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Driver Detention System Requires Major Reform

You have probably heard the term ‘detention’ many times before, but in a context that had you waiting in a designated classroom after school, punished for a classmate’s bad behavior which was mistakenly attributed to you. In the professional driver context, detention refers to a situation in which a professional driver, such as a trucker or cab driver, is held up at a pickup point longer than the standard time allowed for picking up a customer, or for loading freight to be shipped.

Why does detention time matter?

The reason this is a significant issue is that professional drivers are compensated according to the time taken on a specific job – including the time they are kept waiting. When a truck driver is held up by a shipper longer than the standard two hours, it cuts into the compensation he or she earns. It also triggers a whole series of unpleasant possibilities which can become a cause for concern to a much wider group of people than the trucker.

The same holds true for professional cab drivers, especially those employed by Uber and similar carriers. When it takes too much time for a client to appear at curbside, load their luggage, and be ready to dash toward a destination, it’s entirely possible that those extra minutes of detention time were enough to cause the driver to lose professional interest in the fare and depart abruptly. Even worse, you could be rated by the driver as a poor customer, which will reduce your chances of securing future rides.

Consequences of detention time

When a truck driver is not loaded within the time frame allotted at any given shipping point, it sets back the whole driving schedule for that job, and raises the potential for any or all of the following scenarios:

• The driver runs out of legal driving hours and no longer has adequate time for transporting goods from origin to destination.
• Because there has been a delay at one shipping point, it causes the driver to miss an appointment at the next pickup point, which in turn generates more detention time.
• The driver may lose his next load entirely because the appointment time was not met, and an alternate shipper is then used.
• Unplanned detention time causes a driver to take unnecessary risks on the road in an effort to make up for lost time, so he or she travels at higher speeds, increasing the likelihood of accidents on the roadway.

Study of detention time by the US Department of Transportation (DOT)

After collecting several years of data on the subject of detention time, the U.S. Department of Transportation released a report which identified serious issues associated with these issues. One of the most important findings of this report was the fact that the extra time spent at shipping and receiving facilities caused professional drivers to lose between $1.1 billion and $1.3 billion of lost income, which in turn added an extra $6.5 billion of burden on consumers, who ultimately foot the bill for shipping costs.

Another startling fact brought to light was that as little as 15 extra minutes spent at a shipper’s dock caused the risk of serious accidents to rise by 6.2%, which represents an additional 6,500 crashes annually. In its conclusions, the Department of Transportation noted that a combination of fatigue, and the motivation to recover lost income due to detention time, were the primary factors involved in the increased accident rate.

Regarding the reasons for the rampant occurrence of detention time, it was found that many warehouse managers were simply unaware of the downstream impact that a delay at their facility had caused. In some other cases, it was found that the many of the same shippers were routinely guilty of significant delays, due to poor time management and other factors. While trucking companies have the option of avoiding these shippers as customers because of their propensity for excessive detention time, that would mean lost business and lost revenue.

How can issues with detention time be corrected?

An extensive study conducted by Truckers News and Overdrive Magazine makes it clear that two of the primary reasons drivers leave current employers is that they feel they aren’t adequately compensated, and they don’t receive the respect they’re entitled to. Both these issues could be resolved if professional drivers were extended the courtesy of not having to wait for excessively long times beyond industry-standard loading times.

In too many instances, drivers are obliged to wait much longer than they should have to because shippers are behind schedule or have not adequately planned for loading trucks. What’s needed is a system which compensates drivers adequately for their hours spent on the job, including all those extra hours wasted on a shipper’s dock who is unprepared to meet the stated schedule.

While the federal government does acknowledge that there are significant problems associated with detention time and that it is a situation which is grossly unfair to professional drivers, it has thus far avoided becoming directly involved in a legislative capacity. Several government officials have alluded to the situation, remarking that detention time is a problem which is best left to the industry itself for policing, rather than being subject to any kind of government intervention.

In particular, a spokesman for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has been quoted as saying, “The costs of rigorous data collection and analysis would likely outweigh the benefit, and FMCSA primarily views detention as a market efficiency problem best addressed by the private sector.”

While there are currently some carriers who do charge their shipping clients for detention time, this should be considered an exception rather than a rule. As yet, there has been no widely adopted program for compensating drivers who have to wait for shippers to load freight, so it has been largely left up to the carriers. It is much more likely that a driver who is held up at a shipping point simply loses the money and the time, and is left to attempt to recover from it or accept the loss.

 

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