Personal Injury

Bill addresses loading dock detention time impact on productivity, safety

Independent truck operators have voiced concerns over the time they and their drivers are detained at loading docks waiting for cargo to be readied for pickup or unloading, and a new study has been ordered to that could change trucking industry rules from compensation to Hours-of-Service regulations.

Oregon congressman Peter DeFazio introduced legislation last Thursday directing the U.S. Department of Transportation to study just how much time truckers typically lose while waiting at loading docks and to establish a maximum number of hours drivers my be detained without compensation.

“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 (Government Accountability Office) 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 (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) needs to regulate.”

The legislation, H.R. 756, would require shippers and receivers to pay a fee to drivers for detention beyond the time limit established by the Transportation Department. Failure to compensate for excessive detention time would result in civil penalties being levied against shippers.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which represents more than 152,000 independent contractors, praised the legislation for the way it would make shippers and receivers accountable for their role in diminished productivity throughout the supply chain. The association also said that the bill would make significant improvements to highway safety.

A 2009 study conducted by the FMCSA estimated that waiting for loading and unloading cost carriers over $3 billion dollars annually. Supporters of the bill assert that time and money are squandered by shippers and receivers who have little regard for the carrier. Drivers are often forced to wait hours for a shipment to be readied without compensation, affecting their ability to make a living, especially under tighter Hours-of-Service requirements.

GAO studies show that driver detention and lost earnings are no small problem. Sixty-eight percent of 300 drivers polled reported being detained within the last month. Eighty percent of drivers who had experienced detention time reported that being detained impacted their ability to meet hours of service requirements.