Driver Detention: The Issue of Time and ELDs

Truckers can do everything right and still end up detained under current working industry standards.  When shipments are not properly prepped - even if the driver is there on time - the expensive phenomenon of "trucking detention" occurs.

Under trucking detention, the driver must wait around for prep of the improperly managed freight and its associated paperwork.  Industry standard for this procedure is two hours.  Any time spent in detention after this is supposed to initiate detention pay; however, being compensated for this is not always the case for drivers. 

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.

Missing pay is not the only issue.  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.  Truck operations under conditions without driver detention lead to, on paper at least, one extra haul per truck per week.  This adds up to $141 for every detained truck per week.

In 2018, a Department of Transportation study found that drivers lost anywhere from $1.1 billion to $1.3 billion per annum based on trucking detention.  Many industry experts believe that truck drivers are actually taking the heat for the inefficiency of receivers and shippers.

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 a result, trucking professionals are looking to ELDs to help provide the critical data to prove unpaid detention time.

ELDs are already causing a bit of an upheaval in the shipping industry.  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.

With driver turnover high and the industry looking for stability, ELDs are at least providing a sustainable backdrop that is based on good recordkeeping.  Hopefully the industry will build on the good things that are coming from this relatively new technology.

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.