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Understanding the Effects of Driver Detention

Posted by Terry Freeze on March 2, 2021 - 3:35 PM
Driver waiting in truck

How is detention impacting your supply chain?

Driver detention has been a big issue in the transportation industry for many years, but electronic logging devices (ELDs) have put a spotlight on the topic since the mandate took full effect in 2019. Though the impact of ELDs is still being analyzed, the way they record drivers’ hours of service (HOS) has made time more valuable than ever. No longer can drivers adjust paper logs to drive beyond the legal HOS to deliver a shipment on schedule. Instead, hours are tracked using data from the vehicle’s engine. And if a driver is detained for longer than the negotiated free time (2 hours in most cases), the shipper has to pay for that time.

But what impact does detention really have on your supply chain? And what steps can you take to prevent detention and keep shipments moving?

The real cost of detention time

According to a report from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) inspector general’s office, detention costs commercial motor vehicle drivers more than $1 billion per year. And when you factor in the fees shippers pay — which average $63.71 per hour of detention — the financial impact across the industry is undeniable. But beyond the immediate monetary losses, shippers and carriers also experience productivity losses that can create downstream effects, including:

  • Less capacity. The longer trucks stay idle, the less freight each one can move.
  • Overtime pay. If your workers are consistently staying late to load shipments, overtime pay is likely impacting your bottom line.
  • Dissatisfied customers. Detention can lead to missed delivery appointments, which could impact your brand reputation.


Tips for reducing detention

Though detention is an issue that affects the entire industry, and not all things are within your control, there are some steps you can take to limit delays and help get drivers back on the road. Following these tips will increase efficiencies so you can prevent detention charges and keep your shipments on schedule:

Have everything ready

Preparing for a driver’s arrival is the easiest way to prevent detention. Along with getting shipments ready for the scheduled pick up time, you’ll also need to have the proper paperwork, equipment and staff on hand. Nothing slows drivers down like having to wait for products to get manufactured, your staff to find the right tools or for people to return from breaks. And those occurrences are surprisingly common. In an American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) survey, nearly 22% of respondents cited paperwork and product issues/readiness as the reason for driver delay. And issues involving dock employees made up another 31% of responses.

Simple strategies like arranging breaks around pickup appointments and creating pre-shipment checklists can help everything run more smoothly. The more oversight you have into these processes, the less risk of unnecessarily holding up a driver — which ultimately saves you time and money.

Adjust your timing

Set yourself up for success with appropriate dock hours and optimal timing for pickup appointments and other time-sensitive events. Consider extending your dock hours to accommodate for delays from rush hour traffic and leaving more time between appointments so you have plenty of time to load/unload. These tactics can make a big difference in how quickly freight gets moving, and it’s a good idea to save time anywhere you can since not all delays can be anticipated or avoided. 

Add warehouse staff

Though it isn’t always cost-effective to add more staff, your warehouse can get a lot more productive if more people are available to help load and unload trucks. This will allow drivers to finish at your facility faster, which should result in more on-time deliveries and fewer detention fees.

Consider other modes or solutions

If detention is a common occurrence, you may need to switch transportation strategies. A drop trailer program can be a good way for shippers with consistent lanes to reduce detention. Because the driver leaves the trailer at the facility and picks it back up at a later day/time, it’s much easier for shipments to stay on schedule. Freight consolidation may be another solution for some companies. If it makes sense in your supply chain to consolidate multiple LTL shipments into a single truckload shipment, you’ll reduce the number of trailers you need to handle each day. Work with your transportation provider to find the solution that best fits your needs.

Limit delays by partnering with a trusted provider

Increasing the efficiency of your internal processes can make a drastic difference in how often you pay detention fees. But because detention is a two-way street, it’s also incredibly important to have a transparent and collaborative relationship with your transportation provider. Communicating with a trusted partner can help you find issues before they lead to delay.

ArcBest offers a full suite of logistics services, and our team is ready to help you solve your supply chain challenges. Whether that means finding the right mode for an individual shipment, optimizing your distribution model, or helping you gain insight through a TMS, we’ve got the resources and knowledge needed to help you cut costs and gain efficiencies. Learn more about ArcBest solutions

Suggested article: Common accessorial charges in LTL and FTL shipping.

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