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  February 16th, 2023 | Written by

How to Avoid High Truck Detention Times

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Efficiency is one of the most important traits for any fleet to have but one of the most challenging to achieve. While this is a multi-faceted issue, high truck detention time is among the most significant obstacles to fleet efficiency.

Truck detention, where drivers must sit idle while waiting for their trucks to be loaded, is an almost universal challenge in the industry. According to a 2020 survey, 87% of truck drivers spend 17 to 29% of their possible driving time in detention. Logistics companies must address this issue if they hope to reach maximum efficiency.

Why Fleets Must Shorten Truck Detention Times

This fleet idle time is costly on top of being common. Because waiting time takes away from truckers’ per-mile compensation, many organizations charge fees for excess delays. These typically range between $25 and $50 an hour but can be as high as $250 hourly.

Detention time also has a considerable impact on supply chain efficiency. If a driver has to wait two hours or more before loading the truck, it can cause them to arrive late to their next destination, even missing delivery estimates. These delays can affect client satisfaction. If they’re frequent enough, dissatisfied customers may take their business elsewhere.

These delays also affect truckers, who are already in short supply in many areas. Drivers upset at long idle times they may not get paid for could feel taken advantage of, leading to lower engagement and increasing their chances of leaving the industry early. These factors could also hinder others from entering the sector, worsening the labor shortage.

How to Minimize Truck Detention Time

While common, truck detention time is avoidable in many cases. Logistics companies and their partners can take the following steps to minimize fleet idle times and maximize their agility.

1. Communicate Clearly and Early

Communication is one of the most critical steps in reducing detention time. If all involved parties understand what to expect with each shipment ahead of time, they can work together more efficiently.

Trucking companies should clarify their detention time expectations and rates upfront so their partners can plan accordingly. Similarly, warehouse leaders should communicate their processes, schedules and staffing rates to set more realistic expectations about wait times and scheduling. Going over these factors as early and in-depth as possible will help prevent miscommunication that leads to delays. It’s also important to notify all partners if something unexpected arises to help everyone adjust as necessary. 

2. Maximize Visibility With the IoT

Next, supply chain organizations should embrace the internet of things (IoT) to gain more visibility. IoT tracking solutions offer real-time updates about shipment locations and, in some cases, quality. This level of insight helps plan and adjust more efficiently.

If heavy traffic or other unexpected events delay trucks, IoT trackers can alert warehouses of the situation. They can then reschedule them as necessary or take additional steps to adapt and prevent extensive delays. IoT-driven adjustments like this have helped some fleets dramatically reduce fuel consumption and prevent food spoilage, highlighting the technology’s potential to boost efficiency.

3. Use Routing and Scheduling Software

Other technologies can help reduce truck detention times, too. Some of the most helpful are routing and scheduling software, some of which can connect to IoT tracking data to capitalize on these real-time insights. Even without this connectivity, this software helps fleets manage their schedules more effectively to minimize the risk of delays.

Routing software with artificial intelligence (AI) features can highlight the most efficient paths for each unique shipment, accounting for changing factors like traffic and other deliveries. These AI insights ensure drivers arrive on time, preventing detention from missed pick-up windows. Similarly, scheduling software can automate the scheduling process to ensure fleets pick up and drop off shipments at the most practical times.

4. Stagger Schedules

Another way to minimize fleet idle time with scheduling software is to stagger arrival times. It may be tempting to schedule most pickups for times with the highest productivity and staff availability, but this practice will stretch the workforce thin. It’s better to instead schedule each shipment for when another should be wrapping up.

Staggering schedules ensures a more even workload across the day. This distribution, in turn, helps warehouse staff maintain productivity and ensures each pickup has sufficient staff to manage it. With no dramatic peaks, delays and detention are less likely.

5. Automate Where Possible

Even with a staggered schedule, ongoing warehouse labor shortages can make it difficult to load each truck efficiently. Automation can help. While robots may be more commonly associated with sectors like manufacturing, the warehouse automation market could more than double by 2025, offering a growing number of potential solutions.

Solutions like automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) and automated guided vehicles (AGVs) can pick items faster than human workers while employees load goods onto trucks. Stacking and palletizing robots can prepare shipments for loading while employees finish a previous pickup. Whatever the specifics, automated technologies enable warehouses to accomplish more, even with limited staffing. 

6. Account for Truck Detention Time

Strategies to minimize fleet idle time don’t necessarily have to include complex machinery and purchases, either. One relatively straightforward way to address the issue is to account for detention time when scheduling deliveries and planning routes.

Logistics companies should plan delivery schedules with more allotted time than they think will take to pick up and move shipments. This buffer will ensure any unpredictable detentions and delays won’t cause major disruptions. Because detention rates typically apply to wait times longer than expected, this strategy can also help avoid the high costs of these delays.

7. Have a Backup Plan

Finally, it’s important to create contingency plans in case something unexpected happens. Drivers experience detention time roughly one in every 10 stops on average. Even if carriers and warehouses reduce that figure, these delays are still likely to happen sometimes, but a backup plan will mitigate their impact.

Set a specific, detailed process for adjusting other routes and calling in employees to make up for lost time or productivity during an unexpected delay. This plan should include protocols for communicating with other stakeholders to enable a more cooperative effort and manage expectations.

Reducing Fleet Idle Time Maximizes Efficiency

When fleets reduce their truck detention time, they become more efficient, cost-effective and workforce-friendly. As the logistics sector grows increasingly competitive, those advantages become more important to develop. Following these seven steps will help any fleet minimize their idle time and maximize productivity.