Working with your Carriers: Shipping/Receiving Department Scheduling

This is probably one of the biggest issues that causes strife between carriers and distribution departments more than any other.  This article explores options and consequences of different shipping/receiving department scheduling philosophies.  At the heart of this issue is that carriers get paid by the mile, so they don’t want to wait to get loaded/unloaded, and shipping departments get paid by the hour, so they don’t want to be standing around waiting for trucks to arrive, or add extra labour to accommodate the small periods of “busy” times during the day when trucks show up.

First Come, First Served Scheduling (FCFS)

Depending on who you ask, some people love this method of scheduling trucks for pickup and delivery and others hate it.  This practise tends to favor the shipper and receiver at expense of the trucker.  Usually, it means that the shipping/receiving department has limited resources and has the trucks wait in queue until they are able to be served.  Sounds fair right?  If you get there first you get unloaded first.  However, truckers get paid by the mile and not by the hour.  Having to wait 2-3 hours to get unloaded is unreasonable for the carrier.

This system is not without benefit for carriers some of the time though.  If a carrier can show up “anytime on Tuesday” for delivery, they get flexibility in when they have to be there and it really helps them when unforeseen delays occur like weather and traffic.

Best of both worlds?  A FCFS system with enough internal resources at the shipper/receiver to handle the busiest times.  However, now this becomes expensive for the shipper, they’ll have labour sitting around 90% waiting to serve the 10% of the time when it’s busy.

Appointment Scheduling

Some people love appointment scheduling, others hate it.  Similar to FCFS, it has both benefits and drawbacks.  Appointment scheduling is great for carriers when they arrive on time and get in and out fast.  It’s also great for shippers/receivers because they can plan the load on the department in advance and arrange for the appropriate amount of labour.  This sounds like it’s efficient for everyone! It can be! However, when uncertainty creeps in, it causes problems for this system.  If a carrier gets stuck in traffic, has a breakdown or gets delayed at a prior, all which is in a day’s work for a carrier, then the system breaks down.  If Carrier A shows up for his 10am appointment at 10:30 due to getting stuck in traffic,   there is no one to unload him because the labour is already committed to serving the 10:30 appointment who is there on time.  This is fair right?  Make him wait till 4pm when all the other deliveries are unloaded.  Not really.  It shouldn’t be a punishment to deliver at your  facility!  Strict adherence to a scheduling system causes a lot of bad feelings with carriers who do their best to get your freight delivered.  On the other hand, always accommodating late appointments will earn you the reputation as “the last delivery”.  You’ll forever be accommodating late deliveries.

A Hybrid System, The best of Both Worlds?

There really isn’t a “perfect” solution to this problem.  Each shipping/receiving policy has cost consequences for both the shipper and the carrier.  Any cost absorbed by the carrier, will eventually find its way back to the shipper in the form of rates increases.  So the optimal solution has to be a cooperative one.  One which balances the needs and resources of the carrier with the needs and resources of the shipper.

Some Good ideas:

  • An appointment system, with some flexibility to accommodate lates.
  • Measure lates so as not to end up accommodating everyone.
  • Talk to your carriers and find out what works best for them.  This often changes based on your location, time of day and freight being delivered.
  • Fines can work as a deterrent, but must be used with caution.  If carriers find there is no flexibility they will not want your freight, or want to charge extra for the possibility of fines.
  • Longer shipping/receiving hours can minimize congestion.
  • Being able to move labour over from other departments to accommodate a rush of trucks is helpful if feasible at your company.

XTL Transport can Help You

XTL Transport has been helping customers with logistics problems for close to 30 years.  If you’re looking for ways to reduce cost, improve service, or just reduce headaches, then XTL has solutions for you.  Please contact us for a free consultation.

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