Let’s be honest: There’s nothing more infuriating for a warehouse administrator than walking through a parking lot or loading bay and watching trucks sit idle.
This is an example of a problem called dwell time. If you’re noticing trucks staying put longer than they should be, it’s a big red flag that something isn't working right in your warehouse.
What Is Dwell Time?
As the name suggests, dwell time refers to the total amount of time a truck sits in a facility. The dwell time clock starts running when a truck enters the bay area for loading. It ends when the truck makes it out of the parking lot and heads back out onto the road.
Breaking dwell time down further, there's also a similar problem known as detention. This happens when a truck is waiting to be loaded or unloaded. Detention is less problematic than dwell time because there’s action taking place.
Why Is Dwell Time a Problem?
Dwell time is a big problem in shipping for a few different reasons—all of which can have a tremendous impact on the bottom line.
A supply chain is like a giant machine with many moving parts. When one part of the machine stops working, the overall engine doesn’t work as it should. This means products aren’t moving to their destinations with any sense of urgency. One small issue in a supply chain can affect an entire supply chain operation, leading to lost profits for many providers.
This is especially challenging when an issue like downtime happens at scale. For example, let's say a company has 10 different warehouses spread across the country, and downtime keeps happening at each one. That company could be wasting a significant amount of time every day. And that time is valuable.
Dwell time is a problem because it means that some sort of backlog is occurring that’s preventing trucks from being loaded and driving out to their destinations. It’s a sign of overall supply chain inefficiency.
When trucks sit idle for long periods, it also creates shipping complications. For example, suppose a truck comes into a truck stop at 3 p.m., has a dwell time of an hour, and then has a detention time of 45 minutes. Now, the truck has to leave at 4:45 p.m.—and head right into busy rush hour traffic.
In turn, that delivery might not arrive until 6 p.m. or later, depending on where the shipment's heading. Making matters worse, the truck will have to sit in traffic and waste gas. It’s no good any way you look at it.
What happens when drivers are behind schedule due to an issue like dwell time? It’s usually not pretty.
First, drivers and managers may get upset about having to wait, causing tempers to flare. What’s more, drivers might leave the facility in a rush, attempting to make up for lost time. They want to ease the burden of having to deal with angry customers and angry managers at other pickup points. When they're late, they know that other folks will be unhappy that they’re behind schedule, too.
When drivers are in a rush, they tend to speed and operate their vehicles aggressively. Unfortunately, this can lead to traffic accidents. In fact, according to the 2019 Detention Time Survey, increasing the average dwell time by just a quarter-hour increased the average expected crash rate by 6.2 percent. That's an extra 6,509 crashes per year. What’s more, with every 5 percentage point increase in the number of stops with detention, the overall crash rate grew by 4.7 percent.
As you can see, dwell time is a major issue in the trucking industry. As such, companies need to do everything in their power to try to reduce it as much as possible.
An excess of dwell time can have terrible repercussions for an organization, supply chain partners, and the public. Depending on how bad the situation gets, you could lose customers and might even have to shut your doors permanently. But you can combat this problem through dwell management.
What Is Dwell Management?
The good news is recent advancements in dwell management make it possible to reduce dwell time considerably. By using cutting-edge dwell management systems, companies can optimize dwell time and deliver better experiences to everyone in the supply chain by taking advantage of the following benefits.
Identify Where and When Dwell Is Happening
Dwell management services let warehouse managers understand where and when dwell time is happening in the supply chain. With this insight, managers can better determine the overall impact that it’s having on their operations. For example, they can figure out how much time and money it’s wasting on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.
Understand Why Dwell Happens
Administrators can also use dwell management solutions to understand why dwell is occurring in the first place. Dwell can happen for a number of reasons. Some of the main drivers are inefficient parking lot or bay communications, understaffing, and poor administrative processing.
Make Improvements to Reduce Dwell Time
Once managers have a clear understanding of when dwell time is taking place, how much of an impact it’s having, and why it’s occurring, it becomes possible to make meaningful changes to reduce inefficiencies. Using data to guide the way forward, managers can streamline their operations and move faster.
Migrating Away From Paper
One of the core elements of modern dwell management involves migrating away from paper management systems. After all, much of the trucking industry still relies on paper management systems to operate. Because of this, information tends to move more slowly and less efficiently. Small supply chain issues, like inventory or staffing shortages, can become much larger problems when they go unaddressed due to poor communication.
To reduce dwell time, companies need to embrace digital transformation and look for ways to modernize and digitize their operations. Paper workflows can be easily converted to a mobile app, helping organizations achieve a number of benefits, which we'll briefly examine next.
Workflow issues tend to arise when teams make mistakes in reporting—like on return items, intake forms, and more. Mistakes tend to increase significantly when using paper due to sloppy handwriting and missing fields.
Mobile apps tend to be much more accurate. It’s easier to enter information into an app. Further, they can even include features that ensure certain fields can't be passed over.
Information can travel much faster through mobile apps. This enables instant data sharing and signatures. With faster reporting and transaction processing, you can significantly reduce dwell time. It’s a win-win.
Ultimately, the customer experience is the most important metric in the shipping industry. By digitizing paper workflows, teams can expedite shipments and improve overall delivery times. As a result, customers will be happier—leading to better reviews, less churn, and stronger profits over time.
How Vector Can Help With Dwell Management
Vector can help cut down on driver dwell time by offering highly customizable mobile apps that are secure, reliable, and cost-effective.
By using Vector’s mobile apps, shipping teams can ultimately move faster and more effectively. This is particularly important as we move deeper into the digital era and competitors use more automation and digital-first strategies. To stay competitive, companies need to focus on modernizing their operations and using mobile applications.
This post was written by Justin Reynolds. Justin is a freelance writer who enjoys telling stories about how technology, science, and creativity can help workers be more productive. In his spare time, he likes seeing or playing live music, hiking, and traveling.