Choosing the Right Trailer: 8 Tips for Supply Chain Managers
There are many ways to manage a supply chain. Every logistics operation has unique factors to consider, and different strategies and equipment are ideal for many situations. It’s essential to
remember this for decisions like selecting the right trailer for a given rig.
Using an unideal trailer can have serious consequences. Mismatched equipment could incur unnecessary costs, create operational inefficiencies and even affect shipment quality. Supply chain managers can help avoid these mistakes by following these eight tips when choosing a trailer.
1. Determine Load Sizes
Load size is one of the most important considerations for choosing the right trailer. That includes both the physical dimensions of an average shipment and its weight.
Federal regulations restrict maximum loads to 80,000 pounds, but most trailers’ maximum payloads fall far below that figure. Logistics professionals must ensure any trailers they purchase can manage the loads they’ll carry, which varies depending on the products and
company in question. It’s also vital to include the weight of any moving equipment like pallets and straps in these calculations.
Physical dimensions are also crucial to consider. Some trailers may have enough weight capacity but lack the internal space to fit a company’s average shipments.
2. Review Loading and Unloading Requirements
Another determining factor is how a trailer accommodates the company’s loading and unloading practices. If it’s too low to the ground, it could fall below the loading dock, making it challenging
to move loads on and off the trailer. Alternatively, some may be too high, creating similar problems.
Supply chain managers must measure their loading dock heights and that of their clients to determine their needs in this area. It also helps to consider the space within the trailer. Wide clearances can make moving things in and out easier especially when forklifts are involved but some loading docks may have width restrictions as well.
3. Look at Size and Axle Regulations
Opting for the largest trailers possible can be tempting to provide more room for error. However, fleet owners should consider how trailer sizes affect their expenses. In addition to carrying higher upfront costs, larger trailers may incur extra fees from size and axle number regulations.
Oversize permit fees change depending on the state and load in question. What constitutes an oversized load also varies between states, so supply chain managers must review regulations in
their areas of operation to determine their size limits. Not accounting for these laws can considerably increase operating costs and introduce legal trouble.
Similarly, it’s crucial to review fees for axle numbers on any toll roads that shipments must take. If businesses can use trucks with fewer axles and still meet their stability and weight needs, they
can save money.
4. Go Over Specific Shipment Needs
Some shipments come with specific needs outside of size and weight clearance that not every trailer can meet. Transporting cars requires larger, flat surfaces since uneven weight distribution increases the chance of an accident and vehicles must be able to move in and out. They’ll also require additional anchoring that not every trailer type can support.
Produce and medical goods will need refrigerated trailers and the level of refrigeration they need will vary. Some clients may also have specific requirements for product quality, climate control, special anchoring, support for wireless sensors or other features. Supply chain managers must review their clients’ wants to determine what kind of trailer they need.
5. Consider Weather Factors
One factor decision-makers might easily overlook is the weather. While it’s one of the most influential factors in supply chain management, it’s also uncontrollable. Weather should play a
role in selecting the right trailer. Different trailers are better for varying conditions, so logistics professionals must review what they expect to face.
More than 70% of U.S. roads are in snowy regions, so most supply chains must prepare to encounter this element. That rules out open trailers for most deliveries and routes in northern areas may want to watch traction and weight distribution more carefully. Similarly, trailers serving rainy areas should pose minimal slippage and fishtailing risks.
6. Compare Multiple Vendors
Once supply chain managers have narrowed down the specific trailer they need, the process still isn’t over. Multiple vendors likely offer the same inventory, so fleet owners should compare
these listings to find the best deal.
Prices can vary widely between trailer vendors, even for the same equipment. Some listings can feature price ranges more than $2,000 below MSRP, so it’s important to explore various stores even when managers find relatively good deals. There’s always a chance another vendor has a lower price and these savings are worth the time spent looking.
Logistics professionals should also compare warranties, loyalty programs and discounts. Savings and benefits from these offerings could make up for higher upfront costs.
7. Research Vendors
After narrowing selections to a few vendors, supply chain managers could look into them further. Some companies may post competitive prices, but that’s not always worth it if they also have poor customer service and limited support. It may be better to pay more for more reliability in some circumstances.
Customer reviews are some of the most helpful resources to turn to. Managers should look for customer stories from businesses in similar positions to find the most relevant information. Keep
in mind that people are more likely to share negative experiences than positive ones, so take some ratios with a grain of salt.
Awards, certifications and fast responses to inquiries are positive signs to look for. If any business has many poor reviews, won’t respond quickly or doesn’t have much information available, it may not be trustworthy.
8. Communicate With All Stakeholders
Decision-makers should communicate with all relevant stakeholders before purchasing a trailer. That includes talking to drivers to see if they have any insight on what features they need.
Similarly, warehouse workers can advise which trailers are best to load and unload in a specific environment. Fleet owners should also talk to vendors about their needs. If they explain their specific goals
and budgets, a reliable store should be able to help find what they need faster. This is particularly important for newer companies with less experience.
Find the Right Trailer for Supply Chain Needs
If supply chain managers follow these eight tips, they shouldn’t have much trouble finding the\ right trailer from the right vendor. They can then rest assured that they’ve made the most of their
investment. Following these steps can help businesses find the optimal equipment for their specific needs.