By: Pat Walsh, Chief Business Development Officer and Vice President, Supply Chain, Food Marketing Institute20171205-FMI-Store Shoot-0527r-LowRes

Nobody profits when drivers wait in the loading dock of a distribution center for teams to load or unload their trucks. It costs everybody in food retail. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimates “detention time,” or dwell time, costs trucking companies $3 billion a year and, if you carry that over to the larger economy, the price the consumer ultimately pays is closer to $6.5 billion a year.

Certainly, there are some common-sense things carriers and distribution centers can do to better manage the supply chain: Pre-stage freight for deliveries, use trailers that can be dropped and hooked back up once loading is complete, and improve traffic flows. Or the industry can start to explore technologies available to solve this problem that only gets more severe as profit margins in food retail tighten.

Almost a year ago, a Trading Partner Alliance (TPA) task force began to look at a pilot program that could incorporate the use of a mobile app to improve efficiencies and cut costs regarding dwell times. It’s not the first-time technology has been introduced to deal with this challenge, but most often it’s been in-house efforts initiated by private fleets with no attempt to develop industry-wide standards that could be incorporated across several distribution centers and trucking fleets.

Stakeholders from every corner of the industry - Coca-Cola, Giant-Eagle, Land O’Lakes and Wegmans, supported by Four Kites and McKinsey and FMI among them - will begin a two-month pilot program in the next few weeks with the hope of developing initiatives that can be implemented all along the supply chain.

In the near term, a successful dwell time pilot program could lead to greater efficiencies, more productive driver times and reductions in detention penalties. Long term, however, the benefit to the industry could be decreases in logistics and freight costs, eventually enhancing bottom lines throughout the supply chain.

We will be exploring this and other topics at the 2019 TPA Transportation Summit, June 5-6, in Arlington, VA. Find out more about this event.


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