Trip Planning In The Transportation Industry

Attempting to complete a 1,000 mile trip without planning is a sure way to guarantee something will end up going wrong and costing you extra time. In this post we will cover what types of things you should plan for in order to ensure a smooth delivery.

When should I start trip planning?

The best time to plan your trip is before even committing to one. Don’t make the mistake of choosing a square peg and realizing after the fact that you only have a circle hole to (metaphorically) put it in. The three things you need to think about before even calling dispatch are weather, day of the week, and hours available. A national forecast can show you the areas of the country you may want to avoid, the day of the week will tell you how long you have to deliver the trailer before the weekend, and available hours will tell you if 34 hours off duty in the middle of your trip will be necessary to reset your 70 hours. Once you have considered these crucial details it’s time to choose a route.

What To Consider When Trip Planning

Your delivery location should be fairly easy to select after considering the details above. Once you pick a destination, here are a few other things to look at before hooking up to the trailer and heading out:

  • Main and alternate routes of travel
    • Having your route pre-planned can cut down on the amount of distractions you face on the road while also saving time.
    • An alternate route is important in case you find yourself approaching a traffic jam or bad accident
  • Delivery times
    • Some dealerships may take trailers until 6 pm on a Friday or even on Saturday, while others may stop deliveries at 2 pm. You won’t be able to plan your trip accordingly until you know when the dealership is willing to accept your trailer.
  • Traffic Patterns
    • Hitting Louisville, KY during rush hour traffic shouldn’t be your goal. Planning your departure time and stops should be based around when you don’t want to hit certain cities.
  • Road Construction
    • Construction zones are slow and tight. Attempting to pull a trailer through those zones is always more stressful than the open road. Try to avoid lengthy delays or possible accidents by picking the route with the least amount of road work.
  • Fuel Stops
    • This is all about savings. Choosing your fuel stops to maximize profits could gain you a couple extra hundred dollars per trip.
    • Smaller fuel stations tend to have low awnings that could damage the roof of your trailer.
  • Weigh Stations
    • You should always stay legal on the road, but knowing where and what weight stations are open never hurts.

Trip Planning Example

To give a quick and watered down example of trip planning, let’s say I live in Galveston, TX and I’m looking to grab a trailer and deliver before the weekend. It’s 7:30 am CT on Tuesday morning, which gives me 4 days to pick up and deliver a trailer before Saturday comes around. I know that Galveston, TX to Elkhart, IN is approximately 1,200 miles and should take 2 days. The weather looks great and I have a fresh 70 hours to use, so my only concern is getting something with miles I can complete in 2 days or less.

Before getting in my vehicle I’m going to run through the steps of my trip and get a plan together, which looks something like this:

I plan to leave at 10:30 am CT and take about 12 hours to get halfway to Indiana, somewhere around Palestine, AR where I can shut down at a Loves I found. 11 hours of driving should be plenty of time to get me to Palestine and if all goes well I won’t need to use the whole shift. The 12 hours puts me in Palestine at 10:30 pm and will allow me to leave the next morning at 8:45 am CT after my pre-trip inspection.

Before I leave on Wednesday I plan to call dispatch and for the sake of this example let’s say they have a trailer heading approximately 960 miles to Hammond, LA that I can pick up that night. 960 miles will take a day and a half and allow me to deliver before the weekend, so I accept. If I run the second half of my trip at the same 12 hour pace, it will put me in Elkhart, IN around 9:30 pm ET when I will grab my paperwork and shut down for the night.

After 10 hours off, I’ll call the dealership and make sure they’ll take my delivery on Friday. I’ll plan 1.5 hours to hook up and do my pre-trip inspection before heading out at 9 am ET. The goal for that day is to hit Memphis, TN after rush hour traffic and end up south of the city around 8 or 9 pm CT.

Travel Friday should be fairly simple with a short 300 or so miles to delivery, and another 350 miles to get back to Galveston, TX. I’ll plan to get on the road around 7:30 am CT and deliver the trailer early in the afternoon, leaving me just enough time to head home.

At the very least, this is what your planning should look like before heading to pick up a trailer. Add in the additional details listed above and you will be well ahead of the game. However, the one constant you can always plan on is that nothing will go exactly as planned, which is why I overestimate the amount of time it will take to travel each mile. In the example above, I’m prepared to average around 55 mph with the hope that my actual speed will be above that and my delivery time is sooner than I expect. In all occasions you should plan for the worst and hope for the best so you are ready for any situation that develops.

How Trip Planning Contributes To Success

Trip planning is extremely important to the success of your small business and shouldn’t be overlooked. Details such as weather, main and alternate routes, road construction, traffic patterns, delivery times, available hours, fuel stops, and weigh stations are all things that can improve the efficiency of your operation if planned for. Take 30 minutes to an hour before each trip and it could save you multiple hours or even days on the back end. Don’t wait to start planning each trip, try it today and find out how much easier everything becomes when you are prepared. Happy transporting!