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Dock Appointment Scheduling: 3 Factors Impacting Your Relationship with Carriers

Are you seeing that your dock appointment scheduling process, or lack thereof, could be part of the reason carriers dislike (avoid) delivering or picking-up at your facility?  It most certainly can!

If you can easily identify yourself with any of these three situations, then read on. 

  • The monthly driver detention charges are prohibitive.  Your inability to turnaround carriers within the allotted time is a regular occurrence - definitely a sign that something is amiss.
  • Your customers are complaining about poor service.  Your customers and their respective carriers are waiting too long to pick-up their orders at your facility, be it a warehouse or manufacturing site.
  • The carriers have notified you that they would prefer not to do business with you - at any price, unless you stop delaying their drivers.


1. Driver Detention

First, I’d make a distinction between driver detention and demurrage fees because these terms are often used interchangeably.  For the purpose of this blog, I consider demurrage fees attributable to containers or trailers that are left on your lot or at the port for a period of time that exceeds the allotted period.  Driver detention fees are attributable to ‘live’ pick-ups or deliveries at your site (i.e., not drop loads).  This is when drivers are waiting for longer than the agreed time. Driver detention fees are normally always due to poor planning and scheduling.  Even if someone wished to blame it on warehouse capacity, the fact that you don’t have visibility of the incoming loads versus capacity is, for us, a scheduling issue.

 

Thus driver detention fees, be it for inbound deliveries or outbound pick-up orders, is a clear sign that you have a scheduling issue and this has a direct impact on your relationship with carriers.  Based on the carriers we’ve talked with, they ALL would prefer not to charge detention fees since their first priority, and most profitable objective, is to get their trucks on the road.  Certainly not sitting and waiting at your site; independent of the penalty they may fine you.

 

Improving Driver Turnaround Times

If you’re serious about improving driver turnaround times and reducing detention fees, then you need to look at scheduling beyond simply booking a load in a time slot.  You need to take in consideration factors such as;

  • Load types (e.g., floor loaded or palletized),
  • Commodity type (e.g, cosmetics that take 5 hours to unload and check versus a palletized paper load),
  • Quantities (e.g., not only pallets, cases, units, but also the quantity of line numbers or P.O. numbers).  

 

Everyday should not be a surprise!  That is what we refer to as the ‘’Christmas Every Morning syndrome’’.  If you don’t have real-time reports on what’s expected to arrive in the coming days (appointments with detailed load types, commodity type, quantities, etc.), how can you plan your labour or be alerted of a warehouse capacity issue?


2. Customer service

A second symptom indicating your relationship with carriers is strained is when your customers complain about poor customer service related to their pick-ups at your site(s).  This particularly rings true for many 3rd party warehouses and manufacturing sites.   Most companies will do whatever is necessary to avoid customer service issues - when the customer is involved ROI usually takes a back seat.

A knee jerk reaction to resolving slow turnaround times is to allocate more labour to the scheduling tasks and on the docks.  Although this may help, it doesn’t cure the problem.  

 

The Customer is King

I am reminded of what a 3PL IT director once told me about their business model.  Their two main objectives are to reduce their customers’ costs and to provide transparency (& visibility) of the warehouse activities to their customers.

Therefore throwing extra labour without solving the root cause may simply increases your costs, and the problem will remain because you still don’t have the visibility you need to be truly efficient.  If you’re serious about controlling your costs and improving your customer service levels at the dock level, you need to search for a dock appointment scheduling system that takes into consideration all the factors that can influence the driver turnaround time.

 

  • Provide an external portal access to your scheduling system for your supply chain partners, permitting them to request appointments and monitor the progress of their pick-ups at your site. 
  • Become proactive with real time reporting by triggering notifications on loads that are susceptible of reaching the detention times (and prioritize them accordingly).  
  • Capture the arrival, loading and departure times and obtain visibility on unique workflows as they pertain to inbound receiving, outbound shipping, etc.
  • Create reports and dashboards that you’ll be able to share with carriers and customers during the ‘’dreaded’’ review meetings.  In fact, you may, like one of our customers, provide a copy of the turnaround time report to your salespeople so that they can brag about the great service you provide.


3. Are carriers threatening to refuse your business?

Finally, I was surprised during a recent visit to a large logistics company that due to the driver capacity shortage issue, they were starting to hear about carriers who are refusing loads at sites that are totally disorganized.  To be honest, the reasons invoked went well beyond scheduling issues (e.g., poor warehouse capacity planning, labour issues, payables), but they agreed that effective dock appointment scheduling system would go a long way to helping many of these companies.  Ever since, during product demonstrations, when driver detention fees come up as I inquire about the reasons they are looking into a better scheduling system, I ask prospective customers whether carriers have threatened to stop taking their business.  Silence usually follows and it pains them to admit it.  Truly a sign of a strained relationship with their carriers.

 

Remember that carriers simply want to get in and out as quickly as possible so they can respect their route plan and maximize their revenue.  Understandably, there are many factors that influence quick turnaround times.  Regarding your dock operations, though, you should consider;

  • A scheduling system that will provide visibility on future shipments including details that will help you plan the docks, labour and equipment.
  • Create an overall plan that goes beyond a simple calendar.  Prioritizing pick-ups and deliveries will go a long way to improve the throughput.
  • Plan for emergencies, early and late arrivals by establishing company policies that are to be communicated to the carriers.
  • It may make sense to segment the doors by product or load type.  Reserve time slots for certain carriers or allocate doors for LTL/courier or express loads.
  • Ensure the scheduling system has a robust reporting tool that will allow you to measure key performance indicator in order for you to review, evaluate and improve your dock operations.

 


If you truly wish to get a sense of how the carriers and customers perceive your relationship relative to driver turnaround times and overall service at your docks, I suggest you implement a periodic review meeting and listen to what they have to say.  

If you are already aware of the issues and can already identify yourself with the problems outlined in this blog, don’t wait any longer and request a live product demonstration of C3 Reservations.

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