of time at the loading bay, leading trucks to leave before they’re full to meet deadlines. When this software makes routes more efficient, teams will have more time to load trucks, ensuring they don’t leave anything for a second trip.

Identify Gaps With Cargo Sensors

Similarly, fleets can maximize trailer utilization through cargo sensors. In most cases, fleet owners use Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to monitor shipment locations and quality throughout shipment. The same technology can also identify potential room for improvement in loading practices.

Cargo sensors can monitor the interior space of a trailer, detecting empty areas where additional boxes could fit. Over time and over the whole fleet, this data can reveal which regular routes are the most prone to under-packing. AI algorithms could analyze this data to find where the gaps arise and suggest new packing techniques to maximize the available space.

Cargo sensors can also help by leaving more time to load trucks, just as route optimization software does. Fleets can use this software to automate cargo inspections instead of performing them manually. As a result, routes will become more efficient, providing more packing time.

Rethink Fleet Sizes

Sometimes, maximizing trailer space is less about putting more items in one truck and more about using a smaller truck for fewer items. Fully packing a large trailer is only useful if the driver can still deliver all those items in one route. Alternatively, some fleets may use several fully loaded small vehicles when they could use fewer large ones to deliver the same amount in fewer trips.

If fleets are struggling with high operating costs and use a larger fleet of smaller vehicles, they may benefit by using fewer larger trailers instead. Studies show double-decker trailers cost less per year to operate than using multiple single-deck trailers to transport the same amount of goods.

By contrast, if fleets struggle to fill large trailers but don’t move enough goods to reasonably deliver more in one trip, smaller vehicles may be the answer. Fleet owners can compare trailer fill rates, delivery routes and fuel costs to determine if they should use bigger or smaller trailers.

Maximize Trailer Utilization to Maximize Throughput

If fleet operators follow these tips, they can ensure they don’t leave any excess room in their trailers. As a result, they’ll accomplish more work with the same resources, boosting their operating margins.

To maximize trailer utilization is to increase the company’s throughput. Before buying any additional trucks, fleet owners should ensure they use the ones they have as efficiently as they can.