The Advantages of Using Drop Trailers for Freight Shipping

Semi trailer close up

Let’s face it, transportation is unpredictable. Deadlines get missed, budgets get overextended and partnerships are put to the test. You're falling behind on your loading times and you’re looking for a solution to help you meet deadlines. Every precaution should be taken to promote the on-schedule execution of your supply chain and you’re looking to do just that. 

You’ve heard of drop trailer service and think it may be the tool you’re looking for. 

Here at ATS, we’ve been working in this industry for decades. During this time, we’ve offered drop trailers countless times so we know exactly how it can benefit shippers, carriers and receivers alike. 

In this blog, we’ll break down

This will leave you with a better understanding of this service that’s becoming a steadfast staple of freight shipping across the nation. 

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What is Drop Trailer Service?

Drop trailer service is an option for shippers and receivers where a carrier leaves a trailer in their possession for an extended period. Doing this allows these parties to work the freight onto/off of a trailer at their convenience, on their schedule and at a predictable price. 

“Dropping a trailer” is a common practice employed by carriers, and leveraged by shippers, throughout this industry.

Fundamentally, drop trailer service is meant to provide value for all stakeholders by injecting convenience into an otherwise hectic industry. 

Often — when this service is requested frequently or contracted — the price of dropped trailers are factored into the transportation cost quoted to the party responsible for paying it. This is especially the case when working in a market — like today’s — that’s hard-pressed for capacity.   

Related: When Does it Make Sense to Start a Drop Trailer Program? (& 3 Tips for Success)

semi truck on highway

The Advantages of Drop Trailer Service 

There are plenty of upsides to using drop trailer service for your shipment. In all honesty, provided it was feasible, every contributor to the process of shipping your freight would prefer to use it. As such, drop trailer service is becoming increasingly popular with those companies whose supply chain allows it.

The four advantages of using drop trailers for freight shipping are:

  1. Drop trailers provide load-time flexibility.
  2. Drop trailers lead to less congested shipping docks.
  3. Drop trailers increase the odds of on-time delivery. 
  4. Drop trailers help shippers avoid accessorial fees.

   1. Load-Time Flexibility

Drop trailer service, when used correctly, can provide the ultimate level of flexibility to shippers. By leaving a trailer in their possession for an extended time, shippers can load freight as soon as it’s ready and they have the manpower available to do so. 

Having a trailer around 24/7 allows shippers to ensure that freight is loaded correctly, safely and securely with attention to all rules and regulations. The load-time convenience provided by drop trailer service shines through in a shipper's ability to avoid the nuisance of paying employees overtime as they rush to get a shipment out the door. 

The convenience this service provides is also tied to the ability of shippers to operate on a consistent schedule. When they can reliably work “loading time” into their schedules, these parties can maximize their operational efficiency.

    2. Less Congestion in Docks

This service allows shippers and receivers alike to avoid the continual congestion of their bays brought on by the entrance and exit of trucks and trailers. Having a trailer pre-loaded or empty when a truck arrives to move it, helps to cut down on the amount of time this truck and trailer must sit in the shipping and receiving area, thereby plugging up this avenue.

When utilized correctly, this service allows those working in the shipping and receiving areas a greater range of motion when administering their daily duties. 

Dropped trailers provide a convenient place to store inventories until they’re ready to be unloaded or to complete loading. 

As of late, the retail import market has seen a large uptick in the quantity of trailer pools needed in all major ports. As waves of loaded containers arrive, the local deconsolidation warehouses need empty trailers onsite to load at all hours as warehouse and dock space is extremely limited.

    3. Increased On-time Delivery Rates

In essence, drop trailer service is a hedge against delays to your shipment’s delivery due to loading times or not having any equipment available to load while you wait for a truck to arrive. 

Because the shipper has access to the trailer well in advance of their desired pick-up date, drop trailer services create room for better departure/arrival planning. The reason for this is simple, a driver’s Hours of Service (HOS) are less impacted

In fact, using this service actually creates a reliable schedule that a driver can plan for. This helps them to maximize their HOS clock as they schedule in drops and pickups consistently. 

When a driver shows up to haul a shipment, instead of waiting around for the shipper to get freight loaded — or in some cases finished — they simply attach their fifth wheel to the kingpin of the readily loaded trailer and start the transport process. 

Since the shipper has already fully loaded their freight, there are no costly hiccups that impact the driver’s ability to adhere to HOS rules and regulations. This, in turn, increases the chances that the shipper's freight will arrive by their projected delivery times. 

Additionally, when drop trailer service is worked into a contract between shipper/receivers and their carrier, another empty trailer is dropped off to supplement the one that was taken. This helps to make sure that the next shipment goes smoothly as well. 

    4. Avoidance of Fees

If increasing your shipment’s rate of on-time delivery and load-time flexibility wasn’t enough, using drop trailer service for your freight also makes its mark on your balance sheet. 

Although it’s important that shippers and receivers — when using this service — load/unload in a timely fashion so they don't under-utilize their dropped trailers, certain fees can be avoided when this is done correctly. 

Here are three common accessorial charges that can be more easily avoided by using this service for your shipment:

Detention Fee

A fee that is applied to any shipment that — at a truck’s arrival — isn’t ready to be loaded for a period measuring greater than 2 hours. This type of fee, which typically runs $50-$75/hour, serves to properly compensate drivers for the HOS time they lose out on by waiting for a shipper. 

Note, detention fees can only be avoided via drop trailer service for a limited time. Eventually, when trailers have been held for an extended period (more than 72 hours), detention fees kick back in. This is due to the supply chain disruption and loss of revenue for those companies that own the dropped trailer. 

Layover Fee

Similar to a detention fee, this $250-$500 charge is levied when a trailer is left in the possession of an unprepared shipper overnight. Although this may seem similar to drop trailer service, unexpected stay periods like this are very disruptive for a carrier and come at a heightened price point. 

Related Content: What is a Layover Fee in Trucking?

Driver Assist Charge

This $100-$150 fee is given to a driver when they need to help in the loading of their truck. This fee becomes incredibly avoidable because of the load-at-your-leisure nature of drop trailers which ensure that there are plenty of people around to load the freight when the time comes.  

Note, although drop trailer service is designed to provide ample time for a trailer to be loaded/offloaded, if a driver is still needed to assist, this charge is levied. 

Please understand: Drop trailer service does not guarantee that these fees will be avoided. It simply provides an easier avenue for shippers and receivers to avoid these. 

Drop deck semi truck shipment

Is Drop Trailer Service Right For Your Business?

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.

Your Next Step

Now that you have a better understanding of the advantages of using drop trailer service for your freight, you're ready to make this decision.

Ask yourself: 

  • Is drop trailer service something that I should look into further? 
  • How would this help me in the future? 
  • Do I have the necessary resources to make this work for my business?

When making this decision, it's important that you have all of the variables. To better prepare you for this, we've prepared another blog that outlines the disadvantages of drop trailer service so that you can see both sides of the drop trailer service coin.

As always, don't hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns you may have. We're here to help you succeed even if partnering with ATS isn't your final decision. 

Tags: Transportation Services, Freight Brokerage, Flatbed Shipping, Specialized Flatbed Shipping, Project Logistics, Dry Van Shipping

Tyler Gregory

Written by Tyler Gregory

Tyler began his career as a regional carrier representative with ATS in 2014. Following a successful 4 years, in 2018, Tyler transitioned into his current role as operations manager for ATS Inc's brokerage team. Tyler enjoys working alongside his highly skilled team to find unique solutions for ATS's customers.

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