Shipping delays: How to prevent them

shipping delays

Shipping delays are always a source of frustration. They can affect several parties in the supply chain, so if solutions are not found in time, a domino effect can occur, eventually disrupting the entire supply chain.

Top 5 reasons why shipping delays occur

Shipping delays can be caused by any number of reasons. Some of them are beyond anyone’s control and others can be attributed to human error or technical failures. The most common causes for delays in road transportation are:

  • Bad weather conditions: heavy rains, snow or strong winds can make it difficult or even impossible for vehicles to circulate. In the case of road transport, these circumstances would force the truck to be stationary until it could resume driving.
  • Traffic: sadly, traffic is unpredictable. A truck can get caught up in traffic due to accidents, construction, roadblocks… 
  • Unclear communication: communication between all players of the supply chain is key to make sure everything runs smoothly. If the course of action is unclear due to insufficient or vague information, the whole chain will be affected.
  • Outdated technology: old software (and practices) can limit the ability to integrate new and useful features that can make transport planning so much easier and efficient, so in the long run, there will be shipping delays caused by errors that a better technology could have prevented.
  • Truck breakdowns: vehicle failures are unforeseeable incidents that will happen from time to time and will inevitably cause delays.

Ways shipping delays can affect your stakeholders

In the case of your clients, freight shipping delays can affect them in the logistical side of things: usually clients give you time slots for you to come and pick up their goods from their warehouse; if you show up late (outside the time slot you were given), you end up at the end of the queue, which will have a negative impact in the entire operation both for your own company and for your customers.

Shipping problems and delays can also affect production times and the overall organization of your client. What’s more, if your customer is another logistic company, shipping delays can take a toll on the KPIs they have towards their own clients.

For example, in the case of hub to hub transportation, a shipping delay may adversely impact your customer’s LTL (Less than Truckload) distribution.

In summary, shipping delays can have a domino effect on the entire supply chain, causing disruptions to both the shipper’s and the carrier’s processes.

But what about truck drivers? It’s not uncommon for drivers to arrive at a pick up or delivery site and have to stand by for hours waiting to load or unload the goods and get back on the road. For them, these delays can mean having to spend the night in rest areas instead of returning home, which is a clear detriment to their quality of life and working conditions.

How can you minimize the risk of delays?

First of all, planning is the first thing that should always run smoothly in order to avoid delays. On the other hand, recurrence is very important for transport operators. Knowing that one of your customers has booked three loads a week, for example, makes planning simpler and ensures that all the pieces fall into place more easily.

You should keep in mind that the better your planning, the less likely you are to experience delays. Let’s not forget that the agreement you reach with your customer will also influence your ability to plan their loads better (in terms of loading and unloading times, for example).

This will depend on your business model, but transporting cargo from origin to destination without having to go through a distribution center will significantly increase your punctuality.

Other ways to reduce delays is to agree with the customer on a number of hours that the truck driver must wait to load or unload. For example, if you agree on a maximum waiting time of two hours and the loading or unloading does not take place on time, the customer will have to pay an extra fee for each hour of waiting time. In this way, you can ensure that avoiding shipping delays is in the best interest of all parties. In any case, there are regulations on this subject in several countries of the European Union.

Another thing to consider is your business strategy. Before getting into the day to day operations, you should define your business strategy and stick to it, because if you change it (and therefore the types of customers you are looking for) too often, this will make your planning very difficult, which will lead to a higher risk of delays.

Technology wise, in Trucksters we use AI and algorithms to ensure real time traceability of our trucks and a more efficient way of planning all our routes. Combined with our relay system, these make our model 50% faster than traditional models.

How to deal with shipping delays when they happen?

As previously mentioned, delays can occur for any number of reasons, some of which are beyond your control. However, the most important thing in these cases is to be proactive and inform your customer of what has happened as soon as possible.  This way there may be enough room for maneuver so that, together with your client, you can find a solution that will have as little impact on the final result as possible.

You may also be interested in: How to respond to surges in logistical demand successfully

Marina Reyes