What Is Dwell Time In Supply Chain Trucking?

This article discusses dwell time in trucking, examines its critical impact, and suggests ways to reduce it for enhanced supply chain efficiency.

trucks in the distribution hub

For those dealing directly with some aspect of trucking, dwell time is a significant indicator of a supply chain partner’s efficiency—and customer service, reliability, cost of doing business, and much more. 

Dwell time, a critical metric in the trucking industry, represents a truck's total time at a shipper or receiver's facility during pick-up or drop-off. This simple measure has far-reaching implications for shippers, truck drivers, and the entire supply chain.

Though dwell time is a continuous concern for most shippers and trucking companies, it remains heavily overlooked when addressing efficiency issues—and understated when considering the costs associated with its inefficiencies. 

In this article, we’ll offer insights on calculation, impact, and reduction methods to optimize dwell time and show you the rippling effect this can have in your supply chain.

truck driver receives documents for the cargo

What is dwell time for trucks?

Dwell time in trucking is the time truck drivers spend waiting to drop off or pick up inventory, typically at a loading dock or facility. It's a critical metric in the logistics sector, pinpointing where time—and, therefore, money—is lost or gained in the transportation segment of the supply chain.

Dwell time begins when a truck checks in at a facility, and ends when it is released and checks out. The length of this period demonstrates how efficiently a shipper can (or can’t) move goods in or out of its segment of the chain. The saying, “a chain is only as strong as the weakest link,” aptly applies here. 

Prolonged dwell times disrupt schedules and impact the bottom line for truck drivers, especially those in the truckload and less-than-truckload (LTL) sectors, through detention fees. Although meant to compensate for the delay, these fees often don't cover the full extent of detention costs. Meanwhile, trucking companies face challenges in maintaining on-time delivery metrics, managing the number of loads, and ensuring sustainability in their operations.

Shippers and receivers, as key stakeholders, also feel the ripple effects. Non-compliant loads and wait times at distribution centers can lead to inefficiencies in their supply chain, affecting their ability to streamline operations and meet market demands. Real-time tracking and advanced Transportation Management Systems (TMS) are increasingly vital in addressing these issues. By providing in-depth insights into average dwell and delay times, these initiatives aim to reduce average dwell time, aiding in optimizing overall supply chain efficiency.

Common causes of extended dwell times range from inefficient scheduling systems and delays in loading/unloading processes to more complex issues like regulatory compliance checks or unexpected operational setbacks. The implications are felt industry-wide, underscoring the need for strategic measures that address the root causes. 

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How do you calculate dwell time?

The industry standard formula for calculating dwell time is straightforward: 

(truck departure time - truck arrival time) = truck total wait time

Precision in logging these times is vital, as even minor discrepancies can distort your dwell time metrics. In practice, this calculation works like this: if a truck arrives at the loading dock at 2 p.m. and departs at 4 p.m., the dwell time is two hours. Then, once captured, you can begin compiling percentages and averages to compare against. 

However, accuracy in calculating dwell time depends on reliable data collection. Companies increasingly rely on digital tools, such as transportation management systems (TMS), to capture these timestamps accurately. TMS solutions can automate the data logging, ensuring the calculation reflects real-world operations.

It’s important to note that calculating average dwell time over a period gives a better overview than isolated instances. It accounts for peak traffic times, differing shipment sizes, and operational anomalies. 

By analyzing this data, businesses can identify patterns and potential bottlenecks, making calculating dwell time an integral step toward supply chain efficiency.

trucks in the logistics hub

The critical impact of dwell time on supply chain dynamics

Dwell time is a silent disruptor in supply chain logistics, often slipping under the radar. This happens because a notable blind spot exists due to the interface of different businesses at the docks or loading areas. 

For example, a warehouse that solely focuses on its operations and fails to consider the consequences of its activities on other partners' outside the door’ will not be aware of its impact outside its walls.   

When this metric isn’t tracked, analyzed, and proactively optimized in any way, this blind spot becomes a central pain point for everyone else. 

Longer dwell times correlate strongly with supply chain delays. Each hour a truck remains stationary at a facility translates into delays further down the supply chain, constricting the flow of goods and ultimately leading to potential revenue loss for all parties involved. 

The cost implications are substantial. For shippers, extended dwell times can mean demurrage charges, while carriers face detention fees, eroding thin profit margins. These financial impacts extend beyond immediate fees. Consistent delays can tarnish relationships with transport partners and customers due to unmet delivery expectations. For small trucking companies or owner-operators, these setbacks can be devastating. 

Excessive dwell times tie up drivers and trucks that could be productive elsewhere. Drivers face strict hours-of-service regulations, and wasted hours on-site limit their availability for subsequent hauls. This inefficiency reduces truck utilization rates, a key metric in the trucking industry, reflecting on asset returns and operational productivity. 

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How to reduce dwell time: 5 strategies

To effectively reduce dwell time, businesses must employ a comprehensive strategy that optimizes various aspects of their operations:

1. Streamline loading/unloading processes

  • Implement appointment scheduling systems to coordinate truck arrivals with dock availability.
  • Optimize labor scheduling to ensure a swift loading and unloading process.

2. Harness technology

  • Integrate Transportation Management Systems (TMS) with warehouse management systems for enhanced real-time visibility.
  • Utilize automated loading docks with sensors to speed up the cargo handling process.

Check out a leading freight management systems platform that can empower your logistics technology.

3. Adopt best scheduling practices

  • Schedule trucks based on historical data and predictive analytics to avoid peak congestion.
  • Allow for flexibility in scheduling to accommodate unforeseen delays and maintain efficiency.

4. Effective driver management

  • Maintain open lines of communication with drivers to manage expectations on wait times.
  • Offer incentives for drivers who achieve quick turnaround times, encouraging efficiency.

5. Leverage data-driven insights

  • Regularly analyze dwell time data to identify and address operational bottlenecks.
  • Employ continuous improvement practices to reduce dwell times and progressively improve overall supply chain performance.

By implementing these strategies, companies can ensure that trucks—and the valuable cargo they carry—spend less time idle and more time delivering products to their destinations.

Streamlining operations with GoRamp

GoRamp's suite of software solutions is designed to tackle critical issues like dwell time head-on. By leveraging GoRamp’s advanced TMS, companies can gain real-time visibility into their trucking operations, enabling precision scheduling and reduced wait times at docks. 

The system's analytics capabilities allow businesses to monitor and analyze dwell time metrics, ensuring operations experience continual improvement. Our clients demonstrate significant reductions in dwell time and other essential metrics, leading to cost and time savings and more fluid workflows. Their success highlights GoRamp’s commitment to delivering tangible results in supply chain optimization.

GoRamp's solutions offer your business a proven pathway to reduce dwell time and elevate overall supply chain performance. 

Join GoRamps partners to turn logistics challenges into new business opportunities and standards for operational excellence. Schedule a demo today to learn more about partnering with GoRamp.

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