Attention to detention: Solutions to the problem of uncompensated time, part 1

| October 24, 2013

detention lead

Since the change in the hours of service rule early in the last decade that brought in the rigid 14-hour duty day, detention at the loading docks has been a major pet peeve of drivers. In a poll last year on the biggest challenges for owner-operators, Overdrive readers voted uncompensated detention No. 3, following only the cost of fuel and the hours of service rule itself.

At the core of the issue: Everyone in the supply chain benefits from uncompensated detention time – except the driver. As Landstar-leased owner-operator John Scott says: “How the government ignores this is simply a dollars-and-cents thing to prevent upsetting the shippers and receivers. I know we don’t want to make products go up [in price] for consumers, so the end result is that drivers continue to absorb the lousy efficiency of our transportation system.”

Given the industry’s recent preoccupation with driver pay, progress could well be expected. There are government- and industry-centered solutions that could help – and in some cases already do. 

Anne Ferro

“Shippers should be held accountable” for excess waits at their facilities, FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro told the Trucking Solutions Group of owner-operators in this call from 2011.

Government solutions
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne Ferro has been upfront about her intent to use the “bully pulpit” to influence shippers and receivers. But Ferro also has stressed repeatedly that FMCSA lacks the authority to set rules for the docks. There have been some efforts by lawmakers – notably U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) – to provide such authority with legislation that would limit detention, but all have died in a divided, distracted Congress.

“We need to take a close look at detention time” and DeFazio’s mandatory detention-pay bill “to figure out how we can make shippers be more accountable,” Ferro last year told the Trucking Solutions Group, a small band of high-profile owner-operators.

Related: Readers split on government, industry solutions to detention

The agency is studying how it can combat the problem. Ferro has said she expected results in 2015, but agency spokesman Duane Debruyne recently confirmed that the study is on a bit faster tracks — results, he said, would be coming before the end of 2014. 

Given the speed at which the wheels of justice turn at the highest levels, don’t count on quick results. In the meantime, some drivers have taken matters into their own hands. Notable among the variety of detention solutions under discussion is an industrywide shift to a time-based driver-pay system.

Related: Fleet exec says paying by the hour in truckload would be ‘financial suicide’

Gordon Klemp of the National Transportation Institute says his organization’s National Survey of Driver Wages tracks W-2 income of drivers with some carriers currently paying by the hour, mostly carriers with high route predictability – “lots of dedicated contracts and runs,” he says. A hybrid hourly/mileage pay system also is the norm at many intermodal carriers, with short runs paid by the hour and longer runs by the mile.

Related: Two-part series on length of haul trending shorter

By and large, however, Klemp says hourly pay may is not panacea for better income that many drivers might otherwise assume. “When you look at end-of-year W-2s” for employee drivers, he says, “it’s not like the hourly drivers make a lot more money.”

Among drivers operating under mileage or percentage programs, a somewhat common refrain – we need pay for all hours worked – is echoed by owner-operator Scott. Running dry freight, he urges drivers to “consider how much on-duty time is not compensated for by anyone – this includes fueling, unloading/loading, inspections, breakdowns and so on. A lot of trucking issues could begin to be solved if drivers were required to be paid for all duties associated with their job.”

Driver Zachary Bell concurs, noting that “for detention and fueling, inspections and breakdowns, I would like to see a pay system for that otherwise uncompensated on-duty time.”  Bell acknowledges that at some level, accessorial charges have been taken too far. “Sweeping the trash out of the trailer only takes 5-10 minutes, and some want to charge for that.”

Yet others see the uncompensated on-duty time problem as so widespread and egregious that it won’t be solved without a federal move on the structural underpinnings of driver pay. Washington State-based owner-operator Joe Ammons introduced a petition earlier this year that has garnered 500-plus signatures to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act. Ammons would remove the exemption for interstate truckers from overtime and other wage and hours protections that has allowed the miles- and percentage-based pay systems to flourish in the industry since the 1930s. 

Detention solutions pollRead Part 2 in this feature, on what the industry is doing today to remedy the problem, amid the pressures on operators from declining length of haul.  

  • Richard Wilson

    As long as Truckers are not classified as Skilled labor then the regulatory process has its hands tied on governing any pay scales. The major carriers often sell services on the fact of not charging detention time to compete ( lower costs to shippers and their customers) with smaller run operations. One of the ploys of the bigger carriers are to leave many trailers on the lots so that the shippers can load and company drivers drop and hook. Smaller carriers do not have that luxury. When they get to the receivers they wait just like everyone else. If the Retrievers had to pay they would find better ways to schedule and unload more efficiently, but the major manufacturing lobbies will do everything in their powers to block any proposal of charges attributed to delays by their members!

  • Ken Depew

    I think the Trucking Industry has the knowledge and ability to fix this problem without Government intervention. They have for years. As a Driver I have demanded pay for down time at certain docks and received it. The pay came from the Shipper or Receiver not the company I worked for. Some Companies will charge for truck down time if they are held too long. They just never charged for Driver down time. A missed load appointment can mean a week of sitting sometimes or a lot of dead head miles to get the next load. It’s not just the hours of waiting at the dock that is the problem. Compensation for a missed load and the consequence that arise from that need to be addressed as well. This is not a problem that Company drivers face, but the Owner Operators have to buy their fuel and then there is the extra wear and tear on the truck.

  • guest

    THIS is how Mega Fleets have become RICH! Free Labor!
    The DRIVER foots the bill for ALL this uncompensated time….waiting at shippers/receivers for free, paper work, phone calls, data entries at the BELOVED customer..All FREE…Waiting in line to get INTO the Customer…ALL FREE..checking In and OUT with Guards…all FREE. This is just the beginning….Fuels, wash windows, check oil, WAIT in Fuel LINE…driver foots the Bill….ALL FREE. Wait for a Load?? No Problem…driver waits for FREE….no COST to Rich Executives…..Breakdown? Flat tire? The BOY will take care of it ALL and arrange payment or towing…ALL FREE!!!
    rucking is a Complete RIPOFF….only the Company makes money NOT THE DRIVER…this will NEVER CHANGE if Fat executives have their way.

  • guest

    What would reduce delays at shippers and receivers??? a Mandate that ALL truckers are Paid Substantialy from the minute they enter the property till they leave.
    Watch them pick up the pace then!!! They would adhere to the Pickup Time and Pronto..our trucks would be LOADED and Emptied instantly. These “Customers” are all CROOKS..employing “World Lumper Service” filled with illegal aliens to hump freight etc…these warehouses are CROOKS! They will cheat and lie and employ illegal foreigners. THEY need to be INVESTIGATED…butNO..ANNY Ferro can see THAT far into trucking….only the FLUFFY stuff….meanwhile Truckers continue to be RIPPED OFF BY CROOKS!

  • MileHiMoose

    CODE # 59 of The U.S. Code, is already on the books and should just need a Sub-ChapterAdded !

  • out of work trucker

    as long as they can replacing drivers with new stupid drivers that will work for free. then why pay. I have been out of work for over 8 months. I have had plenty of job inter views. some that didn’t pan out. and others that I didn’t want after interviewing the company. one that sticks out in my mind the most. is ready ice in new symerna,florida. i went in for a job that paid hourly the warehouse. and when the guy seen i have a cdl. he said ih ateto waste a good cdl. and the he explains that he wants to hire as a delivery driver/sales man. a commission based job. pretty much wanting me to work for free. when the fat dirty man told me that. I lost complete interest in the job. so the lesson is if they make it an hourly wage for truckers. then they will call drives sales to avoid paying hourly wages. and by the way i have been outof work for 8 months. every i apply to say they only want lease drivers.

  • Jerry

    I dispatch my sons trucking business. He drives one truck and we have drivers on the others. We have a simply policy on excessive waiting unnecessary at shippers and receivers. First time we charge detention and take care of the driver. The second time we do the same and refuse to go back. It’s not worth the hassle.

  • john

    Most warehouses schedule multiple deliveries for the same time because there’s always going to be a driver or 2 that can’t ever get there on time. That’s why W-M was fining carriers that show up late.
    There should not be any reason to hold up a driver at a dock, either loading or unloading. If the people on the dock know what they’re doing, it shouldn’t take more than 30 min. to load/unload. If shippers were responsible for loading, & receivers were responsible for unloading, things would go faster too. NO reason for a driver on the dock to count, restack, or separate. Get the truck in, out, and gone.

  • Dave

    Not to critisize here, but if you fill out an application and/or talk like you write, I can see why you don’t get hired
    I’ve driven for an ice company out of IA, and they paid by the trip. Very well mind you. I’m leaning towards, maybe you misunderstood what he said. Most delivery jobs pay by the hour, + commision. That’s how the Ice delivery drivers get paid in MO
    I haven’t driven OTR for over a year now, by choice. Been offered many jobs. Just choose not to drive. Most companies only require 12 months in the last 3 yrs., so if you apply for a warehouse job, and have to put trailers in the dock, it still counts as driving.

  • John

    There’s a very simple fix to the waiting game. As soon as the trailer bumps the dock, the driver goes on the clock. When loaded/unloaded, the clock stops. The shipper/receiver is billed accordingly. No charge if done in 30 min. 30-60 min, $40. 60 or more min, $50 per hour. Though the big guys won’t ever stand up for their drivers, it would be a starting point, IF the gov’t. decided to act on this.

  • g

    Labor Dept should DEMAND all drivers be compensated fromthe minute they arrive at the “Customer”. Who cares if they take all day….PAY the WORKER…we didnt get out of bed to DONATE time to Billionaire Corporations!!!! PAY US like any worker would be paid for being on the JOB…if the Shipper or Receiver is inefficient and slow…..THEY will PAY the PRICE…plain and simple REMEDY ANNE FERRO…quit pretending to be “looking into it”……Labor Board needs to Mandate Pay to Drivers until we drive out the damn gate.

  • g

    Damn rite…shipper load and count AND do ur own Shrink Wrapping too….11million illegal aliens here..get them to do some work???
    Driver should be PAID for every Minute he is on the property…we dont show up at the ignorant warehouse to LOSE MONEY.

  • g

    Agree with DAVE…Local Jobs are Great. Pay is similar to Road and you are Home all the time…why go anywhere?? Cops are waiting out there in the wilderness to destroy your CSA File!! Why leave town???

  • bob

    I’ve been driving for 37 years I have my appointments made at least 3 days ahead of time most times there scheduled a week ahead time, when I arrive they have 1 hour to load me or unload me or I charge 75 dollars an hour if I’m more then 15 minutes late I don’t charge at all and that charge is for my time and the trucks time.

  • Thomas Blake

    I made enough as a driver to buy my own truck, I made enough as an owner operator to start my own company. As long as you think you are making all the money for the company, you will be broke, when you change your thought to I’m going to help my company make money, you in turn will make more. I have some drivers that think youur way, they live pay check to paycheck, I have some drivers that think my way. and they are doing very well

  • Bim Morrison

    Dave: it’s spelled: “criticize”.

  • g

    Sure..this article says Everyone benefits EXCEPT the SLAVE/Chump/Driver….as driver is forced to spend his day at the “customer” for FREE. Free Labor is how mega fleets and shippers have become RICH. By Cheating and Stealing..from the driver.Ripping OFF the Driver/Slave has Always been profitable. Shorting their Miles….has always been Routine for Trucking Companies…claiming an 800 mile run is only actually the crow flies…and only PAY the BOY the shorted miles…so MANY ways to screw the truck driver…..and get RICH in the process. Mega Fleet owners laugh all the way to the bank. Shippers love to treat the driver/Punk like DIRT anyway…so they Laugh while the driver/Boy waits all day at the dock…and then Demand the load be delivered on time. The entire Business screws the truckdriver.

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