Logistics is a fast-moving industry, and long driver dwell times (the total time a driver spends at a facility) are not good news for any businesses, as common as they are. Excessive dwell times create bottlenecks when goods arrive at ports, can cost truck drivers money and, since the driver must still meet the delivery deadline, create a safety risk because the driver may feel under pressure to drive faster when they leave the warehouse, factory or another facility, or breach safety requirements, to get back on schedule.

Improving supply chain visibility is one way to solve the problem. Traditionally, warehouses have no real idea of when drivers will arrive, and drivers will often turn up too early or too late. Using scheduling and visibility software provides a way for warehouses to know when a driver will arrive, allowing them to run loading and unloading operations more smoothly and shorten dwell times. Below is a look at the issue of dwell times in more depth, looking at the causes, the impact long dwell times have on a warehouse and ways to reduce them. We’ll also discuss how our own automated loading solutions can cut dwell hours.

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why is there so much waiting time?

Long dwell times and detention times, the latter being the time between the allocated time of loading or unloading and the actual time of loading or unloading, is a problem with which businesses and other elements of the turnaround logistics industry have been wrestling for some time now.

There are lots of reasons why waiting times are such a problem. The arrival of COVID-19 compounded the problem even further. Social distancing, extra safety protocols and a shortage of workers all incurred the risk of higher dwell times and detention times; however, there was an upside because the lesser amount of traffic on the roads during the lockdowns potentially improved transit times.

COVID-19 aside though, there are several other reasons behind longer driving waiting times:

  • a lack of personnel at the facility;
  • the unwillingness of the business to expand its workforce to cope with increased demand;
  • individual inability;
  • mismanagement of appointment times e.g. goods not ready for dispatch;
  • overbooking of appointments e.g. booking too many trucks for loading location to handle.

Other major reasons include load complexities, as mixed pallets can cause delays at facilities; and complex or convoluted check-in procedures. This can create bottlenecks in pickups and deliveries.

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Understanding truck turnaround time

Drivers can only spend a certain number of hours on the road. If a logistics team takes too long to load or unload the goods from the trailer, the delay cuts into their driving time. This can then result in missed deliveries or missed pickups and affect everyone, right down to the end consumer.

Higher costs and lower profits

Delays damage the reputation of the driver and the business. They also have a financial impact. Drivers include a charge for detention, which increases the business’s operating costs and, consequently, eats into its profits. A job may be routine, but if the warehouse is having to pay workers overtime to complete the job, again this will lower profits. The high turnaround also means lower asset optimisation, and the business isn’t making the most of the assets in which its invested money.

Logistic company employees in a warehouse planning process improvements to increase operational efficiency and reduce costs

Unsafe operating areas

If truck turnarounds take longer and too much traffic is flowing into the warehouse, this creates congestion and generally makes it more unsafe for the warehouse to operate. If a queue of trucks begins to build up, it becomes harder for the warehouse to follow safety procedures and increases the risk of safety hazards.

Delays in the transportation of cargo

A long detention time also means that it also takes goods longer to get where they need to be, whether that’s in the warehouse for storage, or from the warehouse and into the trailer so the driver can get them out onto the road for the next leg of their journey. As a result of delays, customers may receive their products late, which is bad news for the business. Competition is high, and customers won’t tolerate delays in receiving their orders.

Lower productivity

As you might imagine, the high turnaround also has a damaging impact on productivity. Warehouse staff can become disillusioned or dissatisfied, which can lead to employee turnover and, consequently, shortages that harm the efficiency of the warehouse even further.

Improving truck turnaround time

Keeping dwell times and detention times short shows that an operator is not only efficient but that they’re a high-quality outfit as well. Here are a few ways warehouses can reduce turnaround times:

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Install automated loading solutions

Automating your trailer loading processes, especially with our own automated loading solutions, is a superb way to decrease driver waiting times. In the case of our solutions, it’s possible to load a trailer in as little as four minutes and reduce driver waiting times by as much as 85%. The use of our automated loading solutions has saved businesses more than 11,000 hours in driver waiting time. You’ll save your business considerable time and effort when you integrate our moving floor conveyor, trailerskate or slipchain automated solutions into your processes.

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Increase supply chain visibility by implementing routing and scheduling software

Ineffective scheduling is a major reason for driver retention. A driver has no choice but to wait if the goods aren’t ready when the trailer arrives or if the driver has overscheduled. Optimising scheduling will allow you to organise pickup and delivery times so that they don’t affect other pickup and delivery times.

Routing and scheduling software will also help drivers to make it to their appointments on time. You’ll be able to check that drivers are on track to reach the loading bay on schedule and that they’re following the routes.

Ultimately, this can help to increase supply chain visibility because the warehouses will have a better idea of when trucks are going to arrive and can prepare loads accordingly. They won’t have to deal with bottlenecks caused by trucks crowding in during a specific window of time.


Communication with drivers is key. If you own a logistics business, your drivers are the ones who cover the routes every day and know which customers are always late or cause other problems at the loading dock. Contact these customers, and discuss alternative pickup and delivery times with them.

Prepare paperwork beforehand

The obvious way to cut driver waiting times is to have all the goods ready for loading (or be ready to receive the goods) by the time the driver arrives at the loading dock. That’s easier said than done, of course.

What you can do, however, is prepare as much of the necessary paperwork for the shipment as possible before the driver arrives. It’s also important to train staff in being able to handle goods safely and efficiently.

additional benefits of automated loading for drivers

Automated loading means dwell time minimisation, allowing drivers to get goods out onto the road quickly and keep on schedule. This shorter dwell time has a significant impact on the drivers. Here are some further benefits of automated loading for drivers:

Automated loading eases the pressure on drivers

As much as drivers might like to just get on with the journey as soon as logistics personnel have loaded the vehicle, they’re not able to do that. Drivers are responsible for the loads they carry and must check the load is stable and secure before they set off. They must also be aware of any risks the load may carry.

If the loading process causes them to fall behind schedule, they may rush through their checks and miss potential failures to secure a load adequately. The swiftness of loading with an automated loading system eases the pressure by freeing up time for drivers to conduct checks without feeling rushed. Even though they’re working against the clock, they’ll still be able to conduct their checks more calmly and thoroughly.

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Automated truck loading makes the loading dock safer

Generally, drivers don’t get involved in the loading of the trailer itself. Instead, they must find somewhere to stand and also address the paperwork while the logistics team conducts loading. Loading automation reduces the number of workers and forklift trucks in the loading bay, and, along with these, the potential for accidents, which works towards creating a safer loading dock. Drivers can find somewhere safe to stand and, as long as they’ve followed all the safety procedures for parking in a loading bay, and because the loading technology is performing the loading, are at less risk of pulling away from the loading dock while employees are still loading the trailer.

Automated loading helps to maximise space (and save drivers)

As well as being efficient in terms of saving time, automated loading helps businesses to make the most of the space in their trailers. This helps them to pack more into your trailers. As a result, the business may not need as many vehicles to transport cargo, which frees drivers up to take care of other orders. Again, this may also ease some pressure on the drivers.

Is it time for you to automate your loading processes?

Automated loading has a considerable impact for the better on driver dwell times. You can decrease detention times substantially, load your goods safely and allow your driver to get out onto the road quicker with your goods, and generally help to keep the flow of goods in and out of your facility more on track. This is especially important so that they reach your customers in time. No business wants unhappy customers.

Why not review your loading and unloading operations, and see how efficient they are? The chances are there’s room for improvement, so let's chat and see how our automated loading solutions could improve your operations. We’ll be happy to advise you on the best system for your facility and install it for you.


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