How bad is the issue of driver detention? Let’s put it this way: Many drivers have far more colorful words to describe the system that forces them to be on the job without pay for hours on end and unable to move on to their next destination. When a driver arrives at a shipper or consignee at a scheduled time, but is forced to wait hours on end for dock personnel to load or unload the truck, those hours are counted as “On Duty.” However, since the driver is paid per-mile, he or she is not on the road earning money during that long wait. What’s worse, all On Duty hours, including those waiting to be loaded or unloaded, are included in the federal Hours Of Service calculation that limits the driver’s total time on the road. Once that total is reached, whether it was spent actually driving or parked at a loading dock somewhere, the driver has to get off the road until the reset elapses. When this happens, the driver is frequently unable to meet the next appointment on-schedule and loses that load—and the income that goes with it.
Hurry Up And Wait
A recent survey indicates just how bad the situation has become. About one-third of drivers responding reported that they are detained more than two hours at shipping/receiving destinations at least half the time. An additional 20% of drivers say it happens almost always. Meanwhile, fully 40% of the drivers say they usually receive no compensation whatsoever in the form of a driver detention fee for their wasted time and lost pay.
While many brokers and trucking companies report that they charge a driver detention fee after some limit like two hours, actually collecting it seems to be a different matter. Dock personnel often refuse to certify the In/Out times of trucks or outright falsify times. Sometimes the shipper or consignee involved simply doesn’t pay the fee and the broker or trucking company gives them a pass because it’s a high-volume customer they don’t want to lose. It’s no surprise that, in an industry already struggling to retain existing drivers and attract new ones for the future, driver detention is an issue that is reaching critical mass.
Here are some tips you can share with drivers for dealing with this problem, gleaned from trucking companies, brokers and drivers themselves.
- Make sure you're there at the destination dock at the appointment time or earlier. Earlier is better.
- As soon as you realize there will be an unacceptable delay in loading or unloading, immediately inform your freight manager at the trucking company. If you are an independent owner/operator, contact the shipper or receiver. You want to get officially “on the record” ASAP that you are being detained.
- Make use of satellite communications to electronically document your location and exact time of arrival and departure, in the event dock personnel fail to note In/Out time or don’t put down accurate times. This is at least one perk of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s ELD (electronic logging device) mandate, which will make In/Out time an indisputable matter of record.
- Independent drivers should write the documented In/Out times on bills that include a detention fee when they submit them.
- Maintain a list of shippers and receivers who make a habit of driver detention. Before picking up or delivering to one, remind your manager in advance that it's a customer that chronically abuses driver time and that you will expect fair compensation if detention extends beyond some specific elapsed period. If you’re an independent owner/operator, you might simply choose to decline the load.
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