What impact does driver detention at customer facilities have on safety and productivity? The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) set out to answer this with a new analysis comparing surveys conducted in 2014 and 2018. The full report and be downloaded here. ATRI’s analysis found that across the four-year period, detention frequency and length have increased, with negative impacts on driver productivity, regulatory compliance, and compensation.
Detention Frequency and Duration:
Drivers reported a 27.4 percent increase in delays of six or more hours. Most delays fell between one to four hours (see below):
These delays have a significant economic impact as 80 percent of drivers were late to or had to cancel their next scheduled pickup or delivery.
Detention Impacts and Gender:
Woman were 83.3 percent more likely than men to be delayed six or more hours (see below):
Women, on average reported about 55 percent of their appointments being delayed due to the actions of personnel at a customer facility, compared to 47 percent for men. At first look, it seems that there is an inherent bias against women truck drivers. However, the women interviewed by ATRI do not feel this is necessarily the case. One woman points out when backing into the dock the worker has no idea the driver’s gender. Others believe that women drivers tend to be more patient than their male counterparts and therefore less confrontational, which can lead to delays as workers will look to accommodate those who are constantly in their faces more.
Detention and Industry Sector:
Those who operate refrigerated trailers were more likely to experience delays than other freight haulers (see below):
Many new entrants and women haul refrigerated freight so there is a lot of cross-pollination between the longer detention times.
Detention and Hours of Service (HOS):
Almost 80 percent of drivers ran out of available on-duty hours while at a shipping or receiving facility as a result of being detained at a customer making HOS compliance difficult.
Detention and Driver Compensation:
For most drivers, detention fees are paid by the hour after two hours of being detained. The hourly rates ranged from $10 to $100 per hour. A small percentage of drivers received flat fees or a percentage of the load. Most drivers say the detention compensation is not adequate for covering fuel expenses, or lost wages. Furthermore, many complain that it is often difficult to generate detention payments from customers.
On the flip side, 80 percent of fleets report charging detention fees. About 72 percent charge a detention fee between $50 and $99 per hour of excessive detention with an additional 10 percent charging over $100 per hour. With a national average per-hour operating cost of $66.65 reported in 2017.
Detention and Motor Carrier Revenue:
Almost 70 percent of carriers and 80 percent of drivers expressed delays had a moderate or significant impact on their weekly revenue. Smaller carriers have more detention-related financial challenges than larger carriers. Around 43 percent of small carriers reported that detention created significant negative financial impacts versus 26 percent for large carriers. The average detention fee per hour across all fleet sizes at $63.71.
Causes and Possible Solutions:
Of course, there are some delays that are out of customer’s control such as traffic congestion and weather But, there are many reasons for the delay which are totally avoidable (see below):
So, what can be done to increase efficiency and minimize delays? Carriers believe better customer practices include:
- Organized, better planning, better communication
- Better scheduling, extending hours and keeping appointments
- Available space, equipment, and employees
- Drop and hook operation
- Better skilled employees
Drivers believe better customer practices include:
- Better scheduling or keeping appointments
- Available space, equipment, and employees
- Product is ready
- Organized and better planning
- Empathy for the driver and better communication with the driver
The fact that over the four-year period these surveys were conducted detention times has gotten worse is extremely troubling. Most carriers operate on thin margins and the US economy relies on the trucking industry to deliver freight in a safe, timely manner. Hopefully, when ATRI conducts this study again in four years we will see significant improvements.