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Improve Efficiency on the Dock with an Electric Trailer Dolly

By Contributing Author | 02/27/2019 | 8:57 AM

By Dawn Felker, Senior Sales Engineer, DJ Products Inc.

At a typical distribution or manufacturing center, shunting trailers from one spot to another takes up a significant amount of time and labor during the work day. In fact, this activity can account for a substantial portion of a yard’s operating budget and can create significant inefficiencies.

To outsiders, that may sound like an odd statement—why would such an apparently simple activity lead to so much hassle? A lot of it has to do with driver availability and the difficulty of maintaining the right equipment to do the job.

That’s why keeping an electric trailer dolly on site can go a long way toward boosting your yard’s efficiency – unlike other outdated, expensive, and time-consuming trailer-shunting “solutions.”

Traditional Ways of Moving Trailers

Legally, if your driver ever needs to leave your trailer lot, a standard yard truck can be operated only by an individual who possesses a valid Commercial Driver's License (CDL). For yard managers, this makes the act of moving a single trailer significantly more challenging. It’s not possible for just any available employee to shunt a trailer. Other solutions are available, but unfortunately - most of them have serious drawbacks.

  • Relying on inbound truckers: A lot of sites depend on inbound truckers to help them with trailer-shunting responsibilities while they’re on the premises. But this isn’t a reliable solution. You have to wait for the truckers to arrive—which means that your trailers may sit on the dock or in your yard, which can keep dock doors plugged for hours. All that idle time can have a detrimental effect on your yard’s efficiency and your bottom line.
  • Using a third-party shunting service: Another option is to hire a third-party company to dispatch a driver to your yard. Not only does this require advanced planning, but these services can be costly. In fact, many shunting companies charge around $100-$200 per trailer or require a minimum time commitment (e.g., three or four hours).
  • Keeping a semi-tractor on site– This may sound like a convenient solution… until you factor in the maintenance costs associated with these vehicles. Diesel maintenance expenses are no joke, and you can expect these expenditures to increase as the vehicle ages.
  • Keeping a licensed truck driver on the payroll - Having a licensed full-time driver will eliminate your dependence on outsiders – but at a steep cost. CDL drivers are in high demand and without a lot of effort, OTR drivers can find a job paying over $70,000/year or more. You’ll have to pay a competitive wage to keep that driver around. Do you have the budget for a skilled driver who could easily make a good salary elsewhere? For a lot of yard managers, the answer is no.

How an Electric Trailer Dolly Can Help

Remember all those costly, inefficient practices you just read about above? With the right electric trailer dolly, they’ll become a distance memory. 

  • At a moment’s notice: With an electric trailer dolly on-site, you have access to a means to move trailers quickly and easily at any time – by just about anyone. That’s right, no CDL required.  
  • Reduced maintenance costs: In addition, an electric trailer dolly eliminates the pricey maintenance demands of a diesel powered semi-tractor. Battery power is less expensive for you and friendlier for the environment.
  • Size does matter: The compact size of a trailer dolly will also work to your benefit. Compared with yard trucks, an electric trailer dolly is much easier to maneuver through crowded yards, and less likely to cause costly damage to trucks, buildings, and property. Smaller, battery-powered trailer movers are capable of tighter turns and more precise operator control.
  • Forward-facing operation: A related benefit that is offered by many trailer dollies is forward-facing operation, which removes the dangers and challenges involved with backing a trailer into tight spaces or narrow loading dock.

Any yard manager owes it to themselves to consider adding an electric trailer dolly to their operation. You’ll soon find that adding one to your site will change the way you think about shunting trailers altogether. Instead of worrying about who can do it, how much it will cost, and when the trailer will get moved, with a little bit of training, just about anyone on staff will be able to move trailers in and out of the docks. This will help your keep your yard operations running smoothly and profitably.  


Picture1Dawn Felker is a Senior Sales Engineer at DJ Products, Inc., a manufacturer of power tuggers and trailer movers, including the TrailerCaddy Terminal Tractor. This vehicle, powered by a 48-volt battery system, can move loaded and empty trailers, and can be operated by almost any employee – no CDL required. Dawn has 15 years of experience specializing in helping manufacturing and transportation companies improve efficiency with products such as the TrailerCaddy. Dawn can be reached via email at dawn.felker@djproducts.com. Find out more about the trailer moving products that DJ Products manufactures by clicking here.



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