Investigative Report: The Impacts of Wasted Space in Trailers

If you are a member of the trucking industry then you are probably familiar with the saying, a truckload is not a truckload.  While a trailer may appear to be full, often it does one of two things:  1) either takes up the entire floor space but does not stack to the ceiling nor reach the maximum 80,000 lb weight limit or 2) maximizes the weight but does not fill the entire trailer.  In this investigative report, we’ve asked transportation professionals for their thoughts on the impacts of wasted space in trailers as well as innovative solutions for solving this problem.

Problem 1:  Unstackable Freight

The first problem that needs to be tackled is freight that cannot be stacked due to damage concerns.  This freight applies to both uncrated and palletized freight, which includes paper products/boxes, plastic and rubber articles, furniture, chemicals, and machinery to name a few.  Some shippers, as one respondent noted, purposely package their product in a way so that they cannot be stacked in order to prevent damage.

Solution:  Packaging and Deck Trailers

Greg Boring, Vice President of Sales at Kenco Group, explains that one solution is “working with the customer to develop creative packaging solutions that will allow their product to be stacked while still providing an acceptable level of protection.  This should generate lower transportation rates which will help offset the investment in packaging.”

Whereas working with the customer on better packaging solutions may be one solution, some freight just cannot be stacked.  “A more difficult solution is for the carrier to use deck trailers to improve cube, but they are not very common,” Boring continues.

Road Scholar, however, does utilize deck trailers both as a way to improve efficiency as well as save the customer money in the long run.

Deck trailers, for those who are not familiar, deploy a second floor within the trailer that allows for the consolidation of what would essentially be two shipments into one, without compromising the safety of the freight from damage, while in turn, increasing productivity by reducing mileage and fuel costs, increasing volume, and reducing fleet size.  Please check out the video below.

Problem 2:  Exclusive Truck Use

On many occasions, shippers will ask to purchase exclusive use of a trailer due to security or sanitation concerns.  This is particularly popular in high risk industries such as the food and pharmaceutical sectors.  But with exclusive use comes a price.

“In my trucking days we loved exclusive use trailers as they were very profitable.  It is up to the carrier to make it worth your while from a pricing perspective,” Boring states.

But not all shippers are willing to pay for this exclusiveness.  “Exclusive use may simply be the only manner to ensure goods that are very expensive, subject to theft, or are required to move without interruption – e.g. drugs or medicines, certain electronics, new R&D products, or goods needed for repair to get a production line back up.  Regardless of the need, it has to fit the shipper’s ROI,” another respondent pointed out.

Solution:  Security Gate Trailers

Road Scholar Transport has been experimenting with security gates within our trailers for those companies who want the assurance that their freight will be protected from theft and being tampered with but do not want to utilize/pay for a whole trailer.  These gates block off a section of the trailer, keeping your freight secure while saving the shipper money and allowing the carrier to utilize the empty space.  Check out a video of how it works below!

Problem 3:  Poor Planning

The most popular response we received for the problem of empty space in trailers revolved around poor planning and not having enough time to fill the truck.  As Clare Yauger, an experienced transportation professional, notes, “Depending on how you sell your space has a huge impact.  If you are looking for a head haul, time is of the essence when you are behind the eight ball in putting your run together.  Backhauls or repositioning can cause time to be an issue also.”

Solutions:  Shipper/Carrier Collaboration.  Better Planning

“The impact is loss of potential cost savings on the customer side, potential revenue on the carrier side, or both,” states Albert Cohen, Founder of Bloogistics.com.  “In aggregation, this represents a lot of waste for the entire industry.  Not to mention the environment if ones takes the long-term perspective.  The only solution is better planning using modern tools that help maximize the utilization of equipment.  Inefficiency weakens any business model in a competitive environment.”

Greater flexibility in shipments is necessary and as Yauger added, “constant communication with carrier/shipper relationships is important.”

“The solution in my opinion is ready and available in two mandatory conditions,” explains Motaz Karajoghly, Customer Management Team Leader at Aramex.  “1)  Approval: The customer who took the trailer should approve to use the empty space with other shipments for legal and security reasons and to encourage him we can give him a special discount.  2)  Time:  All customers must accept waiting for an extra 3 or 4 days max to fill the trailer, especially in the low seasons in which the shipment decreased too much.  These two factors are the most important factors to make the wasted space useful space.”

For those shipments that run in lanes that carriers know won’t be utilized to full trailer load potential, it is also recommended that smaller trucks be purchased and utilized.  “Utilizing smaller, more fuel efficient trucks would be key for these companies, city congestion, and the environment,” says Jordan Moncrief, Graduate of International Business and Logistics at California Maritime Academy.  “3rd party trucking agencies could offer a smaller truck, making it more maneuverable for delivery and cut transportation costs.  There is no need for a semi-truck to be loaded halfway.  As a global economy we need to do a better job accommodating just in time delivery, and the need for faster service.”

While the saying, a truckload is not a truckload, may continue to always be true, through efficient planning, investment in more efficient technology such as security gates, and better equipment utilization, for instance deck trailers accompanying non-stackable freight, you can help cut transportation costs, increase your profit, and provide a better environment.

For more information on Road Scholar Transport’s deck trailers and/or security gates, please visit www.roadscholar.com.