SPECIAL REPORT: At long last, a bill targets detention time at the docks

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 2/17/2011

Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011 – U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-OR, filed a bill today aimed at holding shippers and receivers accountable for the time that truckers are unnecessarily detained at the docks. OOIDA leadership immediately issued a statement in support of the bill.

DeFazio’s bill, HR756, would direct the secretary of transportation to study the issue of driver detention time and establish standards for the maximum number of hours a trucker may be detained at the docks.

The bill calls for a final rule to be in place one year after enactment that would deal with issues of driver safety, hours of service, violations and penalties relating to detention. Shippers and receivers would have to compensate truck drivers that are detained beyond a reasonable amount of time determined by the study and rulemaking.

OOIDA leadership thanked DeFazio for taking this important issue to task.

“In a just-in-time, deregulated industry, trucking has de-evolved to where truckers are donating their time to the benefit of shippers and receivers,” OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said.

“The problem persists because it doesn’t cost shippers or receivers to squander drivers’ time.”

According to bill language, “A shipper or receiver may not detain a person who operates a commercial motor vehicle transporting property in interstate commerce before the loading or unloading of such vehicle without providing compensation for time detained beyond the maximum number of hours that the Secretary determines, by regulation, is reasonable.”

OOIDA has been pushing for years for a solution to unreasonable detention time. Wasted time at the docks is routinely among the top issues that drivers complain about.

And they have good reason.

A 2009 Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration study showed that wasted time at the docks costs the trucking industry $3 billion and the public another $6.5 billion each year.

The Government Accountability Office, or GAO, began investigation about a year ago into detention time issues and interviewing drivers and industry stakeholders. DeFazio made the GAO report, which he requested, public in conjunction with the filing of the bill.

“About 65 percent of drivers reported lost revenue as a result of detention time from either missing an opportunity to secure another load or paying late fees to the shipper,” GAO officials stated in the report.

“(F)acility limitations, arriving for a scheduled pick-up and finding the product was not ready for shipment, poor service provided by facility staff, and facility scheduling practices were the most frequently cited contributing factors.”

In a press release, DeFazio said he sought the GAO study because it was clear that detention time was a problem.

“Over the years I’ve heard anecdotes from truck drivers that detention time is a big problem and contributes significantly to inefficiencies in the supply chain productivity,” DeFazio said. “I asked GAO to study detention time and quantify the results. It’s clear from the report that detaining truckers at loading docks is a significant problem that FMCSA needs to regulate.”

Spencer says it’s about time that truck drivers were given some assurances without worrying about detention time cutting into their hours of service.

“The colossal, mind-numbing wait times at loading docks are the biggest drain on productivity and on drivers,” Spencer said. “Shippers and receivers have for too long gotten away with wasting truckers’ time without any accountability for their role in the ultimate effect it has on highway safety.”

In February 2009, OOIDA Director of Regulatory Affairs Joe Rajkovacz testified on the issue of efficiency before a joint House panel in February 2009 in California. The panel included the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, which DeFazio chaired at the time.

“While truckers actually are sticklers for appointments and show up on time, many shippers and receivers are indifferent to the amount of time spent by a driver at the docks or apathetic to whether the truck is being released into rush hour traffic,” Rajkovacz told the panel.

“If somehow, a trucker’s time spent loading and unloading actually represented a potential cost to shippers, shippers and receivers would have an incentive to be more aware and more efficient.”

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