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May 20, 2020 | Insights

What Is Shunting? Yard Management Terms Defined

May 20, 2020 | Insights

Depending on where you are in the world, the terms shunting, spotting, switching, and hostling can be used interchangeably for a small but critical part of the overall value chain. This can be confusing when you’re looking for the right type of partner to manage your yard! In this article, we’ll aim to help identify the differences and similarities between these terms, as well as outline what you can expect from a good yard management partner.

What is shunting? 

When we refer to a shunt, we are describing what happens when a yard truck pins to a designated trailer, and moves the trailer to a predetermined location within the yard. Shunting is the ongoing process of yard trucks moving trailers to and from designated locations in the yard.

What about spotting, switching, and hostling?

Most of these words are, and can be used to replace one another. Although the work is completed by commercially licensed drivers, the terms spotting, switching and hostling are synonymous, and are used in the same context within different regions. As NSSL was originally founded in Canada, we adopted the term shunting which is predominately used in that region.

What is shuttling?

Shuttling is a logistics term that refers to a similar process of pinning to a designated trailer, and moving said trailer to a predetermined location—but typically the distance between these two points is much larger than a typical shunt move. These moves can typically be completed by either an over-the-road yard truck or a day cab. Shuttling services are primarily used when goods need to be transferred between two separate facilities, or even amongst a full network of sites that all lie within a designated radius. NSSL offers both services listed above while utilizing separate proprietary software to track the asset movement depending on the type of move.

What are terminal tractors, shunt trucks, and spotting trucks?

These terms all refer to the same type of equipment that we call yard trucks—lighter, more fuel-efficient tractors used exclusively within the yards of distribution centers to move trailers. Yard trucks are much smaller than traditional tractors used for over the road hauling, which not only lowers emissions and saves on fuel costs, but also allows drivers more maneuverability and better visibility…which leads to a safer, more efficient yard operation.

What is total yard management?

Here at NSSL, total yard management encompasses complete ownership of the operations in your yard – whether that means one site, or connecting your full network. Our team members treat your facilities like their own. Not only are they personally accountable for their individual performance, but our field supervisors are on site ensuring each NSSL operator receives in-the-moment coaching and conducting SeeMe audits to foster an overall culture of continuous improvement.

Total yard management also means that NSSL as your partner is 100% accountable for the results of your yard management program. We review metrics on a daily, weekly, and quarterly basis according to a tailored scorecard to ensure your yard is increasing in both profitability and efficiency. Our metrics come from Shuntware, our proprietary yard management software (YMS) that’s designed by logistics professionals, for logistics professionals.

We’re here to help!

If you need logistics advice or are considering bringing in a yard management partner, we’d love to talk! Our free, no-pressure yard audits are a great way to get insight into your yard operation and get a sense of what it’s like to work with a yard management partner.

Even if you’re not looking for a partner right now, we hope this article helped clarify the sometimes confusing terminology used in the short-haul logistics industry. Stay safe and stay efficient out there!

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