Fleet managers have to deal with scheduling delays that keep drivers from reaching their destination; disruptions like traffic congestion, severe weather conditions, breakdowns, and changing regulations. These disruptions occur before the truck arrives at a facility to either load or unload its cargo. But there is another delay that costs fleets (and drivers) in time and money that occur once they reach their destination.
Detention is the bane of drivers and fleets
Few things can be more exasperating for a driver (and the company) than having a truck meet its schedule for pickup or delivery as far as making it to the loading dock and then having to wait, sometimes for hours, to complete their task. A recent CCJ article noted that, according to the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) 2023 list of top issues, driver detention at customer facilities still ranks as a top trucking concern.
For drivers who need to comply with HOS, long detention can mean a driver runs out of legal driving hours. The driver loses money and time and so does the company. Back in 2019, when ATRI did a comprehensive study on driver detention, they found that “Drivers reported a 27.4% increase in delays of six or more hours.” In addition, the report notes that “There was a nearly 40% increase in drivers who reported that most of their pick-ups and deliveries were delayed over the past 12 months due to customer actions.”
The causes vary from bad scheduling on the part of the warehouse, leading to too many vehicles waiting to load or unload at the same time, to severe understaffing and other variables. Since fleet managers have little control over these situations, there is a limit to what can be done. However, there are steps fleet managers can undertake to mitigate the effects.
- Negotiate stronger contracts – Discuss detention policies with shippers and receivers before entering into contracts. Outline the company expectations for loading and unloading times and negotiate detention compensation for drivers when delays are considerably longer. Many fleets charge a detention fee of about $100/hour once the delay is longer than 2 hours. Drivers are paid between $20 and $50 for every hour spent waiting beyond the 2-hour overtime allotment.
- Invest in real-time tracking tools – These tools, along with communication tools, will let fleets monitor the progress of the truck and communicate with drivers. That will enable fleet managers to make adjustments in resources.
- Optimize appointment scheduling – Along with the tools discussed in the point above, fleets should invest in a routing optimization and scheduling tool. This will help align driver arrival times with loading dock availability, reducing wait times.
- Analyze data – Every fleet should have access to a robust data software solution. This solution will benefit the fleet operationally in each aspect of the business. On the topic of detention, the data will identify which facilities seem to be recurring problems when it comes to detention. Once this is known, the information can be used to make more informed decisions, build flexibility into schedules, and be better prepared in the future. This data can be very important when negotiating new contracts.
- Keep communication lines open – From the shipper to the receiver to the driver, everyone needs to know what is happening at every step of the way. Drivers need to be informed of any schedule changes as far in advance as possible as well as how they need to communicate with the company dispatcher when loading or unloading times are affected.
It’s clear that the cost of detention for fleet managers and drivers is more than monetary. Operational efficiency takes a hit as does driver morale. But managers can mitigate the damage by acting proactively and using technology.