How Drop Trailers Help Reduce Costs & Improve Driver HOS

Author PhotoBlueGrace Logistics - November 3, 2021

Drop trailers allow shippers to maintain their warehouses, leading to better overall supply chains.

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What’s in this article:

  • What is the drop trailer program and why is it needed?

  • How to decide if you should invest in a drop trailer program

  • 3 advantages of the drop trailer program

Whether it’s to improve warehouse operations for a shipper, or better manage hours of service (HOS) for a carrier, drop trailers have become an increasingly valuable supply chain solution.

A drop trailer refers to a truck trailer that the driver leaves (or “drops off”) with a shipper for unloading or loading at the recipient’s discretion. The original driver or another driver returns at the pre-agreed time to pick up the trailer.

While the drop trailer method is popular, shippers tend to prefer the “drop and hook” method. This involves the driver dropping off an empty trailer and picking up a fully loaded trailer for delivery. Either way improves flexibility for both the shipper and carrier.

That said, even though many shippers may benefit from a drop trailer program, here are some things you should consider first:

Is a drop trailer solution right for you?

Drop trailers are good for shippers who:

  • Ship consistently: If shippers have multiple FTL shipments or have enough LTL freight to fill multiple trailers per week, drop trailer will help.
  • Need to reduce loading and unloading time: Many shippers pay a heavy cost for detention due to wait time and excessive loading and unloading time. Drop trailers help eliminate carrier wait time, improve dock efficiency, and allows shippers to better manage dock labor resources by loading trucks in a time and order that better serves them.

While many shippers and carriers will find it advantageous, drop trailers may not be the best option for you in some cases. For example, perishable goods cannot be shipped using drop trailers due to limited shelf life.

Carriers need to trust their shipper and driver partners to make good use of the trailers and send out full loads at the right time.

Then there’s also the question of trust. Carriers need to trust their shipper and driver partners to make good use of the trailers and send out full loads at the right time. Likewise, a shipper needs to trust that their carrier partner will honor commitments made for scheduled swaps. There needs to be synchronization between the shipper and the carrier, as well as drivers and other support staff to make the best of the drop trailer system. Due to the choreography needed to manage the process correctly, this is frequently organized through a strong 3PL partner. Shippers and carriers can build on the positive relationships that 3PLs facilitate to make a drop trailer program part of a more comprehensive supply chain solution.

Three Advantages of Using Drop Trailers

Despite a few possible shortcomings, drop trailers remain an efficient method of moving cargo for various reasons.

1. Improved Service Hours for Drivers

Due to the ELD (electronic logging devices) mandate, drivers “on duty” time is strongly regulated and monitored by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). This is mainly to mitigate risks that take place when drivers are overworked. This also means that carriers must make sure that drivers’ HOS (hours of service) do not exceed the legal limit.

Drop trailers minimize loading and unloading times, making the system more empathetic to the needs of drivers and help them stay on the road and in time for deliveries.

Lengthy loading and unloading times eat into these HOS and make it difficult for the driver to be on the move, thus affecting his or her earning potential. Drop trailers minimize loading and unloading times, making the system more driver friendly and helping reduce unwanted friction in the supply chain.

2. Convenient for Shippers and Carriers

Shippers can better manage dock hours and labor resources by working on a more employee friendly schedule thus improving retention and reducing employee burnout. They can also better control inventory and valuable warehouse space.

Carriers can better manage their driver’s time by eliminating strict appointments and enjoying more flexibility of pick-up times. Eliminating loading and minimizing wait times also allows the carrier to maximize drive time and loaded miles.

3. Possible Reduction in Shipping Costs by Using Drop Trailers

The drop trailer system allows shippers to cut down on various charges. They can mitigate detention charges. LTL shippers may also reduce cost by taking advantage of pickup efficiencies. By consolidating freight and reducing the number of times the carrier must send a truck, the shipper may be able to capture some reduction in the cost per shipment.

With freight volumes spiking across the network, these drop trailer programs are a solution that can solve some long-standing problems for carriers.

With freight volumes spiked across the global supply chain, these drop trailer programs are a solution that can benefit both the shipper and carrier. Considering the need for trucking equipment and drivers, drop trailers help shippers and carriers jump out of an inefficient quagmire. In essence, it’s important that all parties have clear visibility and trust on exactly what expectations are, what performance is going to be, and how quickly trailers are going to be exchanged for best results with drop trailer programs.

Drop trailer is one of many strategies that can help reduce friction and improve reliability in the supply chain.

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