by Ashley Wilks
Detention is a big topic in the trucking industry now, thanks in part to greater use of ELDs that put delays at shippers and receivers on record, and to a recent U.S. DOT report from the Office of the Inspector General that ties those delays to increased crash rates.
On one hand, the detention issue is not news. On the other, it’s been drivers who suffered the consequences most. Now it seems that carriers, shippers and receivers are feeling the burn, too. Truckload carriers learned from the report that their part of the industry is losing up to $300 million a year in unpaid sitting around time while their driver waits for their truck to be loaded or unloaded.
Drivers usually don’t feel that they have much leverage in dealing with delays at the dock, while fleet owners often rely on detention fees as a method to discourage shippers and receivers from holding trucks for too long. The real problem is that shippers and receivers haven’t had any real motivation to become more efficient in this area until recently, as carriers turn away from customers who are consistently slow.
If that continues, shipper practices may change. In the meantime, fleet owners can try to be catalysts for that change.
Communicate with everyone
- Let your freight broker know what’s happening, from arrival on and if a truck is still in line after an hour or so, give them a heads up that the clock is ticking toward detention time charges.
- When discussing detention rates with a shipper or receiver, make it clear that delays on their end are costing you and your driver in time that should be spent earning. That lost time is gone forever, even with a detention fee. Explain HOS and ELDs to them.
- Make it clear to drivers that it is important to make their check calls and let dispatch know when they are facing detention time before it happens.
Get choosy about customers
- Negotiate for a reasonable detention rate and make sure that you collect it. A 2016 survey from DAT Solutions found that brokers were twice as likely to pay detention fees when reimbursed by their shipper customers, but only 3 percent of carriers were able to collect detention fees on at least 90 percent of their claims. Why do repeat business with a company that doesn’t pay what it owes?
- If you start thinking of detention in terms of what that lost time costs, it becomes clearer that a shipper/receiver that regularly keeps trucks waiting are not cost effective for your company. Calculate hours, and the customer’s willingness to handle freight more efficiently, and make that part of the decision in taking the load.
ELDs are not the solution to the detention problem, but they are making it clearer. It’s true that the inefficiency happens with shippers and receivers, but when carriers take steps to make them more accountable, that can get them to change.