Driver Detention occurs when the shipper impedes the truck driver from loading or unloading through no fault of the carrier. The acceptable industry standard is two hours, although rules tariffs (carrier rules that govern their operation and their charges) allow up to four hours. Most carriers have a two hour grace period before they start charging penalties. Currently carriers are charging detention rates ranging from $25 to $90 per hour.

At the present time, waiting at the docks and terminals is a contentious issue for truckers and carriers, and is often blamed for causing a driver shortage. Some shippers, such as Dick’s Sporting Goods and Clorox use drop and hook programs which allows drivers to pick up full trailers quickly and drop empties. Unfortunately, they are limited in controlling delays in unloading at the customer’s end, and not all shippers are as accommodating. Those shippers need to be convinced that reducing distribution bottlenecks will lead to cost-saving that can benefit everyone.

Although most carriers charge for detention, there is sometimes reluctance to impose because carriers fear loss of the shipper’s business. According to a 2009 study, the hours consumed in waiting, the miles not traveled while waiting and subsequent lost earnings cost $4 billion annually. When the carriers are paid detention fees, some carriers may not necessarily pass along the money to compensate drivers for lost time and wages.

A veteran transportation attorney claims that carriers and shippers must detail driver detention standards and penalties in their contracts and rule tariffs and enforce them. Otherwise, federal regulators will step in and do it for them.

Besides the fact that the truck driver is being shorted on compensation or not being compensated at all, there are also implications for driver safety. A FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) study is looking at the relationship between detention and crashes. The agency has heard accounts of drivers being detained for as long as 14 hours. They feel that this places a lot of pressure on drivers, especially owner-operators who are attempting to observe the hours of service.

The agency has completed phase one of a study of the effects of detention on safety, compensation and compliance. Also on the 2014 agenda is the CSA (compliance, safety and accountability) program, electronic logging initiative and hours of service rules, the FMCSA is studying additional regulation of driver detention to prevent driver fatigue.