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Supply Chain News: Trucking Detention Time Remains a Huge Issue – and is Getting Worse


New ATRI Report Detention Times Rising Versus 2014

Sept. 10, 2019
SCDigest Editorial Staff

In an increasingly real-time logistics world, paced by rising expectations driven by ecommerce, one might think detention – the times trucker drivers wait to load or unload their trailers – would be headed down.

But you would be wrong, according to a new report from the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI).

Detention is a major issue. The ATRI report estimates it costs the industry about $1 billion in unproductive time, and suggests it is also a safety issue, as drivers attempt to "catch up" from time lost at the dock.

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While it is most common for a driver's detention time to start after two hours, the report says often excessive (chargeable) detention time does not start until after three, four or even six hours.

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The report notes there is no standard for excess detention, but that it is generally accepted within the trucking industry that any delay over two hours is reasonably defined as excessive, though in today's world going beyond even a single hour seems very inefficient. Increasingly – but far from always – carriers are able to charge for excessive detention, generally somewhere in the $50-75 per hour range, but practices vary widely.

"Based on anecdotal data, shippers and receivers do not seem to be fully aware of, or overly concerned by, the costs incurred by carriers and drivers while waiting," the report says, adding that "It appears that many shippers are unaware of the frequency and duration of driver detention. It has also been reported that some shippers and receivers may purposefully create truck queues at their facilities to ensure that truck capacity is readily available to support shipper operations."

As part of the research, ATRI surveyed over 1000 truck drivers, comparing those results to a similar study in 2014. Nearly 40% of drivers said that 71-100% of their loads (inbound or outbound) were delayed due to customer actions.

And wait times appear to be increasing. As shown in the chart below from the report, the percent of shipments delayed by two hours or more due to shipper/consignee inaction has risen versus the 2014 survey results, and the percent of shorter wait times of under two hours is decreasing.

Drivers are Reporting Increased Wait Times


Source: ATRI


The report notes this is anecdotal evidence, and that driver perceptions of wait times can be affected by things such as the comfort of the waiting area, how they are treated, etc. Still, those factor were also present in the 2014 survey.

.(See More Below)




The report also notes the cascading effect of delays, where for example delayed loading can cause a trucker to miss his or her next delivery appointment time. The percent of drivers citing such impacts on downstream activities is up five percentage points from the 2014 results.

The results also seemed to indicate women drivers were subject to greater delays than mail drivers.

In terms of sectors, refrigerated freight was most subject to delays, the new survey found, with delays of four hours or more much more common than with other types of freight.

One driver, for example commented in the survey that while he normally hauls a specific commodity, sometime he will look at "filler loads." However, he says, "When I do I never consider hauling anything grocery-related because the wait time could be 8 hours or more…and when detention time is paid, it isn't up to par with other types of loads."

Of course, a huge issue for drivers and the trucking industry is that time spent waiting means productive time is lost, both generally and due to Hours of Service rules (though the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is considering changes on how wait times are considered in daily work limits for drivers). In this year's study. 82% of drivers said they had run out of available hours at a customer facility due to detention, while majority of drivers reported that detention had a significant impact on their ability to comply with HOS rules.

Nearly 80% of respondents also reported that their company collects detention fees from shippers and receivers for excessive delays, with drivers generally getting at least some of those charges.

However, while it is most common for a driver's detention time to start after two hours, the report says often excessive (chargeable) detention time does not start until after three, four or even six hours (though some say detention formally started after just one hour).

The survey also found that detention fee payment policies can be both complex and convoluted. Some survey respondents reported limitations to being compensated for detention, such as monetary caps (i.e. detention fees will not exceed $100), caps on time (i.e. not to be paid for more than 6 hours of detention), or no detention fees to be paid if the driver is late to their appointment by more than 10 minutes.

Causes of Delays

So, just what causes excessive detention? Anecdotally, driver primarily cite shipper/consignee inefficiencies, but also believe that is that shippers are not increasing labor and dock capacity to reflect increased freight movement and truck activity.

Almost one in five drivers complained that their preloaded trucks were not ready by the time of their appointment, products were not ready, or were still being manufactured. Another common complaint in both driver surveys pertained to shippers and receivers overbooking appointments, booking more trucks than there is space/docks, and not having enough equipment to load and unload trucks.

Recommend Changes

Given all that data, what kind of changes to process and policies are needed? Really, just getting better at the basics, drivers said, such as shippers being more organized and communicating better. Drivers also cited opportunities for better scheduling, keeping appointments, and more use of "drop and hook operations" as solutions to the detention problem.

The report concludes by noting the results of this year's study shows shipping and receiving facilities have made little to no improvements to run more efficiently across the four-year time period – with the detention issue surprisingly getting worse.

The full study is available here: New ATRI Study Quantifies Driver Detention Impacts


How do you view the detention issue? Why is it getting worse? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.



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