Increased Detention Times Blamed Mainly on Shippers/Receivers

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September 4, 2019 • by HDT Staff 

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Delays experienced by truck drivers at customer facilities have increased in both frequency and time over the past four years and fleets increasingly feel that shippers and receivers don't care enough about the problem to fix it.
 - Photo via U.S. DOT

Photo via U.S. DOT

Delays experienced by truck drivers at customer facilities have increased in both frequency and time over the past four years costing fleets and drivers time and productivity, according to recent analysis by the American Transportation Research Institute.

The ATRI analysis was based on over 1,900 truck driver and carrier surveys conducted between 2014 and 2018.

Responses indicate the detention problem is only getting worse and more frustrating with fleets and drivers feeling that shippers and receivers are either not aware of the impact the delays are causing or are simply unwilling to address it. Also, with the transition from paper logs to electronic logging devices now mandated, drivers are feeling extra pressure to remain productive despite the delays.

The delays were also found to have a cascading effect, impacting subsequent pickups and deliveries, according to ATRI.

Over the course of ATRI’s four-year study, drivers reported a 27.4% increase in delays lasting six or more hours. Likewise, delays of 2 to 4 hours and 4 to 6 hours increased from 2014 to 2018.

In terms of frequency, drivers reported an increasing percentage of deliveries that included an excessive delay, which ATRI defines as any detention time over 2 hours.

While some delays could not be blamed on customers, such as those due to traffic, weather or accidents, ATRI found that customer inefficiencies were a major contributing factor to detention, such as facilities not increasing labor and dock capacity to match increased freight movement and truck activity.

Anecdotally, surveyed fleets and drivers described dock workers as some facilities as lazy, slow, apathetic or taking too many breaks in addition to facilities being chronically understaffed. One in five drivers said that preloaded trucks weren’t ready by the time of their appointment or that products weren’t ready or were still being manufactured. Delays were also attributed to shippers and receivers that overbooked appointments, booked more trucks than they had space to accommodate or simply didn’t have enough equipment to load and unload trucks.

These reasons remained consistent from 2014 to 2018, which ATRI said indicates that customers’ facilities haven’t made any real improvements to address these issues.

Some fleets and drivers told ATRI that shippers and receivers may not care about HOS constraints on drivers or don’t understand them and are not held accountable for their delays, which further exacerbates the problem of detention.

When asked about potential solutions, survey respondents said that customers who were well organized, used technology, maintained and adhered to scheduled and appointments or had as-needed extended business hours, greatly reduced delays.

The impact that detention have on driver’s available on-duty hours was a key point of examination for ATRI in its study. Facility delays were the top factor identified by carriers as impacting driver’s ability to comply with hours of service regulations. The majority of drivers reported to ATRI that they had run out of available hours while being delayed at a customer facility.

Digging into demographics, women were found to be 83.3% more likely to be delayed by six or more hours than men and were 7.7% more likely to be delayed any length of time. When searching for possible reasons for the disparity, ATRI reached out to female drivers for answers.

Most of the women ATRI interviewed were surprised that there was any difference at all and told ATRI that they didn’t believe the difference was the result of a preference toward male drivers. Some offered that women were perhaps less likely than men to express their discontentment over delays.

Another possible determinant was that women were more likely to drive refrigerated loads than men, 36.5% compared to 23.6% .Refrigerated trailers were far and away the most likely segment to experience delays of over 4 hours compared to bulk, tanker, dry van or flatbeds.

To combat this issue a majority of fleets surveyed reported they are charging shippers and receivers some sort of detention fee for excessive delays over two hours with a portion of the collected fees being paid out to drivers. Detention fees ranged from $10 to $100 per hour, averaging out to $63.71. This is still below what ATRI estimates is the $66.65 average marginal hourly cost for fleets to operate.

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