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Specialty stores and electronic retail tops the list for longest dock times

Specialty retail stores and electronics retailers top the list for longest time spent on dock for carriers. (IMAGE: SONAR WAIT.SPECRTL, ELECRTL, AUTOMAN, FOOD, OILGAS )


Chart of the Week: Wait Time in Minutes (Specialty Retail, Electronics Retail, Food Warehouse, Oil and Gas facility, Auto-manufacturing (SONAR: WAIT.SPECRTL, ELECRTL, FOOD, OILGAS, AUTOMAN)

According to one of FreightWaves recently added indexes that measures average time spent on the dock loading or unloading at a facility, specialty retailers and electronics retailers take the longest to load or unload a truck. The current average time spent on a dock, not including drop trailers, for specialty retail stores is 223 minutes while electronics retailers are averaging 214 minutes. Typically, big box stores and food warehouses have anecdotally worse reputations for detaining carriers.

Specialty retail stores tend to be smaller business or “mom and pop” type setups where there are few docks and few people to unload so the fact they tend to be among the slowest to unload is not really that surprising. These businesses are also heavy on LTL or less-than-truckload shipments as they rarely have space for storing large quantities of inventory.

The fact they deal in LTL type shipments does not make it better, however, due to the fact LTL traditionally has much less tolerance for longer dwell times as they have multiple stops to make on daily routes. Spending more than a half hour on a pickup or delivery can ruin a pickup and delivery (P&D) run for an LTL driver. This is the reason typical “free” time or amount of time an LTL carrier will allow their trucks to be at a shipper or consignee before they start charging detention fees is about 30 minutes as opposed to a truckload carrier who typically allows up to two hours.

It also makes sense that electronic retailers take longer to unload their freight as their product is of higher value and more security and quality assurance processes are in place to ensure their products have arrived in tact and in total.

According to the data, electronics retailers have become significantly worse in the past month at unloading efficiency suggesting something has changed at the stores’ docks and there may be some seasonality involved in this segment. The index data is less than a year old so there is not enough information to make the claim yet, although the sector averaged over 300 minutes on the dock from April through June last year before dropping under 200 minutes in July, a notoriously slower time for electronics sales.

After electronics retailers the infamous food warehouses come in a distant third place currently averaging 167 minutes on the dock. As mentioned earlier most dispatchers, fleet managers, drivers, and operators think of food warehouses as being one of the worst places to pick-up or deliver freight due to their obnoxiously long wait times. Interestingly, food warehouses have improved since the third quarter last year when wait times averaged 176 minutes – the average wait time for the first quarter was 154 minutes. This may be a sign that the food distributors have received the message.

Keep in mind these are dwell time measurements where the driver has already gone through the check in process and has bumped a dock. The check in process can be as frustrating as the loading or unloading process for drivers. The WAIT value starts one minute after bumping the dock, so it does not include check-in.  

On the other end of the spectrum the two best business types in terms of loading or unloading efficiency are auto parts manufacturers and oil and gas facilities. Auto manufacturing is a very time sensitive sector where all parties are held to a high standard of service. A 46-minute dwell time is impressive, nonetheless.

One thing is common among all facility types, and that is the fact there is a trend of increasing wait times. With an increasing amount of data available at the carriers’ disposal, it is only a matter of time before shippers realize they will be paying more for their shipments if they are consistently slow on the dock, regardless of market conditions.

About Indices presented in this article

(SONAR: WAIT.SPECRTL, ELECRTL, AUTOMAN, FOOD, OILGAS) Wait time in minutes – Specialty Retail, Electronics Retail, Auto Manufacturing, Food Warehouse, Oil and Gas – Average wait times after a truck has spent one minute on the dock. This excludes drop trailers or anything that takes longer than a day to load or unload.

About Chart of the Week

The FreightWaves Chart of the Week is a chart selection from SONAR that provides an interesting data point to describe the state of the freight markets. A chart is chosen from thousands of potential charts on SONAR to help participants visualize the freight market in real-time. Each week the Sultan of SONAR will post a chart, along with commentary live on the front-page. After that, the Chart of the Week will be archived on for future reference.

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Zach Strickland, FW Market Expert & Market Analyst

Zach Strickland, the “Sultan of SONAR,” curates the weekly market update. Zach is also one of FreightWaves’ Market Experts. With a degree in Finance, Strickland spent the early part of his career in banking before transitioning to transportation in various roles and segments, such as truckload and LTL. He has over 13 years of transportation experience, specializing in data, pricing, and analytics.