This might come as a surprise to many of you, but truckers need to maintain a standard time in their transportation to turn a decent profit.
PTA or projected time of availability is a way of measuring what time you will be free to accept another contract or shipment.
However, many truckers don’t know how to measure it appropriately or even use it to their advantage in times of distress or turmoil.
Luckily, we put together a comprehensive guide that answers the question of “what does PTA stand for in trucking?” and explains how you can properly use them in your shipments.
At no point should you mix up the projected time of availability (PTA) with the estimated time of arrival (ETA) since both of them are entirely different in measurement.
ETA refers to the time at which you will deliver a particular shipment. Meaning you will arrive at your destination around a certain time. It is not an approximate measure, as the time of your arrival can vary depending on a lot of internal and external factors, hence the estimate.
On the other hand, PTA gives you a hint of what time you will be available again. Obviously, when the customer is unloading their cargo, it is going to take some time. After that period is over, you will be free again to accept another shipment order.
That time is the projected time of availability for you as a driver. Some people mix it up with ETA, thinking of it as an estimated time of availability. However, the measurement is not the same since one denotes what time you will deliver, and another the time of your availability.
Why Is PTA Important?
Truck drivers earn their living with the hours they spend transporting cargo from one place to another. Contracts explicitly state a standard rate per hour that is mostly dependent on a couple of factors like route, cargo weight, weather conditions, etc.
Since you get paid by the hours, you need to make sure you don’t spend any extra time unloading the cargo at a destination. The faster you are free from delivering a shipment, the quicker you’ll be able to accept another shipment order.
This reason is why PTA or projected time of availability is essential. When you can quickly drop off cargo at one destination, you can let your contractors know ahead of time when to hire you for shipments. This way, you won’t lose any money due to the downtime.
Another reason why it is important is the fact that you can stay ahead of your schedule in your shipments. Suppose you have two shipments, one at 2 pm and another at 4 pm. You drop off the 2 pm one by 2:30 pm, meaning you have another an hour and a half of time in your hand.
With this free time, you could accept additional jobs or take a break from trucking. Staying ahead of schedule helps you better manage your contracts without one interrupting the other. The only way you can achieve this is if you manage your PTA well.
How Do I Manage My PTA?
If you want to manage your trucking schedule and shipment deliveries better, you will have to work your projected time of availability to your advantage. Working out your PTA can also help you become a better driver in general since your traveling times will improve, and you can profit more from little.
The first step you should take to improve your PTA is to make early pick-ups and drop-offs. What this means is that you measure the time you will pick up the cargo and the time you will deliver when you accept a contract. Knowing these times will help you better schedule your ETA and PTA.
If you know your pick-up time, you can take the cargo ahead of time so that you don’t waste any time in the shipment. As for the drop-off time, you can arrive early with your shipment if you take shorter routes, drive on clear weather conditions or take routes with no traffic jam.
Imagine you’re on the road, and you’re only 90-100 miles away from the delivery point. You can expect yourself to get there by 1 pm, but your contract says your drop-off time is 5 pm. So you will arrive four hours early on the spot and have extra time.
By arriving early at destinations, you can improve your projected time of availability significantly. You should always check the pick-up and drop-off times so that you can properly manage your schedule and not leave any loose ends behind.
It is crucial to let everyone involved in the contract know what time you are picking up the cargo and the time you are dropping it off. Communication plays an essential role in your schedule and PTA, as cooperating with your contractors on the arrival times can give you leeway to get other jobs.
Some people can mix up ETA with PTA as well. If your ETA is at 2 pm and your PTA is 4 pm, your customer or contractor can mix it up and think you will be accessible at 2 pm instead of 4 pm. This happens if you do not communicate with your contractors properly.
Carefully thinking out your plans regarding shipments is another way you can improve your projected time of availability. This means planning out your routes and truck stops along the selected route. You also need to check if the truck stops are empty or not; otherwise, you won’t be able to get a spot to take a break.
Driving on shorter routes can help you get to your destination faster, but most of the time, they can be congested with traffic because of the number of vehicles using that route.
You should check beforehand and see if the route is free of arduous traffic or not. Traffic jams can waste a lot of time and money so you should actively try to avoid them.
There are many external factors that can mess up your projected time of availability. They can range from weather conditions to route disputes.
If you do not account for these factors in your contract, you can lose a lot of potential profit and even approach late at your destinations.
Rough weather conditions like heavy rain or scorching heat can cause your vehicle to overheat or blow a fuse in the engine, causing severe damage and lengthening your PTA.
If there is a dispute over the route you are taking, you can take more time to reach your destination than expected.
Life is all about opportunities, even in the job of trucking. Improving your projected time of availability can help you earn a decent profit while saving up on necessary resources.
Most truck drivers do not know how to manage their PTA or even incorporate it into their trucking schedule. Some of them also think it is an insignificant measure that doesn’t amount to anything.
However, PTA is indeed an essential aspect of trucking. We hope that our explanation has aptly answered what does PTA stands for in trucking and cleared any doubt you had about it.