Detention détente: Old Time Express

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Updated Aug 16, 2023

The anchor story in the “Detention détente” multipart feature was published September 14, 2015, at this link.

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Old Time Express Operations Manager Mark White’s family-owned (with his founder father, Bo, and brother, Mitch) small fleet is in a decent spot relative to detention time. It’s one among a minority of similarly sized fleets to have outfitted trucks with Code of Federal Regulations 391.15-compliant automatic onboard recording devices (AOBRDs). Those would qualify as electronic logging devices (ELDs), more or less, in the language of the e-logs mandate proposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in 2014 and projected to reach final rule stage with its release this month.

“Since we are on electronic logs,” White says, “there’s no arguing about whether the truck’s there or not” at a shipper or receiver’s location. “It’s indisputable.”

Mark WhiteMark White

They’re also lucky in the turn that has taken place in recent years among their direct non-broker customers toward better acceptance of the need to compensate the fleet for undue load and unload times. “My direct customers rarely hold us up,” White says. “And if it is a situation where there was a production issue and they have to hold up my truck, they never argue about paying detention.”

The same applies at the relatively few problem receiver customers of those shippers. One of White’s prominent direct customers ships to many facilities, but if one of those receivers holds up an Old Time truck, White’s shipper customer “doesn’t just say, ‘You have to take it up with them,’ ” he says.

Rates in Old Time’s contracts with regular customers specify $50 an hour after two hours as the detention standard. Company drivers are paid $15 to $20 hourly if Old Time collects any detention, and leased owner-operators get 75 percent of all accessorial items, or $37.50 hourly.

The rate is determined somewhat arbitrarily, White says. “My dad and I were sitting around talking about this the other day,” he said in August. The figure is “just an arbitrary figure from the 1980s” when Bo White started the business. “In my mind, a truck needs to generate $100 to $150 an hour in revenue.”

This old racecar bumper hangs in the rafters of Old Time Express’ shop at its Tennessee headquarters, testament to fleet founder Bo White’s relationship-building during the 1990s. Cathy Ludwig of Sport Rack Automotive was, essentially, the shipper that gave White a commitment of potential business when he was transitioning to his own authority from an operation where he was leased to a small carrier. When Sport Rack went out of business, Old Time diversified lanes across the Midwest and elsewhere and secured some direct freight in and around Hartsville.This old racecar bumper hangs in the rafters of Old Time Express’ shop at its Tennessee headquarters, testament to fleet founder Bo White’s relationship-building during the 1990s. Cathy Ludwig of Sport Rack Automotive was, essentially, the shipper that gave White a commitment of potential business when he was transitioning to his own authority from an operation where he was leased to a small carrier. When Sport Rack went out of business, Old Time diversified lanes across the Midwest and elsewhere and secured some direct freight in and around Hartsville.

With the tight capacity situation in the truckload market, White and company have considering approaching customers about boosting the detention rate to a more realistic level, he says.

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The fleet’s already aggressive on brokered loads where it sees its biggest problems, given often unfamiliar load/unload locations. White told his dispatch team to tell brokers, “You’ve got one hour, and it’s $100 an hour after that” for detention.

The decision to get tougher in negotiations was driven by situations like a recent one where a receiver couldn’t figure out who ordered the freight and delayed one of White’s drivers from unloading. “The truck was there for two hours. At that point, I called the broker, and the broker said two hours wasn’t excessive.” After more time went by and the broker resisted assisting with the situation, White threatened to pull the truck and told the broker, “Right’s right and wrong’s wrong. I don’t want another load from you.”

A broker that fails in his middleman’s role, White suggests, is not worth the heartache. Lack of clear “communication is still the number one issue that causes breakdown,” he says.

He’s fortunate to have open lines of communications with core customers, but others need improvement. One tends to ignore trucks’ appointment times as they arrive. “Do they get a warm and fuzzy feeling seeing trucks stacked up in the driveway? If consumers had to go through a similar experience going to the store and waiting in lines like these, those stores would quickly go out of business.”

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