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Why Are Trucks Late? It’s Complicated

by Aristides Smith  01/03/2018

Retailers suffer when deliveries are late; that’s obvious. Late truck deliveries leave many retailers struggling with suppliers and customers alike — and it doesn't take long before they start shopping around for other suppliers. Retailers want their deliveries to arrive on time so they can provide better customer satisfaction, meet sales quotas, and avoid having empty shelf space. Making matters worse, truckloads that arrive too early can strain stock rooms, especially for small retailers. While shippers are scrambling to keep pace — and truck drivers certainly don’t want to be late as it’s a loss of income for them — what seems to be less obvious is the underlying problems causing late deliveries and where to accurately identify the causative factors.

Late deliveries pose problems for all parties

Late deliveries negatively impact retailers’ bottom lines. As a result, they’re implementing penalties in an effort to remedy the problems. These consequences can include: fines imposed on both shippers and truck drivers, loss of shelf space, rating systems that can impact shippers’ future business, or termination of business partnerships between certain shippers and retailers altogether. It’s important, however, to note acts of God and other inefficiencies throughout the entire supply chain. Consider the following:

  • Lead times don't always account for weather variances, which can lead to shipping inefficiencies. Many inventory management systems assume drivers can and will deliver retailers’ goods in the same amount of time with no regard to seasonality factors. When bad weather — from summer hurricanes to fall rain and winter snow — impacts the roads, it also impacts the drivers who are either driving through it, rerouting, or waiting it out.
  • Using less-than-truckload shipping (LTL) rather than full truckloads makes a difference in delivery times. LTL shipping is a cost-effective way to move inventory when an order doesn't require a full truckload, but it also means the driver of that load isn't solely working for you. They're also at the mercy of other retailers on their route — and if there are delays at one location, those delays can trickle down and affect your deliveries.
  • Infrastructure can't support the demand. Truck drivers are always in high demand, and, unfortunately, the demand isn't currently being met. During busy times throughout the year it's even harder to ensure there are enough drivers on the road to meet the basic demands of the shipping industry.
  • Driver regulations sometimes cause difficulties. Truck driving is a demanding profession, and industry regulations are specifically designed to help protect both truckers and all other drivers on the road. Sometimes, this includes mandating the number of hours a driver can actually spend behind the wheel, when they have to stop, how long they have to stop, and other key timing challenges. Those regulations mean drivers don't have a choice about making up lost time spent in traffic jams — and since many of them are paid by the mile, they'd prefer to be able to keep driving, too.
  • Miscommunication among retail management affects efficiency. Perhaps a less popular topic for some retailers, inefficiencies within internal operations can have a big impact on timely deliveries. Disconnects between upper and lower level management is a common problem. When managers are not on the same page, with the same expectations and needs, processes can become tangled. This can directly impact the timing of orders, realistic delivery goals, and shipping methods, among other factors.

As there are several factors in play, retailers should ask themselves if punishing shippers who deliver late is an effective long-term solution — especially when late deliveries are often out of both drivers' and shippers’ control.

Working together to find solutions

Shippers want more effective logistics management systems and on-time deliveries, too. Fine issuance can ultimately result in higher costs for everyone, including consumers, with little resolution and greater frustrations for all involved. Many new innovations — from those in development stages to implementation — are emerging to help decrease delivery times and ensure customers receive their purchases as quickly as possible. Some are looking into

  • using drone deliveries, autonomous trucks, and other advanced strategies that won't require drivers;
  • outsourcing shipping rather than only using private fleets;
  • improving inventory management solutions for better real-time visibility so retailers can make smarter ordering decisions; 
  • incorporating advanced transportation management systems that take delivery changes into account before they become a more serious problem; and
  • utilizing collaboration tools and communication methods for more cohesive and informed supply chains across all levels, resulting in more proactive measures and successful partnerships.

Ultimately, managing delivery windows is an ongoing conversation that needs to take place between shippers and retailers to help ensure better ordering times and more effective windows.

The right transportation management software (TMS) can give you greater visibility and control over your operations. Next Generation Logistics, Inc. offers DynamicsTMS® 365 software solutions and other services to enhance your processes — and your bottom line. To learn more, visit us online or give us a call at 847-963-0007.