The Department of Transportation (DOT) said today it will launch an audit later this month to help determine the impact on commercial truck drivers and the nation's supply chain of delays in the loading and unloading of cargo on the nation's surface freight docks.
In a statement, DOT's Office of Inspector General said drivers who are paid by the mile and whose workdays are capped by federal rules face the prospect of foregone wages due to delays at shipping and receiving facilities. Loading and unloading delays could lead drivers to operate at faster speeds to make deliveries within their hour-of-service requirements, the IG's office said. It may also compel drivers to operate beyond their legal limits and falsify their driving times, putting them in violation of the law and increasing the risk of crashes, the IG said.
The five-year transport-spending bill signed into law in December 2015 requires DOT to report on the effect of loading and unloading delays on the efficiency of the nation's transport system and the U.S. economy. DOT said the audit is designed to assess the caliber and volume of data on loading and unloading delays, and provide information on measuring the impact of delays on the trucking supply chain and the economy.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a DOT sub-agency that oversees commercial trucking, freight forwarders, freight brokers, and bus operators, is required to issue regulations governing the data-collection process, the IG's office said.
The issue came on the radar screen late in the tenure of former FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. It quickly became a high-priority matter for the administrator. Loading and unloading delays are a problem that everyone is aware of. However, there has never been a formal data-collection process to quantify its frequency or its impact on truck labor, the industry, and the economy.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), which represents independent drivers and micro fleets, said it hopes to help DOT "evaluate what we have known to be true for far too long: excessive wait times during the loading and unloading process have a negative impact on safety, cost society billions, and are part of the reason why the industry experiences high driver turnover rates." The American Trucking Associations (ATA), which represents large U.S. fleets, was unavailable to comment.