Over the last 18 months, the trucking industry has faced uneven supply and demand, congested ports, rising costs, a global pandemic, labor shortages, and a boom in online consumer spending. As a result, demand for truck capacity and rates remain elevated. What’s one thing straining capacity and raising rates? Dock delays and detention. Dock delays and detention not only affect truck drivers but shippers as well. In this blog, we’ll dive into what truck detention is, why it happens, how it impacts truck drivers and shippers, and how shippers can help reduce dock delays and detention.
According to a recent Trucker Tools whitepaper, wait times at shipper and receiver locations have increased compared to a year ago. As a result, delays at docks and detention ranked as the number one challenge carries currently face. While loading dock wait times have plagued the industry for years, recent woes have worsened them.
Nearly 60 percent of those surveyed reported waiting for longer than two hours on each load. This is in line with data collected by a DAT solutions survey showing that 63 percent of drivers say they spend more than three hours waiting when loading and unloading. Freightwaves also collected data on driver wait times. In June, average wait times were around the two-hour mark but are now showing past two and a half hours.
At the same time, 79 percent of those surveyed in the Trucker Tools whitepaper say that they never or rarely receive detention pay when they wait for more than two hours. Half of those surveyed reported receiving detention pay only if negotiated in advance. Of those surveyed, 65 percent responded that detention pay has not increased or otherwise improved in the last year.
Truck detention can be one of the most irritating things drivers have to deal with. When a driver arrives at a pickup or delivery location, there’s a built-in “free time” period in which the driver will wait while the truck is getting loaded or unloaded. This “free time” is what people consider to be a reasonable expectation for the time it should take the shipper to load the trailer or the receiver to unload it. This “free time” varies from carrier to carrier, but a good baseline for most is two hours. Anything over two hours is extra and considered truck detention. Once a truck driver has had to wait over their “free time” limit, they will often charge truck detention fees.
The carrier company decides detention fee amounts and the shipper or receiver handles payment of it. Generally, truck drivers will ask anywhere from $25 – $100 per hour to cover this extra waiting time. Most motor carriers will have a clause in their contract with the shipper or broker stating their detention fees. The purpose of truck detention pay is to compensate the driver or carrier when the shipper or receiver holds them up. You’ll find that truck detention is more common with full truckload shipments than with less-than-truckload (LTL).
There are so many factors that can cause truck detention to happen. In most cases, the driver is set back and not loaded on time by the shipper/receiver.
Truck detention is not for when the truck driver’s delay is on their own terms. This includes if their truck broke down, congested traffic, or being delayed by another pickup or delivery appointment. While some delays are not the shipper’s fault, American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) found that customer inefficiencies were a major contributing factor to detention.
A lack of organization or lax attitudes on docks tends to create the problem of dock delays; shipments could not be ready to go, or the dockworkers may not be in as much of a rush as the truck driver. Additionally, warehouses may not be well organized to get the shipments ready in time.
As of late, there are also other factors to consider, such as the labor shortage. There could be a limited amount of dock workers or overworked workers, which doesn’t help the situation.
According to Business Insider, nearly 10 percent of all truckers recently said they’ve had to wait six hours or more. In addition, one in five drivers said that preloaded trucks weren’t ready by the time of their appointment, that products weren’t ready, or were still being manufactured. Delays were also attributed to shippers and receivers that overbooked appointments, booked more trucks than they had space to accommodate, or didn’t have the equipment to load and unload the trucks.
Truck drivers say that waiting at warehouses for shipments is one of the most aggravating parts of their jobs.
Detention impacts the profits of carriers and uses up their valuable driving hours under Hours Of Service regulations. According to a survey by ATRI, 83 percent of truckers run out of available hours due to detention. In addition, according to a whitepaper by J.B. Hunt, of the 11 hours drivers have available to drive during a shift, an average of only 6.5 hours are spent on the road while the rest is wasted on detention.
A study by the Department of Transportation (DOT) found that because of detention alone, drivers lose an estimated $1.1 billion to $1.3 billion every year. In addition, the Inspector General’s audit report estimate that driver detention decreases U.S. truckers’ annual earnings by $1,281 to $1,534 or three to three point six percent of a driver’s annual income.
It also affects safety. According to the data from the FMCSA, in 2015, 415,000 crashes occurred involving large trucks. Detention time increases the risk of crashes by using up drivers’ available waking hours, contributing to fatigue while driving. The FMCSA report states that detention increases the likelihood of truck crashes involving fatalities or significant injuries.
Since truck detention delays drivers, it eats into their legal hours of service and causes further delays. Once a truck driver experiences a delay at one location, a snowball effect happens. The driver becomes delayed or misses their next appointment, causing even more possible detention, delays in supply chains, and most of all, lost pay. This can significantly eat into their pay.
Speaking of pay, according to a DAT survey, only three percent of drivers said they receive detention pay for at least 90 percent of their detention claims to shippers. Often, truckers are afraid to ask for detention pay. A study found that 20 percent of truck drivers who work for smaller companies don’t ask for detention pay to “remain competitive and maintain good relationships” with customers. Moreover, when carriers do receive detention fees, some don’t always pass along the money to the driver for their lost time and wages.
On top of not always being paid, a detention fee does not fully make up the cost of the driver’s stationary truck and lost time.
Truck drivers say that detention underlies a larger problem in the industry: a lack of respect for truck drivers. Every day, thousands of drivers arrive at their destination only to find no loading docks or crews available to unload the freight. In addition, there’s often no place to park while they wait. As a result, they end up searching for any place safe enough to park nearby. Some may find a rest area or truck stop, but those can fill quickly.
Other drivers aren’t so lucky and end up driving for extended periods searching for a place to park, ending up forced to park in less than desirable locations. This puts the driver in danger and overwhelms local infrastructure. An example of this is the overwhelmed Los Angeles port causing neighborhood streets to be clogged by trucks hauling or waiting to haul shipping containers.
Besides these scenarios, detention can also hurt a carrier’s business reputation with shippers.
It’s crucial to note the impact of dock delays and truck detention goes beyond drivers and carriers. Detention reduces the amount of capacity that is available, making it a huge problem for supply chains.
It also impacts shippers financially. Detention fees come unplanned and cut into your profit. Detention fees can add up to hundreds of dollars per truck every day, which adds up to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.
Regular detention affects your reputation. A survey showed that 77 percent of carriers are more selective in who they are willing to work with. Additionally, 80 percent of carriers stated there are facilities that they will absolutely not work with. According to an ELD survey, 43 percent of carriers say that the number of shippers/receivers they refuse to go to has increased since the ELD mandate was implemented. As a result, they can see better data on who consistently causes detention. Carriers state they also tend to avoid shippers with strict appointment times and don’t offer delivery windows.
Not all carriers will wait for you. Only 17 percent of carriers said they would wait as long as it takes to be loaded. The majority said they would only wait up to four hours before pulling their drivers from the shipment.
The effects of poor dock scheduling and detention can add up and result in more issues in your supply chain. This can include late deliveries, poor customer service, potential perishing of cold-chain products, loss of shipper of choice status, freight refusal by carriers, and higher freight rates. In addition, detention and delays hurt supply chain performance, carrier relationships, and impact labor costs. You can also face chargebacks from your customers who are unhappy about not receiving goods by the agreed-upon delivery date.
Considering the current market, shippers cannot afford carriers to blacklist them due to detention.
Sometimes, delays are unavoidable, but it might shock you that your procedures could make you more vulnerable to delays. Effective dock scheduling and end-to-end visibility are critical to controlling costs and delays. In a report by Logistics Management, approximately 40 percent of an organization’s total freight spend is inbound freight costs. These costs come from poor dock scheduling, increased delays, detention fees, and other unexpected issues.
For shippers to reduce delays and detention fees, they need to understand how better dock scheduling can reduce risk and benefit them. Efficient dock scheduling amounts to better processes throughout your supply chain. This means more vendors, carriers, and customers will want to work with you.
There are many great ways to reduce or cut detention at your docks.
One shipper told Uber Freight that they could save as much as $300 from detention per load just by staggering their pickup times.
Like staggered appointment times, adding more hours of operation can decrease congestion and lower detention for truckers. Having more time means you can space out appointments, and wait times decrease. Adding weekend and/or evening hours can go a long way.
Having doors dedicated to different modes can help to keep things running smoothly. High-velocity doors and LTL doors can help ease congestion for drivers.
Though not workable for everyone, adding more dock doors or moving to a warehouse with more dock doors, can accommodate more appointments and lower wait times.
Make sure your dockworkers have the product ready before scheduling the appointment. Furthermore, you can encourage them to have the process done in two hours or less to avoid detention.
Make sure to space out your appointments so that your workers have enough time to load/unload the truck. Overscheduling is a huge cause of detention. Improving your dock scheduling lowers your risk of delays for drivers.
Forward-thinking shippers are using technology to reduce detention time.
Web-based dock appointment scheduling solutions enable shippers, carriers, and consignees to collaborate on dock scheduling. By distributing the responsibility among everyone, organizations will be able to proactively keep wait times at a minimum.
Carriers can avoid frustrating detention time and shippers can manage inventory more efficiently. Technology can give you greater visibility into inbound shipments. Besides reducing detention, you can also better manage inventory levels, increase warehouse efficiency, and reduce congestion by limiting idling in the yard.
While this might be tougher to secure right now, it’s often cheaper to bring in extra workers than it is to pay detention fees. Unready freight is one of the major causes of detention. When there is more labor on-site, orders can be prepped and loaded quicker.
By staggering your labor hours, you can ensure loading and unloading can continue during lunch hours rather than the entire staff breaking all at once.
If possible, with space, drop and hook programs are the easiest way to avoid detentions. What is a drop-and-hook program? This allows the driver to drop the trailer, hook an empty trailer, and head on their way. Often the shipper can use the dropped trailer for storage as a courtesy. Yet, shippers and carriers must work together to ensure that these trailer pools don’t expand and sap the fleet. In addition, drop and hook don’t work for live freight. When it works well, drivers wait less, and both shippers and the trucking company are more profitable.
Make sure to share your yard map with the truck driver so they know where to go and who to contact if there are any issues. Also, be sure to communicate with your warehouse that the truck must be loaded within a given timeline, such as two hours or less.
It all comes down to improved planning, more visibility, and optimized labor. Smart shippers are looking at data to prevent overscheduling, maintain staff and equipment, and address problems.
It’s critical that shippers and their logistics providers discuss performance regularly. It will help you identify key problem areas and introduce potential changes to help reduce driver wait times and fees and keep your supply chain efficient. In a whitepaper by J.B. Hunt, it was estimated that eliminating even 30 minutes of wait time would give a driver an extra hour on the road. This would be equal to 50 more miles per day or 12,500 miles per year. These carrier savings translate to increased supply chain efficiency, less risk of road accidents, and improved operational performance.
When asked about detention solutions from carriers, they’ve responded that customers who were organized, used technology, maintained scheduled appointments, or had as-needed extended hours, significantly reduced delays.
Delays are the worst-case scenario for today’s supply chain professionals. Each delay amounts to a potential setback further down the supply chain. We’ve had plenty to deal with that has been out of our control, but truck detention is one that we have more control over.
Shippers need to take steps to reduce their impact by improving dock scheduling and operations to ensure a positive and timely, customer experience. And in the competitive market we’re in, drivers get to select who they want to run for. Don’t be one that gains a reputation for dock delays.
If outsourcing your logistics, make sure to work with a provider who can help be a resource for more than arranging your freight shipments. At Trinity, we’re your logistics consults, too. We make sure to take the time to have educated conversations about your logistics and operations, to help you reduce delays and have a more efficient supply chain.
We offer many technology options like our tracking and tracing options that can keep tabs on your truck and freight, as well as a transportation management system (TMS) to give you insight into valuable data. If you choose to work with our Managed Service Team, we offer you quarterly reviews with our experts so you can take a deep dive into your data for improvements.
Truck detention and dock delays remain a problem for many, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. Take charge of your dock operations today and find an improved supply chain.
Author: Christine Morris
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