Within logistics, dwell time is a measurement of how long your truck or trailer remains in a given location after completing a required task. It’s the time that passes in between the steps of your distribution process, whether due to reasonable delays or being overlooked entirely. It’s important for companies to monitor dwell time, as this can be a major source of prolonged processes and unneeded spending, especially if your trailer dwells in a location that incurs fees after it goes too long without moving. By tracing possible instances of dwell time throughout each stage of a trailer’s typical journey, we will demonstrate the necessity for accurate dwell time tracking when working to optimize your logistics operations. We will also propose potential methods for obtaining this crucial data, as well as uses that it can be put towards.


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Departure Delays at the Terminal Facility

Your trailer may start its journey at the terminal facility, but that doesn’t mean that there aren't unnecessary waits occurring. To be fair, the dwell time that occurs at these locations is better described as “idle time,” the rest time that occurs between the end of one iteration of a process and the beginning of the next. Idle time is important, as it ensures that trailers have time for rest, cleaning, and maintenance activities. However, sometimes this idle time ends up being longer than necessary, and trailers that should be returned to delivery cycles continue to sit unused.

Tracking this idle time helps you better maintain a rotation of trailers that ensures that they all get the necessary downtime without that downtime lasting too long. After all, if one trailer is being held for too long, it’s likely that another trailer is being sent out too soon to make up for it. This can lead to quicker wear-and-tear, which in turn results in a greater need for costly maintenance and replacements. By monitoring idle time, the facility can maintain a consistent rotation of deployments that help prolong the life of each individual trailer.

Loading Stalls at the Warehouse

Once a trailer is coupled with a truck, it moves on to the warehouse to be loaded. When dwell time occurs here, it’s usually the result of an error in communication. To set the stage: the driver pulls up in their truck with the trailer attached. If the loading dock is clear, they can pull in right away. If it is not, they must wait until it is available. Once the trailer is at the loading dock, a team from the warehouse will load the trailer. Generally speaking, there’s not much for the driver to do at this stage. They just have to wait until it’s loaded and they’re cleared to go. This is the stage at which dwell time is most likely to occur, usually because the completed task has not been communicated to the driver.

While improved communication should remain a priority, tracking dwell time can help lessen the effect of this problem. If the trailer is at the loading dock for longer than usual, they’ll know to go check up on it. This not only helps the driver get back on the road quicker, but it also means that the trailer will be removed from the loading dock quicker, which helps keep loading procedures running smoothly and makes way for the next trailer.

Extended Breaks at Fuel and Truck Stops

Throughout the delivery journey, it’s necessary for drivers to stop at fuel and truck stops to rest and refuel; the amount of times they must do this is contingent on the length of their journey and road conditions. These stops are expected to occur and often planned for, essentially a form of necessary dwell time. However, it is possible for these breaks to take longer than needed if the driver isn’t careful or watching the time. This creates setbacks that prolong the journey as a whole and can ultimately delay deliveries.

For these stops, tracking dwell time essentially boils down to tracking the time that a trailer stays in one place. If it stays there for too long, the system or the operator can check in with the driver to ensure everything is running smoothly and there are no unexpected complications preventing them from returning to the road. Conversely, this can also be used to detect when drivers aren’t taking long enough breaks. This allows companies to maintain control over schedules, ensuring that they deliver the best possible customer service while guaranteeing the safety of their drivers.

Necessary Disruptions at Weigh Stations

Stopping at weigh stations may also be necessary depending on the route your driver takes and the clearances your company has. Most trailers don’t have to stop at every weigh station, but they must occasionally stop to verify that the truck and trailer are in working order or to address technical or mechanical challenges that have arisen during the journey. It is crucial to road safety that these stops are made, but depending on the level of inspection required for a given issue, the truck and trailer may need to remain at the station for an extended period of time. And that’s before any necessary repairs occur. The timing of these stops can be difficult to predict, as they often hinge on how busy the stations are, how difficult the issue is to locate, and how long it will take to repair or make other plans.

Simply stated, these stops cannot be reduced in length. No amount of dwell time tracking or alerts will make weigh station procedures happen faster. The goal of monitoring dwell time at these locations is instead to provide updates to fleet managers so that they can keep their customers apprised of what’s happening, especially if it’s going to delay the delivery. Customers tend to be far more understanding of these delays if they’re updated, and fleet managers can only provide these updates if they know when a stop is taking longer than it reasonably should.

Unplanned Stops at Inopportune Moments

Expected stops are not the only places in the transportation process where trailer dwell time can occur. Unplanned stops can occur for any number of reasons, including breakdowns, inclement weather, obstructive traffic conditions, or law enforcement checks. Even so, these stops can incur dwell time that is not initially planned for in the expected journey, which runs the risk of throwing everything off schedule. At least all other stops are generally anticipated, with some stop time embedded into the processes; unplanned stops can occur anywhere, at any time, often with little or no warning.

As with weigh stations, most unplanned stops cannot be deliberately shortened or avoided. The most you can do is wait out what’s causing the stop or solve the underlying problem. As you do so, it is once again important to keep fleet managers posted so that they can in turn keep the customer informed. It is also important to monitor these stops in order to ensure that nothing untoward is occurring. Unfortunately, it is not unheard of for logistics companies to face the possibility of their equipment being used in illicit smuggling or human trafficking operations. By keeping an eye on unexpected dwell time in unexpected locations, managers can identify and address any suspicious activity if worst comes to worst.

Unnecessary Lingering at the Final Destination

Just as it’s important to monitor dwell time at the starting point of your trailer’s journey, it is equally important to monitor dwell time at the ending point. The tasks being carried out at the trailer’s final destination are fairly simple: the trailer’s contents are unloaded, accounted for, and then the driver is able to leave. In a way, it is very similar to what happens when a trailer is being loaded at the warehouse. It makes sense, then, that the most common issue is once again one of communication delaying the continuation of the delivery process.

As with loading, drivers rarely directly contribute to the act of unloading the vehicle. The people who work at a given destination likely have their own methods and processes in place to complete this task as efficiently as possible; the driver might even be regarded as an obstacle to a dedicated team. It’s important, then, for the driver to know when unloading is complete so that they may return to the load, whether to return the trailer, retrieve another load, or complete another task entirely. Monitoring dwell time can help drivers and managers flag any stalls in communication so they can still leave on time and make more deliveries in a shorter amount of time instead of lingering at the final destination for no real reason.

How Trailer Tracking Can Help You Monitor Dwell Time

Tracking dwell time can be a daunting task, but as we can see, it is clearly beneficial for streamlining operations at every stage of the transportation journey. Some of the most prominent benefits include:

  • Maximizing Uptime. By tracking dwell time, you can ensure that time is being used as efficiently as possible at all times.
  • Improving Resource Allocation. Strategic monitoring of dwell time means strategic utilization of resources, which ensures that every individual trailer is being used to its fullest potential.
  • Reducing Costs. Monitoring dwell time promotes reliable usage cycles, which reduces the wear-and-tear and maintenance costs on individual trailers. It also helps you complete the same tasks with less trailers.
  • Promoting Driver Accountability. Keeping track of dwell times can hold your drivers accountable for maintaining the expected schedules and operational hours.
  • Enhancing Customer Communication. If you know your dwell times, you can keep your customers informed of potential delays, promoting a relationship based on honesty and mutual respect.
  • Achieving Full Process Visibility. Dwell times are one piece of your operational puzzle, so monitoring them helps you better understand your operations as a whole and promotes full process visibility.

All these benefits are impacts worth pursuing. Luckily, trailer tracking can be used to track dwell time. While telematics can account for every moment when your truck is turned on, dwell time occurs when your truck is turned off. It is those moments of inoperation that require a supplementary system to provide visibility and detailed data for both drivers and fleet managers alike. With a trailer tracking solution, you can outfit your trailer with the tags and sensors you need to monitor when your trailer stops and how long it stops. The right system can even provide continued condition monitoring for individual assets during dwell times, allowing you to rest assured that your cargo is safe and untouched. Armed with this access to robust data, you can begin to make the necessary decisions to streamline your logistics operations and take your company to the next level.

Using AirFinder Everywhere to Track Dwell Time

To help companies like yours track dwell time, Link Labs provides a trailer tracking solution through our AirFinder Everywhere product. AirFinder Everywhere enhances your telematics system by providing visibility of your trailer when your truck is powered off, making it a useful system for monitoring dwell times. To implement our solution for this use, all you need to do is affix one of our patented SuperTags to the trailers you wish to track, then configure it to provide location updates at an interval appropriate to your operations and also when the trailer begins movement. In doing so, you’ll gain full visibility of your trailer at every stop.

By using AirFinder Everywhere, you can also gain access to granular visibility of your cargo and portable equipment. All you need to do is attach individual asset tags from our wide selection to each asset that you wish to track. The asset tags will report to the SuperTag, which will notify operators of which assets are traveling inside the given trailer. This means you can receive alerts when assets are removed from the trailer or when the conditions of perishable products are outside of the required range. You can also install door sensors on your trailer which will send an alert when the door opens and closes, providing an extra layer of security through the same system. To learn more about how AirFinder Everywhere can help you track your dwell times and more, book a demo with Link Labs’ experts today!What are the 5 Main Components of Fleet Management?

Written by Makenna Dudley

Makenna Dudley is a Marketing Associate for Link Labs, with practical experience in written communications, media writing, and additional forms of content creation. She has a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication.

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