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Increased Driver Detention is Hurting Trucking Companies

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 The trucking industry is constantly working to improve efficiency, but driver detention continues to be a costly issue. The problem continues to get worse. A recent study by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) found that detention times and the frequency of detention have been increasing over the past few years. 


The ATRI conducted its study by surveying more than 1,900 truck drivers and carriers from 2014 to 2018. Overall, they found that delays of two or more hours have increased by 11.2% between 2014 and 2018. There has also been a 27.4% rise in delays of six or more hours. 


This isn’t a surprising issue to anyone in the trucking industry. The fear of losing customers keeps many fleets from confronting them. But with ELDs now required in the U.S., and with Canada not far behind, carriers can no longer afford to have their truck drivers’ waste precious on-duty hours waiting. 


Shockingly, the study found that gender played a crucial role in how often and how long a driver was delayed. Female drivers were 83.3% more likely than men to be delayed six or more hours. The ATRI states that “this could possibly be attributed to the fact that a higher percentage of women reported driving refrigerated trailers than men, which experienced longer delays than other vehicle types.” While this could be true, it does pose a problem in terms of recruiting more women into the industry. 


While some delays such as traffic and weather cannot be pinned on customers, the study found that customer inefficiencies were a major contributing factor to detention. Over the past year, there was a nearly 40% increase in drivers who reported that the majority of their pick-ups and deliveries were delayed due to customer actions. 


Many facilities have not increased labor and dock capacity to match increased freight movement. Delays have also been attributed to shippers and receivers overbooking appointments, not enough space for the trucks booked, or simply not having enough equipment to unload and load trucks. 


According to the ATRI, some carriers and drivers report that shippers and receivers may not care about or understand Hours of Service constraints. Many facilities are not held accountable for the delays, which is why this has been an ongoing issue over the past four years. The ATRI study found that facility delays were the top factor identified by carriers as impacting a truck driver’s ability to comply with HOS regulations. The research also found that detention times significantly influence driver and carrier productivity. 


All the wasted time translates into lost revenues. In 2018, the U.S. Department of Transportation stated that delays before loading and unloading cost drivers and carriers more than $1 billion a year! 


The ATRI did identify possible solutions to decreasing driver detention. Facilities that are well organized, use up to date technology, and maintain a schedule greatly reduce delays. Trucking companies can also educate shippers on the impact of ELDs, and how excessive detention times impact drivers. Most fleets are taking a harder stance by charging shippers and receivers a detention fee for wait times over two hours. 


Excessive driver detention is a clear issue in the trucking industry, one that will only continue to eat at productivity and revenues if not resolved. All parties need to come to together to find solutions that benefit the industry.