September 4, 2019

ATRI: truck drivers face rising tide of detention at warehouses

Solutions could include updating technology, managing tighter schedules, offering extended hours, group says.

By DC Velocity Staff

The frequency and length of time that truck drivers are detained at customers' facilities have both increased over the past four years, with negative impacts on driver productivity, regulatory compliance under hours of service (HOS) caps, and compensation, a new study shows.

Drivers have reported a 27.4% increase in delays of six or more hours at warehouses and other sites, according to a study by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI). Arlington, Va.-based ATRI conducted its analysis on data from more than 1,900 truck driver and motor carrier surveys conducted in 2014 and in 2018.

In other results from ATRI's analysis of the survey results:

  • female drivers were 83.3% more likely than men to be delayed for six or more hours,
  • there was a nearly 40% increase in drivers who reported that the majority of their pick-ups and deliveries were delayed over the past 12 months due to customer actions,
  • the average excessive detention fee per hour charged by fleets was $63.71, slightly less than the average per hour operating cost of $66.65,
  • the negative impact of detention on carrier revenue and driver compensation may be greater among smaller fleets (running fewer than 50 power units), with 20% reporting that they do not charge for excessive detention in order to stay competitive with larger fleets.

Delays in exchanging freight during pickups and drop-offs at DCs is often cited as one of the top stumbling blocks in interactions between shippers and carriers, a recent study by the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) has shown. Facilities that want to build a reputation as a "shipper of choice" can strive to cut those delays through technology and process improvements, the group said.

The ATRI report also documented recommended four practices that drivers and carriers believe will improve efficiency and reduce detention at customer facilities. Respondents noted that customers could greatly reduce delays by:  being well organized, utilizing technology, maintaining tightly managed schedules and appointments, and/or offering extended business hours to support "after-hours delivery" when needed.

While the report acknowledged that some detention delays are caused by externalities having nothing to do with customer actions—such as traffic congestion, weather, and traffic incidents—it found a number of common causes that were tied closely to DC operations.

Truckers in both the 2014 and the 2018 survey listed three main habits that often triggered dock delays: 1. dock workers who were slow or understaffed, 2. appointment times being ignored due to preloaded trucks or products not being ready on time, and 3. shippers and receivers overbooking appointments by scheduling too many trucks for the number of docks, or by not having enough equipment to load and unload trucks upon arrival.

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