If you own or work for a new or small trucking company, you know that the loading dock is where business often gets done. It’s the spot where the transfer of goods takes place, so the dock is the location where you meet your commitment to customers.
To become a professional and prosperous carrier, focus your attention on how to meet your needs and your customer’s needs at the loading dock. Here are five ways to work well at docks.
1. Know the Drill
Learn as much as you can about an unknown dock area before you arrive at the destination. When possible, have a printed-paper or screenshot diagram of the loading zones, access roads, and the surrounding area.
Don’t trust GPS to always show you the way. Find out where the preferred truck entrance is located on the diagram or from a company contact. When you do this, you won’t waste time searching for the correct driveway on arrival.
Online map searches offer another reliable way to visualize facilities where you pick up or drop off loads. With the street-view option, you can locate the delivery access easements on main roads and side streets. You know exactly how the turn-ins look in real life.
Chat with other truckers who’ve delivered or picked up loads at a facility you’ve never serviced. Fellow truckers may share important tips, tricks, and contacts to help expedite your dock duties. Share what you know with other truckers, too.
2. Keep a Dock Log
After your first visit to a site, jot down any important details about the facility in a dock log. When you return home, enter the dock specifics into your main customer profile for that company.
If you run a small-but-growing trucking business, you may think this step is unnecessary. You can keep track of each dock layout and procedure, right? However, as your business grows, new drivers, dispatchers, and office workers will need information about your customers, too.
When you keep your own database of dock secrets, this information helps your staff serve customers reliably and cuts down on wasted time at loading areas. Future drivers will feel more confident and represent your company well when they know where to go, how to perform their work, and who to contact at the customer’s end.
3. Arrive Prepared
Use a separate satchel for dock-related supplies and equipment. As you get closer to your destination, move this satchel close to your seat. You can easily grab it to have all of the essentials at your fingertips as soon as you stop at the destination.
Fill your dock bag with any items you may need for your specific dock duties including:
- Protective gloves
- Safety glasses
- Tools for safety locks
- Pens for documents
The items you choose for your bag will vary depending on your hauling specialty. Hazardous-material carriers need specialized protective gear, while truckers delivering to construction sites need hard hats and safety vests.
As you deliver to more sites, you’ll learn the quirks and glitches at each site. For example, a specific dock site may have a problem with mosquitoes in the vicinity. After a visit or two, you’ll know to bring bug repellent for that trip.
4. Insist on Safety
Loading docks are hazardous places. When you and the dock staff are in a big hurry, accidents happen. Insist that safety rules are always followed when dock personnel are working with your truck, even if you’re behind schedule. Always ensure that proper dock restraints are locked in place before any loading or unloading happens.
Lock your truck cab to avoid any theft up front while you conduct business out back. Any staff entering the trailer’s cargo area should be wearing their employee I.D. badge and loading or unloading in a safe manner. If forklifts are in the cargo area, the forklift operator must be careful with speed and with the forks to avoid workplace injuries, product damage, and structural damage to the trailer.
Don’t be afraid to report unsafe working conditions, and don’t be shy about cutting a dangerous dock from your delivery schedule. Work only with companies that care about your safety so you can be in business for a long time.
5. Research Detention-Time Prevention
Facilities sometimes don’t do enough to ensure you can get in and out of the loading area in a reasonable amount of time. While some facilities use innovative tools like portable conveyors that go into the trailers for loading and unloading, many smaller facilities have slow, inefficient product-handling procedures.
Time spent detained at facilities costs truckers over one billion dollars* per year in combined economic losses. Owner-operators sometimes have to eat these costs.
If you haul independently, come up with your own system to track your detention times at various facilities. Consult with an attorney to determine if you should legally penalize companies for blatant incompetence at their docks.
Pay attention to trucker message boards and trucker-oriented social media to learn about bad players. If truckers start boycotting facilities that take truckers’ time for granted, businesses will be forced to tighten up wasteful dock processes. When a dock is run efficiently, let the company representative know how pleased you were with your experience.
Contact the truck experts at Arrow Truck Sales to find your first or your next semi. We help independent truckers and owner-operators grow their businesses the smart way with our financing and other support.
*According to a report based on a Department of Transportation office of inspector general audit.