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Tips for a Successful Yard Management Operation

Yard management is a vital part of any logistics operation. By organizing trailers and containers within a yard, a 3PL can avoid delays or bottlenecks. But what is yard management and how can you ensure a successful operation? In this article we will define yard management, explain the different stages in the process, and provide tips to make sure your operation runs efficiently.

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What is Yard Management?

Yard management is the organization of trailers, containers, and equipment within a yard or outdoor storage area. In logistics, yard management is crucial for the smooth flow of goods between transportation hubs, warehouses, and distribution centers. It involves managing the arrival and departure of shipments, as well as coordinating the loading and unloading of cargo.

A switcher is a driver dedicated to moving trailers and containers within a yard and staging them to be loaded or unloaded.

Yard Management Process

An effective yard management operation makes a more organized and productive supply chain. The process can be broken up into four main stages.

Receiving – The shipment is delivered to the yard. It is then checked in and all necessary documentation is completed to show proof of delivery.

Staging– The contents can either be unloaded or remain on the trailer or container depending on the customer’s needs. Once the trailer or container is empty, it’s then stored for future use or returned to the terminal.

Outbound Shipping – The shipment is loaded onto a trailer or container and sent to its next destination.

Maintenance – Regular maintenance will be performed on the empty trailers and containers while in storage to ensure safety and equipment longevity.

Tips to Improve Operations

Although yard management seems to be a straightforward process, it can become very complicated when not properly managed. A poorly run operation can lead to demurrage fees and shipping delays which can affect the entire supply chain. Some of the best ways to ensure a successful operation include:

Improve Yard Visibility

To manage a yard, you’ll need to know what trailers and containers are on-hand and where they are being stored. The use of RFID tags, a yard management system (YMS), and other tracking technologies can be used to organize the information. Using a YMS that integrates with your warehouse management system (WMS) and transportation management system (TMS) creates more transparency and reduces errors.

Optimize the Process

Conduct regular checks to find inefficiencies that can be improved upon. Are there designated zones to help track specific shipments? Does the spotter know all the shipments that need to be staged for the day? Are there ways to streamline the check-in process to have faster turnaround times? Making these improvements will optimize the flow of shipments without sacrificing safety.

Establish Effective Communication

The shipments will go through many hands and multiple systems before they reach the customer. Effective communication streamlines and coordinates the staging of shipments to ensure a smooth delivery. This will help improve efficiency, safety, and customer satisfaction.


Effective yard management is a cornerstone of successful logistics operations. Running a successful operation requires communication, coordination, and regular process optimization. By adhering to these tips, companies can contribute to a more organized and productive supply chain.