Readers split on government, industry solutions to detention

| September 06, 2013

Fixing loading delays poll

In a well-participated-in poll on loading and unloading delays at shippers and receivers, conducted here on late last month, respondents weighed in on a variety of solutions to the long-grappled-with problem, with 50 percent favoring some kind of industry-focused solution, 41 percent actually taking the line that the federal government should have a role in detention. 

As has been written about in Overdrive over the last several years, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne Ferro has been up-front about her intent to use the “bully pulpit” to influence shippers and receivers, but at once she’s also stressed lack of regulatory authority to get into such business. There have been some efforts — notably by Rep. Peter DeFazio — to introduce new authorities with legislation that would put regulated limits on detention, and FMCSA is currently involved in a study on the subject of what FMCSA can further do to help combat the problem. Ferro most recently said she expected results from it in 2015. 

So much for the here and now for that avenue, though industry in some quarters has seen the extent of the problem and responded by instituting broader detention-pay programs. Marten Transport, for instance, in 2011 moved to a pay scheme for all detained loads on both ends, regardless of whether the carrier was actually collecting detention from shippers and receivers. Marten Recruiting Director Tim Norlin describes the program as paying $20/hour for all time spent waiting over an initial two hours to all company drivers as well as owner-operators leased to the refrigerated carrier.

At once, Norlin adds, “We’re still fighting the same battle” with customers over improving efficiency of loading and unloading. “But it’s not fair to have the driver stuck in the middle as always.”  

“Costco used to be a nightmare place to go into. Hours of checking into the gate and waiting in line in the office, and waiting again for your signed bills. Now they’re one of my favorite places to go…. I don’t know what prompted them to change, but kudos to them for figuring it out!” –Cory Davidson via

Since putting the program in place 2.5 years ago, Marten sales staff “have worked very hard during rate negotiations and contract negotiations to put verbiage in there as to what’s acceptable in terms of detention, and they’ve had some fair success…. There are some customers who wouldn’t deal with it, and their detention was six hours or more.” Marten has walked away from some of those contracts since. “It didn’t make sense, with the new hours of service, economically to deal with those customers. Some have come back to us, and they’ve done some things to fix the problem.” 

On the whole, it’s translated to greater efficiency across the entire operation and down to the level of the individual driver. Since instituting the program, miles per unit among Marten drivers were 9 percent between the second quarter of 2011 and the same quarter this year, “giving drivers an additional $1,000 on average per quarter,” Norlin notes. 

Nearly a third of respondents to the detention poll think more carriers need to take such an aggressive approach on collecting detention — and distributing it to drivers — to combat the excessive detention problem. Early results in another poll probing the extent to which drivers and owner-operators are being compensated in some way for detention, which you can participate in via this link, suggest that nearly 40 percent of the industry is still in the dark, with no detention-pay program in place. 

Following, find a round-up of more reader views on the subject: 

John Scott: I think a lot of trucking issues could begin to be solved if drivers were required to be paid for all duties associated with their job. It does not matter how that is paid for. It could be a combination of increased rates, agreed-upon contracts between carriers and shippers or a simple charge based on time at a shipper or receiver. Consider how much on-duty time is not compensated for by anyone — this includes fueling, unloading/loading, inspections, breakdowns and so on. The job of the truck driver is filled with too many unpaid hours that still have to be worked.

Joe Ammons: Mandatory hourly wage that equals the hourly gain by driver while in transit. If he averages $21/hour while driving he gets $21/hour at a dock. Drop the FLSA exemption. (Owner-operator Ammons’ petition to Congress to legislate removal of the exemption of employee truck drivers from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s wage and time protections made news here earlier this year. Since its launch, the petition has garnered more than 500 signatures. Ammons argues that given an EOBR/ELD mandate coming, the justification for the exemption, written into law in the 1930s, no longer applies. Speaking of EOBRs, carriers large and small have found adoption to be a helpful tool in proving detention to skeptical shippers to force efficiency improvements.

Zachary Bell: I fully agree, but some have taken it too far. Sweeping the trash out of the trailer only takes 5-10 minutes, and some want to charge for that. But for detention and fueling, inspections and breakdowns, I would like to see a pay system for that otherwise uncompensated on-duty time.

Kevin J. Reidy: So many different problems in our industry are directly caused by shippers and receivers, and will never be solved until they are made to pay. After two hours waiting past the appointment time, the driver needs to be compensated by the entity doing the detaining. If you are in the act of being loaded or unloaded, you are on duty — you are to be paid for that time.

For far too long, drivers have been expected to work for free, and the trucking companies that hire them are so used to this free labor provided by their employees they will fight tooth and nail right along with the shipper/receiver to keep things as they are, instead of sticking the customers with a detention bill.

The idea of lumpers from way back, when you had a bill of sale for the perishable product, are long gone. We have Bills of Lading now — none of that stuff belongs to me, so why do I have to pay to unload the product ordered by someone else and that belongs to them?

Whether or not it can fit on their racking system is none of my concern — I don’t work for the warehouse. I don’t care how it’s stacked. It’s my job to bring the correct product in good condition, correct count … and that is it….

Since the FMCSA has already stated that shippers and receivers are outside the scope of their regulatory umbrella, maybe the Department of Labor needs to look into how truckers are forced to work for free. The IRS should also be interested in unpaid labor, as that is tax revenue they are missing out on, and most definitely not legal. They have ruled against other businesses that forced employees to work for free or off the clock to pay back taxes on their employees — why not trucking companies who expect you to work, but don’t pay?

Cory Davidson: $130 detention pay for even a two-hour delay doesn’t cut it when you’ve now missed your next appointment and are held over a whole day. The hope would be that if detention is federally mandated, and they’re getting hit with the fees for every truck, that it would inspire them to evaluate their inefficient loading/unloading procedures. We know it can be done faster. Case in point — Costco used to be a nightmare place to go into. Hours of checking into the gate and waiting in line in the office, and waiting again for your signed bills. Now they’re one of my favorite places to go. The guard shack takes your bills, you back in with a beeper. When it goes off, drive back to the guard and out without even knowing what the inside of that place looks like! I don’t know what prompted them to change, but kudos to them for figuring it out!

  • g

    Fed mandate the company driver gets paid when he punches Arrived into his Qualcom. Hourly until he leaves. The company can either Absorb this cost or collect from their BELOVED customer.

  • g

    Hourly pay will solve ALOT of the inefficiencies and cost cutting that the shipper and receiver are responsible for…they expect the Trucker to absorb all this cost TODAY.
    They have lots of reasons why the driver is delayed..with hourly PAY…..please take all day ith your idiotic operation.
    Local UNION drivers sit there laughing….they are paid for every minute atthese “Customers”.

  • EF McHenry

    Good article and very important issue. As for the round table of driver comments, I find myself in agreement with each of the five driver comments listed but feel Joe Ammons offers a real solutions to the ills of the industry. Trucking has been wrongly over-regulated on the labor or driver end. But you can’t continue to regulate the how, how much, when, and where work(ie trucking)will be done, and ignore the manner in which compensation is given.

  • EF McHenry

    I like the way you put it! Good comment, I Agree!!

  • Robin

    My question is this: What if a truck is delayed due to weather, accidents, another receiver/shipper, etc and doesn’t make his appt? If we are asking shippers/receivers to stick to a mandated detention pay, shouldn’t we also pay if we upset their schedule? I’d like to see a survey on how much time is wasted waiting on a truck to show up. I’m sure it will show that is why some of these delays at shipper/receivers begin.

  • gj4utoo

    The remark about Costco is true they ARE the best receiver in the usa period!

  • Trasporter

    There is no load that can be loaded / unloaded in 2 hours. But as long there are no rules and regulations, shippers/ receivers can do whatever they want.
    Just before Christmas I delivered to Shamrock foods in Phoenix, AZ. I had only one pallet. It took me 30 min to check in, than went to door, lumper wanted $80.00 to unload it, so I did it by my self. After I offloaded it, they told me receiver is at Christmas banquet and will be there in 2 hours
    .I already lost over an hour just to deliver one pallet….
    I didn’t wait for him, went in truck and drove off. And, Yes, I was paid for that delivery…
    My time is valuable too. Respect it.

  • Trasporter

    And by the way, did anyone saw a FedEx, UPS, Saia, Estes driver sitting n dock for hours???
    No, those company’s pay their drivers hourly when they are on duty no matter what they do, and that’s difference between OTR and LTL Drivers. Most LTL drivers make more money that most OTR drivers, they are home every day, sleeping their bed…

  • MillionsOfMiles

    Removing the exemption from the FLSA for drivers covered by federal HOS probably would help with this issue. The only problem is Republicans will NEVER approve a change to the FSLA and if Democrats were ever going to do it, they would have done it between ’08 and ’10 when they controlled all three branches of government (hint: nobody even tried to put forth a bill to legislate the change, so much for advocacy groups claiming they want to help drivers – it’s smoke and mirrors).

  • Jimmy

    I will say from the start. I’m a heavy hauler.
    This is how I handle a receiver that has an attitude or says I have to wait to unload. I will work with a receiver but don’t
    Blow me off. I always have my permits set to pass my destination to a safe haven.
    If they won’t unload me I pickup and leave,then charge demurage.Demand COD. Doesn’t take long to get there attention and respect. 47 yrs. My pants go on the same as there’s .
    One leg at a time.
    Will probably have comments that this is not legal.
    All I can say is try it. Don’t back down.
    If its on your trailer,it’s yours until SIGNED FOR.

  • David Johnson

    You ain’t never lied they have us sitting around there not getting paid UNPROFESSIONAL. But your beloved drivers tolerate it. Hey check this out if a customer called a doctor, lawyer, electrician, plumber etc. and had them sitting around all day they would @#$%X! sure get a bill for the time.

  • BoDuke

    WHO are the retards in the 2% that think electronic logs will do anything for driver retention?????

  • two dollar bill

    We as owner operators sign an 18 page contract to move a load that protects the broker from all responsibility.
    We on the other hand are fined for not calling at certain times, 3 times a day, if we are late, if we don’t fax back the bol by a certain time.
    We also support their business financially for 30 days as we wait for our pay for that load, or we return 5% of the total load back to them so we can get paid in 3 to 5 days.
    The brokers found and have a load available, they have nothing tangible until we complete our end.
    The owner operator has 200,000.00 in equipment, 8,000.00 a year insurance,1,000.00 to 2,000.00 a week fuel bill, 1,000.00nds a month upkeep on equipment and all the responsibility for that load and the others on the road when we move that load.
    Yet, we haven’t a single page contract signed by the broker.
    A simple one page standardized sheet with fill in the blank spaces should be introduced for owner operators to fill out and have signed by the brokers.
    I have done it in the past mostly with no argument.

  • Kevin J. Reidy

    Drivers and trucking companies are routinely assessed fees by receivers for being late to their appointments, no matter the reason; even if it was the shipper that fouled the schedule and made in impossible to make the delivery appointment.

    I have personally witnessed a driver at a WalMart DC who was *on their property, and in line at the truck gate* finally get checked in but got to the receiving office ten minutes past his appointment time.

    He was told that he needed to call his dispatch to re-schedule the load for the following day, as WalMart refused to accept it because it was “late”.

    The only reason he was late was because the employees at the truck gate were totally incompetent, it was taking them ten minutes to check in one truck at a time, and there were ten to twelve trucks waiting to get checked in.

    The driver got there in plenty of time, the real reason he was late was because of the customer themselves.

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  • Michael

    Wow. When’s the last time you’ve seen a load board? You think “LTL” means “Less Truck Living”?? I’m home every night in a different parking lot. TL And LTL are both OTR; The difference is how many ignorant jerks need to be dealt with in a day. Get into moving pizza- you’re obviously to delicate and talented to be sleeping in a truck. Better yet- try being one of the guys who pull LTL with a pickup for a week. Curl up on your seat without your television, fridge, or heat in the winter and then maybe you can learn to handle what you signed up for when you’re snug in your pumpkin.

  • Michael

    And BTW(that means By The Way), FYI(For Your Information)a single pallet typically is a partial/LTL.

  • B Piel

    I have said this very same thing for over 30 years and I am so glade someone else has finially got the picture!

  • B Piel

    This is correct! once you load and sign the BOL it is your baby and at your risk! I have heavy hauled for 30 years and am told if I am late for any reason [snow, rain,traffic etc] I will be charged 150.00 to 1500.00 an hour for the crane and crew but when I am on time [which I have never been late] I am not paid when I set for hours waiting on the crane and crew to show up or when other things like waiting for the wind to die down so the crane can lift off my cell. I break out my dentition slip and head for the boss and when he sees what I want singed and the dollar amount per hour it sure gets his attition and things start to happen, Yes I have pissed off some companys but thats life. Once you tell the man in charge this will be COD it is amazing how fast a big dog shows up on site to get the problem squared away! Per BOL as long as it is on my truck its my property!

  • Transporter

    Michael, I do look on load boards all the time as I do own and operate a fleet, and occasionally I do drive my self. I give my 2 cents here, and if you like to sit on someone’s dock for hours free, do it. If you sleep on parking lots so be it. I don’t give rats ass about that. I’m in his business to make money, and the faster I complete one ha ul and get to another I made more money. The same is for my drivers too. It’s called productivity and profit.
    Learn the basics in business management.
    And if you continue wasting your time on docks and parking lots around country, you will find your self really fast under the bridge.

  • Dave

    I guess it determines how lazy you are. If your company isn’t paying you your detention. Your not to smart. Paying you to fuel your own truck. Come on! Really? Getting paid for your detention is a given. But, if your lazy. You won’t mind sitting doing nothing and getting paid. (Sounds like welfare). The problem is: If your at a dock half the damn day, logging fuel stops, logging this logging that. You have know time left to make actual money. You may miss your next load or that load home. All this crap adds up in time. And $20 a hour. Yes pay me my detention. But that doesn’t support my truck. Quit regulating me to death and let me roll and earn my money. Quit basing my livelihood in a lab. I’m a adult,quit telling me my bedtime. Quit making choices for my business you know nothing about.


    I never got paid a dime for detention, even at K-mart, which always kept us all day. K-mart was a union shop, so their unloaders read newpapers through 7.5 hours of their 8-hour shifts and unloaded all the trucks in the last 30 minutes of their shift, deliberately delaying every trucker. The trucking companies need to get together on this. But they won’t because they are all fighting for the freight. If a group of them demand detention pay or restrictions on detention, some others will agree to forego it and grab the freight.

  • tracy

    I have a small trucking company. We send a detention ,lumper, damage and shortage policy to every broker/ customer we deal with. I have refused several loads because they would not agree with our policies. I have several more that agree to the policy with no intention of ever living up to it. And lets face it why would they? On an individual basis none of it is enough money for the carrier to actually go to another state, attorney in hand to sue for a few hundred dollars. I do not know what the answer is, since I do not like the government controlling my business. On the other hand they are so deeply involved(DOT) they might as well be in it even more. In my mind this isn’t the shipper/receivers fault at all. Drivers can not get paid for this stuff because the carrier can’t make enough money on the load. We either wait for drivers to say they are done, and then there will not be enough trucks to do the loads or the government mandate rates that allow carriers to make enough money to pay a fair wage. Again I do not like the government involved, I would rather have the game take care of itself. When these places can not get the products they need in a timely fashion they will have to pay to get it there. Eventually the market will take care of itself. I also say that you drivers that are crying about your wages, need to look in the mirror, who do you drive for? The big companies are the ones who underbid everything. I do not go into a place trying to get their freight by being the cheapest carrier. The big companies do and they offer some ridiculous bids because they are not paying you anything close to what should be payed. By you driving or leasing on with these big companies you are helping them to run the rest of us out of the business. 10 years ago, I had a run from chaska ,mn to westfield ma. I was paid 3600.00 for 1350 miles. In 2008 we gave up that customer as several big companies came in a reduced that rate to 2600.00. At 3600.00 I could afford to pay my drivers very well. At 2600. 00 I could not afford to repair my trucks let alone pay the drivers what they should be getting

  • Webb Kline

    I think the biggest problem we have is that the trucking associations think all we have to do is to jack up the rates or not deliver certain places. They don’t want to add more regulations by regulating shippers and receivers, and I am sympathetic to those concerns. Yet, this battle is not the truckers, carriers or brokers to fight. We can do very little. Yes, I try to get better compensation, and sometimes that works, but when you’re dealing with companies like C&S Wholesale, who are on the verge of becoming a monopoly here in the Northeast, there are always going to be carriers who will cut the throats of their own drivers, not to mention everyone else, by giving companies like C&S rates that are unacceptable.

    The burden of cleaning up hours of service compliance should never have been given to trucking, but to the ones who have created the problem to begin with. I think Ferro is just passing the buck. From a regulatory standpoint, it’s her mess to fix, and if shippers and receivers are causing the bulk of the problem, then they ARE complicit, and she needs to call them out on it. I’m not for more regulation, but I am for the government doing its job of protecting the safety and well-being of the public, and penalizing the people (truckers) whose safety is being jeopardized by shippers and receivers who have no accountability in the matter whatsoever, is hardly a productive, reasonable or humane way to do it. Ferro has no clue and needs to go, along with just about every other crony in this administration.

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  • Robin

    I appreciate your input. I’ve owned a company for ten years and haven’t been charged a late fee, no call fee or any of those other fees that are common with brokers. But, if we ask the Feds to step in, then, we are asking for such fees to be charged and overstated. Personally, I’m sick of them and their idea of safety. But, that’s a whole other discussion.

    Also, I’m not for paying an hourly pay. The last thing I want to do is pay a driver to take time shopping, talking or eating after fueling. The driver has too much control over how he controls his time and could easily milk it.

    The best solution is to handle it as you are booking loads or signing contracts. A website that helped identify trouble shippers/receivers would be helpful. Take for instance: I hauled a load for a broker to Fry/Krogers in Tolleson, AZ. They told me that it was a min of 6 hours before Fry/Krogers paid detention. I happen to also haul for them directly and I know they pay $60 after the first three hours. This broker was just trying to keep that for his coffers. I’ve since passed this info on to other drivers so they can press for their detention and stop giving the receiver such a bad name. This is something that would work good on a monitoring board.

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  • Old Trucker

    I have an easy solution for the problem. Log all time spent at a shipper on duty not driving, dont count it against the drivers hours and require trucking companies to report logs that show more than 2 hours at a shipper or consignee to the Dept of Transportation and let them mess with those guilty parties instead of messing with drivers for something that is beyond their control!?

  • Old Trucker

    Detention is ridiculous anymore. Sometimes I think they just do it to mess a drivers log up. If they see its going to cost them money, theyll do something about it. Right now a driver has no legal leg to stand on. If the trucking company wont do anything about it, theres nothing the driver can do? He/she can do a detention form but Ive found that most of the time they wont sign it. Even if they do, it does nothing but hurt the driver on his/her log. So he/shes still the one that gets the short end of the stick-he/she pays for their neglect with his/her logbook and usually dont get detention money either. Heck why dont we blame the driver for the accident that happened on the other side of the country while we’re at it as well? Be the same difference? strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.