How Freight Lanes Optimize Supply Chains

June 10th, 2020

The key to optimizing any supply chain is eliminating waste — wasted time and money not only eats away at one's bottom line but also sours relationships, corroding the links in the chain. As a third-party logistics (3PL) provider and a motor carrier, National Logistics Network understands the importance of keeping those relationships intact. After all, we would not realize any benefit as a third party if our affiliated shippers and carriers did not as well! 

The very core of logistics is organization and planning — when everyone knows what they're doing, everyone knows what they're getting in terms of both costs and benefits. That transparency forms trust, and trust goes a long way to forming ongoing working relationships, and eventually a bona fide logistics network. From the carrier's perspective, much of that has to do with staying in their freight lane. 

What is a freight lane?

A freight lane is essentially a carrier's preferred or most familiar route, usually but not always within a defined region of the country. They are frequented by regional LTL (less-than truckload) carriers who will be picking up and dropping off shipments along the way, national LTL carriers looking to better systematize transport around their hubs, and independent contractors hoping to establish credibility and trustworthiness in association with that lane. 

How are freight lanes established?

As we mentioned previously, optimizing a supply chain means trimming out the excess. In the trucking business, they refer to it as "deadhead" — distance traveled without cargo, between the most recent dropoff and the next pickup. Motor carriers must weigh factors such as:

  • Truck-to-load ratio: How many trucks are available to haul shipments vs. how many shipments are available to haul.

  • Geography and terrain: Flatter land is easier to traverse and consumes less fuel. Mountainous or difficult terrain puts more strain on drivers and engines, but can be charged at a higher rate, especially for high-value loads.

  • Traffic and population density: Major metropolitan areas will naturally have more going in and out, but will also be more congested or challenging to navigate, posing delays.

  • Tolls: Turnpikes and expressways often require tolls for passage (and are more highly trafficked); the carrier will need to offset these costs by charging higher rates.

How do freight lanes benefit shippers?

Constancy and consistency. Carriers know the lay of the land along their freight lane routes, the type of cargo that most often passes through, where to refuel, and who to get service and repairs from. They can leverage their own relationships regionally and pass them on as a savings unto you, in addition to moving the goods much quicker (perhaps even picking up and delivering your dedicated freight shipment to reduce their deadhead mileage). NLN partners with carriers who are comfortable in their operations, making your operations that much smoother. Our specialty as a 3PL is bringing it all together to optimize your supply chain for you. Contact us to discuss how today.

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