Hours of disservice: ATA board votes to oppose regulating detention time

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 5/20/2011

Bucking an effort that would save the U.S. economy an estimated $6.5 billion per year, the American Trucking Associations Board of Directors voted last week to oppose a bill that would eliminate the squandered time at the docks.

The ATA Board voted at its annual leadership meeting to oppose efforts to regulate detention time. In a press release, ATA called on policymakers to “respect contracts between carriers and shippers and abandon proposals to interfere in those arrangements.”

The effort ATA opposes is House bill HR756, which OOIDA supports. The bill, filed in February by Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-OR, calls on the U.S. Department of Transportation to quantify detention time, issue regulations to set the maximum number of hours a driver can be detained without compensation, and impose penalties against shippers and receivers that don’t pay for unreasonable detention time.

According to a Government Accountability Office report that coincided with DeFazio’s bill in February, 65 percent of drivers reported losing revenue because of wasted time at the docks and 80 percent of drivers reported that detention time hindered them from meeting hours-of-service requirements.

FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro is on record saying the issue must be addressed. FMCSA’s own study showed detention time costs truckers $3.9 billion and costs the public $6.5 billion in lost productivity.

“ATA and its members value the time of our drivers,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said following the Board’s decision. “However, federal intervention into this area would have significant impacts on the contractual agreements between carriers and shippers.”

An OOIDA study showed drivers can lose as much as 40 hours a week waiting to be loaded or unloaded.

ATA First Vice President Dan England stated the following: “No carrier wants to see our drivers’ time wasted. However, this is not an issue that can be handled with a ‘one-size-fits-all’ regulation and as a result is best addressed in contractual agreements between carriers and shippers.”

OOIDA President Jim Johnston said if that’s really the case, why aren’t the issues being addressed and why is a driver’s time being bartered away by these motor carriers in their greedy pursuit of more freight?

“The ability of carriers to negotiate rates, routes and service with our shippers is very important to us,” said, ATA Chairman Barbara Windsor, president and CEO of Hahn Transportation. “Federal regulation in this area would directly affect shipping rates and would significantly change the playing field for carriers and shippers.”

While the ATA’s position on detention time is infuriating, it’s also typical, Johnston said.

“I really can’t find the words to express my disgust and anger over this,” Johnston said. “But when you think about it, and the things that these people have done in the past that are similar, like supporting speed limiters on trucks, electronic on-board recorders, increased truck size and weight limits, increased roadside enforcement, it’s not surprising.

“We hear a lot of drivers referring to ATA as ‘Anti-Trucking Association.’ If this doesn’t add to the confirmation of that opinion, I don’t know what does.”

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