This article will review three of the common challenges specifically seen in port and terminal drayage operations. It will show how real-time truck fleet dispatch supported by artificial intelligence (AI) can master these challenges and provide significant efficiency improvements, cost reductions, and environmental improvements.
Table of Contents
Challenge 1: Long and Unpredictable Gate Queuing
It is no secret in the maritime industry that long queue times, manual gate processes, and peak traffic at certain times of the day (e.g., morning queuing) all lead to long and unpredictable gate-queuing times. In the Truck Drayage Productivity Guide published by the National Academies Press, the authors note that the average delay across the year at US ports is 20 minutes, but during peak periods such as morning queues, the delays can easily extend for hours. They estimate that these delays cost ports USD 67-83 million (EUR 55-68 million) nationwide annually.
In addition, the sustainability impact from vehicles idling for, on average, 20 minutes per drayage call adds up quickly. A study from the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association found that idle emissions from diesel engines averaged 4,500 g/hr. In the estimated 60 million drayage calls per year in the US, with an average delay of 20 minutes, that would equate to 90,000 tons of CO2 produced annually that could be avoided nationwide.
Solution: Time Slot Management and Gate Management
Truck fleet dispatch systems come equipped with a comprehensive time slot management and gate management feature allowing dispatch planners to streamline drayage operations. By considering personnel availability, load availability, loading equipment capacity restrictions, and other restrictions, the agile optimization software will produce an optimized time slot plan both during preliminary planning and during real-time operations, taking into account ad hoc bookings and other unforeseen circumstances and adjusting as needed.
Challenge 2: Extra Drayage Trips, “Dry Runs”
Poor communication among dispatchers, drivers, and the terminals themselves leads to increased drayage moves within the port complex. While the guide notes that time delays vary substantially, they set a delay variable of two hours per error, resulting in a cost of over USD 1.2 million (EUR 1.0 million) annually across the US.
The flow-on effects include missed customer appointments and environmental impacts resulting from additional mileage driven and longer idling times. If we assume an error rate of 0.1%, or 1 in every 1,000 drayage calls, that would equate to 540 tons of potentially avoidable CO2 production annually.
Solution: Automated Communication and Online Data Sharing
Interfacing with a port/terminal’s terminal operation system (TOS), the use of GPS telematics systems enables automated, efficient communication between drivers and the system, reducing pressure on the planner significantly. In addition, processed data can be presented in online portals so that it is accessible anywhere, anytime.
Challenge 3: Chassis Logistics Delays
Chassis availability, particularly in the US market, is one of the most debated topics in drayage year-on-year, and for a good reason. Congestion at chassis yards, delays due to maintenance, poor interchangeability, and time lost to locating and hooking up chassis are major sources of pain for drayage and terminal operators alike. The guide estimates that, on average, 12 minutes per drayage call are wasted when a driver must obtain a chassis, costing the industry USD 2-4 million (EUR 1.6-3.3 million) annually nationwide.
Solution: Availability Checks on Booking and Preliminary Transport Capacity Planning
Even as orders are booked, the system takes demand and the availability of loading slots as well as transport capacities, such as chassis, into account. The plans, updated in real time, enable dispatchers to negotiate a suitable delivery time while speaking to the customer. Based on the known availability of drivers and vehicles, as well as existing orders, the software calculates an optimized delivery plan for the following days. Planners can make changes, assign priorities to orders, and choose whether the emphasis is to be on cost efficiency or service quality.
The Bigger Picture
INFORM specializes in AI and optimization software to improve operational decision-making. Based in Aachen, Germany, the company has been in the optimization business for over 50 years and serves a wide span of logistics industries, including ports, maritime, and intermodal terminals. With a broad range of standalone and add-on software modules, INFORM’s unique blend of algorithmic-based software expertise, rich industry experience, and big-world thinking delivers enormous value for its customers.
Syncrotess, for truck fleet dispatch, optimizes transport scheduling and time slot management. INFORM’s software offers any truck fleet dispatcher the capability to have the price and service quality factors work in their favor by providing effective support in the following areas: preliminary tactical planning, availability checks, time slot management, real-time scheduling, and real-time optimization. In each case, the system uses the best optimization algorithms available for the area concerned.