Three tips for dock scheduling success

truck gates

It’s a common problem: Fluctuating peaks and valleys in truck arrivals leads to chaos at the loading docks, resulting in long waits and increased carrier detention fees. Typically, due to lack of communication between warehouse and other shipper staff with carrier dispatchers and drivers, dock scheduling systems can significantly improve these situations—as long as dock scheduling is implemented consistently, and both your staff and the carriers understand the rules.

Here are three tips to help you effectively transition both your carriers and your staff to a new dock scheduling system:

Tip 1: Check the capacity of your docks

  • Make sure that, on average, you have enough capacity to load/unload all trucks.
  • Calculate exactly how many appointment times you can offer per dock per day. Take into account all resources such as staff, trucks and other equipment.
  • Do not schedule all of your time. Reserve about 5% for unforeseen events like late trucks, important customer orders or unscheduled pick-ups.
  • Take additional staff time requirements into account, such as busy seasons before holidays.

Establish and maintain rules

When introducing a dock scheduling system, the burden of scheduling usually falls on the carrier.  Make the transition easier by giving timely, accurate information on the new system, carrier benefits in terms of wait times and downtime, as well as fair, transparent rules around booking your docks.

Tip 2: Set clear rules

  • Define when trucks are on time and when they’re late—and communicate these rules to your carriers.
  • Specify what happens in case of missed appointments or delays. Will trucks get worked in to the next available appointment time or will they be loaded/unloaded after the scheduled appointments?
  • Make it clear that trucks without an appointment will not be loaded or unloaded. Best practice is to grant a transitional period of two weeks after the introduction to your carriers before consistently enforcing the rule.
  • Plan for only about 80% on-time arrivals. The remaining trucks will likely come too early or too late, which will generally work to even out the schedule by itself.

Tip 3: Your employees should be familiar with the system

  • Your employees should be familiar with the system and apply the rules consistently.
  • Decide who gets which access rights to the system. Which employees only see the dock schedule and which ones can make changes?
  • Some dock scheduling systems can create a sequence for loading or unloading from booked slots and truck arrivals, facilitating tasks for gate and dock employees. Make sure they understand how the new system benefits them.

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