During the past few years, the time truckers are spending waiting at loading docks has steadily increased.

In fact, a 2019 American Transportation Research Institute survey reported that drivers in 2018 ran into more frequent loading and unloading delays (or dwell time) compared to four years earlier in 2014. Driver waits of six hours or more jumped 27.4% between 2018 and the ATRI’s previous survey.

It turns out as well that safety and long waits at the dock are even interconnected. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General, “a 15-minute increase in average dwell time raises the expected crash rate for a truck by 6.2%.”

Such delays can also contribute to higher consumer prices and cut into how much money trucking companies and their drivers make. The DOT even estimates that detention costs drivers and trucking companies more than $1 billion annually in lost revenue.

Why the cause for delays at the dock?

With the increase in dwell time at the dock, that then begs the question: what’s causing such growth in delays? Part of the reason is that 2018 was a highly busy year for freight trucking due to improved U.S. economic performance. According to the American Trucking Associations, trucks moved 15.3% more freight in 2018 (nearly 11.5 billion tons) compared to 2014.

Signs also point to severely strained shipping operations — with a driver witnessing as many as 20-30 trucks waiting to be unloaded at one facility — which contribute to such long waits outside warehouse and distribution center (DC) yards.

There is a host of other reasons that are contributing to increased dwell time at the dock. They essentially boil down to how well docks are operated and managed in the first place.

Proper equipment operation is critical. So is keeping up with maintenance and repair issues to minimize or even eliminate overrides so that all dock positions are operating as they should.

Unfortunately, many dock operations today are not maintained in top condition. Aside from trucks being loaded and unloaded, there is typically little additional insight into the rest of a dock’s operational status.

The answer is high visibility at the dock. This will not only improve equipment usage, but also lead to a dock that’s operated more efficiently. Improved visibility also means better-maintained equipment which will ultimately lessen the need for overrides.

You’ll also be able to better gauge how long trucks are sitting at your dock — whether restrained or unrestrained — as they wait for something to happen versus how long your trucks are in position during actual loading or unloading.

Capturing dock utilization data through the cloud

Effectively and consistently measuring the time it takes to load a trailer and the time it takes to leave a facility needs the right cloud-based technology.

As you gather dock intelligence, such technology will enable you to produce daily reports with historical data and KPIs that are highly useful for both warehouse management and dock supervisors.

From regularly scheduled to ad hoc reports, the analysis will provide a clear picture of what’s occurring at your dock, especially over an extended period. One incident may not generate much attention, but incidents that keep repeating for more than a few weeks or months will need prompt attention.

Also, monitoring dock utilization over time for larger companies with multiple facilities will help with decision making about building a new facility. Monitoring the number of goods being moved and how frequent existing docks are used will help to determine the required number of new docks and related equipment.

From an industry perspective, a well-run dock operation can make a positive impact on reducing the amount of dwell time at warehouse, DC, manufacturing, or other facilities.

Carefully consider how you can improve your own dock operation using 4SIGHT Connect Digital Dock which will help you make better decisions through data gathering and analytics that are powerful and insightful.