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Supply Chain News: Yet another Study Finds Detention Still Major Issue for Carriers, Drivers


ELDs Not having Much Impact Yet, as Del Monte Shortens Time after Which Charges Accrue

Nov. 12, 2019
SCDigest Editorial Staff

The issue of truck driver detention – the time a driver has to wait to get a trailer loaded or unloaded – is an area that seems to defy improvement, despite its clear impact on logistics costs and supply chain efficiency.

In 2018, a study by the American Transportation Research Institute compared survey data from that year with those in 2014 and found that that "customer facilities have not made real improvements to their staffing, processes, accuracy or efficiency across the four- year time period" in terms of reducing detention.

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Digital freight broker Convoy now has a feature on its phone app allows trucker grading shippers based on how quickly they load a shipment.

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Now, a new study on detention from the Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA) finds similar results – even though drives are now required to carry electronic logging devices (ELDs), which track every minute of a driver's time, including time waiting on the dock. In theory, that should incentivize shippers to reduce trucker dwell times, as the driver now has electronic documentation on the delays that can be used to bill for excess detention.

Tim Staroba, president of carrier Navajo Express, says that detention has not improved with the use of ELDs.

"I've been doing this 26 years, and customers are getting worse and worse about trying to get you in and out of their doors, and they don't want to pay for any of it," he says in the report.

A real problem, says Staroba: many carriers and 3PLs are still willing to accept long detention times to win new business.

"As an industry we've kind of done it to ourselves," Staroba, adds, warning that ultimately shit ppers will pay for detention one way or another by carriers adding detention charges to freight invoices or building them into their rates. But that has not necessarily happened historically.

The report notes that companies that transport refrigerated loads tend to have more negative experiences with detention than other freight sectors. Length of haul also makes a difference. Carriers and 3PLs with an average LOH greater than 500 miles typically have at most one detention event per day to load or unload. Those with shorter hauls often have same-day pickups and deliveries,where detention is a bigger factor since it can happen on both ends.

Even in an era of just-in-time supply chains, the report notes that shippers and consignees in effect get two "free" hours of detention before they can receive a charge for the waiting time, though shippers have varying policies on this matter.

For example, in early 2019, Del Monte Foods changed its detention policies from paying after three hours to paying after two hours, though when making this change, the company saw labor costs increase as it worked to get trucks in and out of its facilities more quickly.

However, overall transportation costs went down from paying fewer detention charges and getting more favorable rates, says Robert Savage, vice president of transportation and logistics of Del Monte Foods.

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And actually this is one issue where there can be some real common ground – in theory – between shippers and carriers.

"Interviews with shippers, brokers and motor carriers for this TIA case study found that all parties involved in freight transactions view detention as an opportunity to establish and execute policies that remove this as a friction point," the new TIA report says.

The problem: both sides have been saying the same thing for many years now, and little seems to change.

However, the report says a detention strategy that almost all parties can agree on is the need to set realistic appointment times and avoid late arrivals at all costs.

A company named Heatcraft Worldwide, for example, will not pay detention if a truck arrives beyond 30 minutes late, even as detention is more likely to occur in these instances since drivers are sent to the end of the line for being loaded. Shippers often take a similar stance on early arrivals, not starting the detention clock until the scheduled appointment time.

Interestingly, as technology such as TMS become highly penetrated in shippers, the policies can become more rigid.

"You used to be able to call and talk to a person and explain the situation," one carrier exec says in the report. "Now, everything is online. If we have a certain time we want to hit, you have to request that in their TMS. There is no give and take."

While the freight market is weak right now, giving shippers the upper hand, when it picks back up many carriers say they will turned down freight from shippers/consignees with consistent detention issues.

And SCDigest notes that digital freight broker Convoy now has a feature on its phone app allows trucker grading shippers based on how quickly they load a shipment. Companies with slow loading docks pay a premium because fewer drivers want the job, Convoy says.

The full TIA report can be found here: Examining Detention Time in the Marketplace

Why does detention never seem to get any better? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.



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