freight companies

The Impact of Longer Detention Times

A recent study by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) found that truckers are waiting longer at customer docks than in previous years. The wait times associated with both pickup and delivery, known as “detention,” rose significantly since 2014, when more than 1,900 fleets and 1,600 drivers from various freight companies were originally polled. Drivers reported a 27.4% increase in delays of six hours or more when they were surveyed again in 2018.

This research conducted by the ATRI, which is the independent research arm of the American Trucking Associations, brings awareness to the full financial impact associated with detention times. As truckers spend longer time periods waiting at loading docks, this cuts into revenue and gross profits for freight companies and drivers, and ultimately, increases consumer costs. According to a 2018 report by the Department of Transportation, wait times are estimated to cost trucking companies and drivers over $1 billion per year in revenues lost.

Delays also increase the pressure on drivers, who typically get paid by the mile, to hustle to pick up their next load. While some companies charge hourly detention rates, the length of time drivers wait before the fees begin can vary depending on the contract. As a result, drivers may speed or drive while tired to make up for lost time. This raises the risk of accidents and impacts drivers’ overall health.

Truckers report that it’s common to see 20 to 30 trucks waiting to unload and that detention lasts anywhere from two to eight hours. The 2018 survey found that 40% more drivers reported that the majority of delays were due to customer actions. They cited strained shipping operations and delays at store loading docks or outside distribution center gates. Drivers and carriers noted that well-organized customers who utilized technology, maintained tight schedules and took advantage of flexible business hours were able to reduce delays.

While 2018 was characterized by longer wait times, it was also one of the busiest years for freight companies. The American Trucking Associations reported that trucks moved 11.49 billion tons of freight across the country, a 15.3% increase from 2014. Hopefully, this research will help the industry devise better driver detention strategies for both carriers and drivers, and provide insight to educate customers on better loading and unloading practices.

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