DOT report shows detention time results in more crashes, lost earnings

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 2/2/2018

Electronic loggings devices and hours of service regulations are causing a variety of issues for truckers, and driver detention just exacerbates those problems. A recently released study by the U.S. Department of Transportation quantifies the consequences of delays occurring before loading and unloading. Long story short: Driver detention creates a safety issue and is costing drivers more than $1 billion each year.

In a report mandated by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015, the U.S. DOT’s Office of Inspector General found that a 15-minute increase in average dwell time increases the average expected crash rate by 6.2 percent. Based on 2013 crash data of 104,318 crashes that year, a 6.2 percent increase would result in approximately 6,500 more crashes.

An increase in crashes may be the result of drivers trying to make up for lost time or being fatigued after waiting at a dock for too long. In a memorandum from Assistant Inspector General Barry DeWeese to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration dated Jan. 31, DeWesse cited research that suggests just that.

“The research also indicated that drivers who experience detention may also drive unsafely due to fatigue or desire to recover lost income—increasing the risk of crashes that result in fatalities, injuries, and financial costs,” DeWeese wrote in the letter.

In terms of costs, for-hire commercial motor vehicle drivers lose between $1.1 billion and $1.3 billion in annual earnings because of detention time. That comes out to $1,281 to $1,534 per driver per year, according to the report. Motor carriers lose $250.6 million to $302.9 million in net income each year.

Although some motor carriers charge shippers detention fees and pass some of that down to the drivers, most do the opposite. The report cites a 2015 American Transportation Research Institute survey that reveals about 60 percent of carriers passed “some portion of these fees to their drivers.” Additionally, 37 percent of respondents to a 2014 Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association study reported that they receive no compensation for detention time.

While the data reflects what many drivers have been complaining about for years, actual numbers could vary up or down. In the report, the U.S. DOT notes “accurate industrywide data on driver detention do not currently exist because most industry stakeholders measure only time spent at a shipper or receiver’s facility beyond the limit established in shipping contracts.” As a result, the DOT recommends that FMCSA improves its collection of data on driver detention.

To support its claim of insufficient data, the report refers to a 2014 FMCSA study on detention time that used data from only 29 medium and large carriers and two small carriers. The DOT pointed out that the vast majority of motor carriers are those with three or fewer trucks. FMCSA has relied on a voluntary reporting form on its website for data. Despite the insufficiency of the data collection method, FMCSA had no plans to improve the collection process for detention data, stating that it is an industry problem, not theirs.

“According to an FMCSA official, the costs of rigorous data collection and analysis would likely outweigh the benefit and the Agency primarily views detention as a market efficiency problem best addressed by private industry rather than through government action,” the report says.

FMCSA plans to address data collection recommendation by engaging industry stakeholders to discuss potential methods to collect representative data on the frequency and severity of driver detention times, according to the report. FMCSA plans to implement the recommendation by Dec. 31, 2019.



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