What is Pre-Pull?
A pre-pull is the pick up of a container when it arrives at a port. Normally, there is a specific amount of days to pick up the container from the port before it starts incurring demurrage fees. The latter is normally charged when a container gets picked up from the port later than the “last free day.” Demurrage fees are generally charged per container, per day.
When and why is a pre-pull necessary?
A pre-pull is necessary when you can’t accept the delivery before the last free day, and want to avoid demurrage fees. This happens when the goods require a drop off appointment.
Oftentimes a receiver requests an early morning delivery, which means that the container is likely going to be picked up the day before said date and stored in a truck yard to be delivered in the morning.
How does pre-pull work?
It is important to understand that full container deliveries often require two appointments: a pick up at the port or railyard, and an appointment at the receiving facility. In this case, the dispatcher will match both appointments, allowing enough time for transportation.
The dispatcher is also responsible for making sure that they select a port appointment before storing any of the goods, as appointments are limited and are based on the location of the container at the port. In other words, truckers don’t get to choose the time slot, but it is allotted to them by the container depot system.
The same conditions apply when the pickup and delivery appointments are too far apart outside of the port operating hours. This means that pre-pull is required on long-distance deliveries as there are driving hour limitations on the drivers.
Putting it into perspective
On average, a port driver is allowed to drive about 9-11 hours a day. Port pickups take anywhere from 2-4 hours, leaving the drivers with 7-9 hours to deliver the container(s), unload the contents, and return the container(s) to the port. Long-haul drivers are often unable to make the full trip within the allowed time. In these cases, the container must be pre-pulled the day before.
When can you avoid pre-pull?
The easiest way to avoid pre-pull is to ask the receiving warehouse if they can receive without appointments. If the warehouse is in the port vicinity, then the container can be dropped off for unloading and picked up later when it is empty. Warehouses normally unload the containers at their own pace without having the driver wait. Truckers mostly prefer this option as it does not delay their schedules and doesn’t require a pre-pull.
What’s cheaper, pre-pull or demurrage?
Neither service is free, however, pre-pulls are designed to avoid demurrage. This means that by nature, pre-pulls are much cheaper than port or rail storage.
Here’s an example of how demurrage fees add up and are much more than what a carrier would charge you for pre-pull:
If you have 2 containers that are picked up 2 days late, and the daily / per container late fee is $150, you will end up paying $600 for the two days that you are late to pick up your containers.