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Dealing with Drop Trailers

drop trailer
CC Image Courtesy Ray Forster via Flickr

If you ship a lot of LTL to a numerous locations, you’re eventually going to run into drop trailers. What is a drop trailer? True to it’s a name, a drop trailer is a trailer that is left at a location for an indeterminate amount of time. It’s “dropped,” and picked up later.

Most of the time, a drop trailer is used at locations that ship often enough to fill up a full trailer in a week or even a day, depending on production. These could be manufacturing warehouses, or even a place that specializes in consumer packed goods (CPGs). The location doesn’t matter as much as the amount of freight that is moving out of the specified location.

Think about it like this: Let’s say you have a warehouse that produces buttons. This warehouse produces TONS of buttons. They produce enough buttons to fill up a whole truck in two days. In this case, a freight carrier could easily drop a trailer there and pick it up every two days, full and ready to go.

Fast forward to your freight broker scheduling your pickup at the button warehouse. Instead of the carrier going in once, twice, or even three times a day, they can save time and money by picking up ALL the shipments every two days using their drop trailer.

Though the use of drop trailers isn’t exactly common, it’s not something to be afraid of when it comes to your LTL shipping. A little understanding goes a long way. Here are some things to keep in mind when dealing with drop trailers:

  • Drop trailers can sometime lead to delays. Because pickups may not happen every day, that pushes the delivery date back. But before you panic about freight delays, remember that the manufacturer is often very aware a drop trailer is being used, and so should the buyer.Most drop trailer situations do not revolve around freight that is time-sensitive. If your freight is on a tight schedule, make sure to use a different carrier, or even look at hot shipments.
  • Not all carriers do drop trailers. Just because one carrier uses a drop trailer at a certain location doesn’t mean that EVERY carrier uses a drop trailer there. Trailers belong to carriers, so if you’re averse to a drop on a shipment, simply look at using a different carrier. It may not be the cheapest of the bunch, but there will always be options available. Just ask your broker.
  • Stay away from perishables. For obvious reasons, if you’re shipping perishable items, make sure you’re not dealing in drop trailers. Nobody wants apples and oranges sitting in the summer heat for days until rotten. You probably won’t run into this problem as shipping produce is it’s own process, but if you’re worried about, just make sure the carrier knows what they’re shipping.

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