The Disadvantages of Using Drop Trailers for Freight Shipping

Semi truck driving down highway

If you’re having trouble keeping up with your loading/offloading deadlines on your shipments, you’re likely wondering what you can do. Will working drop trailer service into the contracts you sign with your carrying partner help you with this issue? 

Here at ATS, we’ve been offering drop trailer service for decades. Because of this, we recognize that although it's a great tool for most companies, there are several downsides that should be noted. 

By the end of this blog, you’ll have a far better grasp on the cons of drop trailer service so that you’re able to better discern whether this service is the right fit for your business

⏬ Listen to The Podcast on This Topic ⏬


More Listening Options >

The Cons of Drop Trailer Service

Although dropping a trailer at your loading facility and working on it at your convenience seems like a great option, it’s not without its downsides. As such, this service is not right for every business.

Here are the five main disadvantages to using drop trailers for your freight:

  1. The space needed for drop service
  2. The ability to house perishable items
  3. The amount of lead time required
  4. The ability to guarantee a trucking solution
  5. The price and reliability when capacity is tight

   1. The Space Needed For Drop Service

As you may suspect, leaving a trailer sitting in your shipping area for an extended period can create congestion and incidents. This is especially the case when a shipper doesn’t have an adequate amount of space available to house a trailer.

For this reason, drop trailer service is difficult to manage for those shippers/receivers who don’t have enough yard space available for the presence of a stagnant, immovable object for a long time.

In addition to this, swapping out a fully loaded trailer from its designated position and replacing it with an empty trailer to match, can be a time-consuming process. This is especially the case for smaller operations that cannot afford to employ “yard jockeys” — onsite truck drivers in charge of moving trailers around a loading area. 

    2. The Ability to Keep Perishable Items

Another downside of using drop trailer service is the fact that it becomes infeasible to do so for temperature-controlled, perishable items such as ice cream, pharmaceuticals, seafood or poultry. 

Because refrigerated trailers aren’t able to maintain their temperature controls over an extended period — especially when continually opened for stop and start loading — drop trailer service for perishable items is difficult to manage. 

As such, if you’re a shopper who works with perishable goods, drop trailer service won’t meet your needs. 

Dry van trailer at loading place

    3. The Amount of Lead Time Required 

Perhaps the largest downside of drop trailer service is the simple fact that services like this take proper warning on the shipper’s part. Although dropping a trailer provides convenience to a carrier because they can haul other loads while the shipper gets their trailer loaded, it still takes planning. 

This is especially the case when using a smaller carrier partner. These carrier operations don’t have the sizable pool of trailers that are required for drop trailer services. As such, it’s up to the shipper and carrier alike to plan ahead of time to make sure that they will have a trailer at their disposal for an allotted time frame. 

As you may suspect, the lead time needed to leverage this service also translates into a decreased ability to adjust to urgent shipments. This makes drop trailer service impractical for any last-minute, unplanned, shipment.  

    4. The Ability To Guarantee a Trucking Solution

Although using drop trailer service places a trailer in your possession for an extended period, the larger trucking companies have far more trailers than they have tractors to pull them. For this reason, drop trailer service is unable to guarantee that when your freight is loaded and ready to move there will be a truck available to do so. 

Although this isn’t frequently the case, the ability to guarantee a tractor for your trailer is certainly worth noting. This is where having a reliable transportation partner comes in handy. 

    5. The Price and Reliability When Capacity Is Tight

Today’s market is experiencing a severe shortage of drivers, trucks and trailers alike. Because of this, carriers simply aren’t able to provide drop trailer service to all shippers — especially on short notice. As such — when not agreed to in a prior contract — the price of these services can be high as the opportunity cost to carriers — who could use that trailer to haul another load — increases

Since there also aren’t enough trucks around to service dropped trailers, it becomes more expensive for carriers to guarantee an available truck when a shipper has their drop trailer ready.  

In markets like today’s, when capacity is low and transportation companies need to put in extra effort to service drop trailers, the cost of drop trailer service increases well beyond its normal boundaries. This is why it can be difficult for a shipper to secure these services — without a contract — even when they feel they’re necessary. 

Double drop trailer heavy haul shipment

Who is Drop Trailer Service Best For?

Drop trailer service, although not for every business, can certainly make its impact on the right business. 

If you’re a shipper who constantly finds yourself paying overtime as you fail to meet your loading deadlines due to time-consuming loads, consider adding drop trailer service to your arsenal. 

If you’re a receiver who simply doesn’t have the warehouse space or regular manpower available to unload all incoming freight promptly, drop trailer service is for you. 

Drop trailer service is also a great tool for any business that has the space available to hold a trailer for the length of time requested and the ability to get it loaded during that time frame. 

What Are the Advantages of Drop Trailer Service?

Now that you have a better grasp on the downsides of drop trailer service you’re ready to learn more about how this service can help your business.

If you haven’t already, read the blog we’ve put together outlining the advantages of employing drop trailer service for your freight. Doing so will allow give you a better grasp on the advantages that come along with drop trailer service so that you have all the necessary information.  

If, after reading this, you feel like drop trailer service would be of value to your business, make sure to bring it up to your transportation provider. Ask them if they have the capacity needed to provide these services and if so, how employing this service will impact your price. 

Additionally, read this blog on How Freight Shipping Costs Are Calculated for a deeper look at what exactly goes into the price you pay for your freight.

If you have any questions or are wondering how ATS can help you meet your shipping goals, please don’t hesitate to reach out and ask.

An educated supply chain is a fruitful supply chain. Let’s make some fruit.

Tags: Freight Brokerage, Flatbed Shipping, Project Logistics, Dry Van Shipping, Terminology

Cody Wolhart

Written by Cody Wolhart

Cody has been working as a carrier representative in the operations department here at ATS for more than 6.5 years. During this time, Cody has loved developing and employing his problem-solving skills to help customers and carriers alike. In an industry as dynamic as transportation, Cody works hard to maintain fruitful relationships with all stakeholders.

Get the Latest Content Straight to Your Inbox!

We Have a Podcast! Find Us on Your Favorite App.

Apple Podcasts logoSpotify logoGoogle Podcasts logoAmazon Music logoAmazon Music logo

Beyond the Road Podcast logo

Recent Posts

Work With a Transportation Provider You Can Trust

You don't want your freight in just anyone's hands. Find a transportation provider that cares about your safety and your reputation. Learn how ATS can help.

Connect With an Expert