If there’s one area where carriers, freight brokers and shippers can agree, it’s that more productivity is good for business. Unfortunately, the loading dock — where shippers and carriers literally come together — is the area where much productivity gets lost.
At DAT Solutions, we surveyed 257 carriers, and nearly 63 percent said their truck drivers spend an average of more than three hours at a shipper’s dock waiting for their vehicle to be loaded and unloaded. Roughly 54 percent reported typical detention times of three to four hours, while 9 percent said it was common to be detained five hours or more.
All of that lost productivity is a big issue when your drivers are paid by mile and need to keep the wheels turning in order to generate revenue. In fact, 84 percent of motor carriers said detention is one of the top five business problems they face.
By contrast, among the 50 freight brokers who responded to the survey, only 20 percent agreed that detention is one of their top five problems while 78 percent said other issues had a bigger impact on their business.
Both brokers and carriers defined detention as holding a driver and truck at the dock for more than two hours while loading or unloading. Most of the carriers surveyed said they are seldom paid for detention, and when payment is offered, it does not cover the full business cost that results from the delay.
Only 3 percent of carriers said they were paid on 90 percent or more of their detention claims — at a rate between $30 and $50 per hour. Even when the claims were paid, that level of compensation did not cover the opportunity costs to their business.
Carriers said they were often forced to turn down other loads while their trucks were detained and unavailable. One owner-operator reported losing two loads — with combined revenue of $1,900 — because his truck was detained too long at a receiver’s dock.
Freight brokers who were reimbursed by their shipper customers were twice as likely to compensate carriers for detention. Two-thirds of brokers surveyed said they paid detention only when they could collect the fee from the shipper or consignee, while the other one-third of brokers paid detention whenever carriers complained.
Driver detention costs the trucking industry as much as $4 billion a year in lost productivity, according to a 2009 DOT study. This month, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is preparing an audit to measure the potential effects of loading and unloading delays on truck driver fatigue and crash risks as it lays the groundwork for new regulations.
Driver detention is an urgent issue that must be addressed by carriers, brokers and shippers alike. It’s a matter of fairness. Many shippers and receivers are lax about their dock operations, but it’s the carriers and drivers who are forced to pay for that inefficiency.
The industry does not need to wait for regulation. Carriers, brokers and shippers should take steps to reduce detention — and increase productivity — right now.
For details about the DAT Detention Survey, go to dat.com/detention.
About the Author: Don Thornton is a senior vice president at DAT Solutions, which operates the industry’s largest network of load boards and is a trusted source of supply and demand trends, rate benchmarking, and capacity planning information. DAT is based in Portland, Ore.