ELDs put spotlight on the detention quagmire

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Previously in this series: Dealing with hours violations beyond your control in ELDs

The uncertainty around detention timing in live-load/-unload situations is perhaps the biggest potential problem for drivers and carriers using ELDs.

It’s also one in which ELDs may be the best tool for combatting the issue, to the benefit of drivers and fleets.

Some observers believe that for shippers and receivers to avoid sabotaging drivers’ schedules, those customers will need to be involved in ELD implementation – in a sense, trained by carriers and drivers for the new reality.

“The customer has to change their expectation,” says Heartland Express driver Bob Stanton, who advises drivers and carriers alike to get as hard-nosed as possible with them. Whenever delays put him behind schedule, where a reasonable expectation of load or unload times would cause him to exceed his on-duty maximum, “I document that I don’t have legal hours and stop five minutes from my customer, and we move [the pick or drop] to the morning” or pursue another fix such as a relay, he says.

Hear an Overdrive Radio podcast talk with Atlanta-based independent owner-operator Rico Muhammad on these subjects via this link.Hear an Overdrive Radio podcast talk with Atlanta-based independent owner-operator Rico Muhammad on these subjects via this link.

Owner-operator Charles Alexander, leased to Landstar, also acknowledges the issue in his operation. He’s been taking a high-touch approach with customers since his move to e-logs in 2016. “I like to call and let them know I’m coming,” he says. “I let them know what my hours are. I think they appreciate the fact that I let them know.”

Similarly, he keeps communication lines open with the Landstar agent on the load to clue them into the extent of wait times, if any. If there’s an issue with hours, he uses annotations within the e-log to create a record of what happened. That feature — and the reality that such annotations then are readily available to company management — is something he appreciates about the electronic hours-recording environment.

No more “pinning everything on the driver,” Alexander says. “I can show [the issues] on the ELD,” which wasn’t necessarily the common practice on paper, given log book-catch-up dynamics. “It can create a dispute” down the line about just what happened in the event of a service failure “if I can’t show it.”

“Dealing with a live load or unload near the end of the 14-hour on-duty period” on paper logs often involved hiding time spent finding a safe place to park after the load was off and the driver was out of hours, Stanton says. With e-logs today, “the days of going in blind, not knowing what you’re getting into at a live-load customer, are over for me.”

Stanton uses the Dock411 app/service for intel on unfamiliar shipper and receiver locations as a backup to other resources.

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