Driver Detention Accounts for Large Problem Among Carriers, FMCSA Seeks Comments

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) wants your input!  Published in the Federal Register on June 10th, the agency is seeking comments regarding “data sources, methodologies and potential technologies that could provide insight into loading and unloading delays experienced by [commercial motor vehicle] drivers,” including the frequency and severity detention has on drivers. (1) 

Detention costs the trucking industry nearly $3 billion a year and a lot of the time, drivers and carriers do not get compensated for the extra time spent at docks.  A driver detention survey from DAT showed that 63% of detention times are over three hours.  The same study found that only 3% of these drivers actually received the detention pay that they were due from the shippers for a minimum of 90% of their claims.

To top it off, many carriers get charged late fees/penalties when they are even 15 minutes late for an appointment due to unforeseen circumstances, including weather and traffic.  “Their time is being controlled by others,” says OOIDA President Todd Spencer.  “The biggest bandits are shippers and receivers, and I should point out that some of them actually have the gall to charge drivers for late deliveries.” (2)

The detention fees that actually do get paid are grossly inadequate in some cases.  The opportunity cost of a detained truck is almost never considered - detained truckers are losing out on loads that they could have picked up or delivered had they not been detained.  A report by OIG last year estimated that “detention can reduce a driver’s annual earnings by $1,281 to $1,534,” while trucking companies faced reductions of $250.6 million to $302.9 million a year due to detention. (3)

As one driver noted, “I think a shipper/receiver shouldn’t be allowed to not pay detention.  Two hours after arrival starts the payment clock or 1 hour after appointment time.”

What's more, detained drivers are at an increased crash risk, according to The Office of the Inspector General.  A study released by the Department of Transportation showed that just a 15 minute increase in detainment at a shipper/consignee’s dock, led to a 6.2% increase in crash risk.  This equates to an additional 1 in 1,000 trucks having an accident and nearly 6,500 additional crashes a year.

Why the increase?  Fatigue from waiting so long was one factor indicated by research, while another had to deal with productivity concerns.  According to a report by KeepTruckin, “35% of drivers detained at shippers are held up for more than six hours each week,” leading these drivers to travel an average 3.5 mph faster, feeling pressured to make their next stop or make up for lost time. 

As safety advocate Andy Young explains, “The detention time issue is really key.  The shippers and receivers aren’t regulated like the truck driver.  So, ultimately, the shippers and receivers can abuse the entire federal motor carrier safety regulatory code and then escape liability.” (2)

As a result, trucking professionals are looking to electronic logging devices (ELDs) to help provide the critical data to prove unpaid detention time.

The ELD Mandate has called out many slow loading shippers.  Many carriers are also beginning to move away from receivers and shippers with no delivery windows and inflexible appointment times.

One of the encouraging results of using ELDs is that pickup wait times have dropped and are trending in a good direction.  This does not mean that the issue of trucking detention has been solved.  Receivers and shippers are now on notice: Create a process to avoid detention, or face real consequences in the marketplace.

The carriers that are stepping up are seeing immediate results.  The majority of these carriers take the ELD mandate quite seriously, and it shows.  Drivers, however, are also warned to be especially careful with the administration of their time when using an ELD.  Precision is never a bad thing when keeping records, but it also creates quite an unforgiving scenario for the driver.  Keeping up with records keeps drivers from running illegal or actually becoming stranded.

As Rodney Noble, senior director for transportation at PepsiCo notes, “Shippers do need to do more to boost the velocity at their facilities.  It is important to not tie up truckers during deliveries so they can spend more time driving.” (4)

Another manufacturer noted that they have seen detention charges impact their 3rd party carriers’ ability to service certain lanes.  “Subsequently they are no longer willing to service specific locations,” he said.  “This is a concern for us because if the low cost provider for that lane will no longer service that lane, we experience margin compression by having to select an alternate (higher cost) carrier.”

The FMCSA is accepting comments until Sept. 9th.

“If you own a company, don’t work with brokers or direct shippers that aren’t paying a fair detention rate,” one driver explained.  “If you are a company driver, don’t drive for a company that doesn’t pay you detention.  There are too many companies out there today that pay automatic detention to be working for a carrier that wastes your time.”

Road Scholar Transport compensates our drivers for detention.  We do not expect drivers to burn their revenue generating hours without compensation and we will not allow their families to suffer financial repercussions due to a shipper’s or a receiver’s inability to execute in a timely fashion.  Click here to become part of our driving family today.