detention paymentIt’s time to ship the goods.  Who does the shipping lead call?

Shipping departments will sometimes tell brokers not to put a load on a load board.  The shipper doesn’t want just any trucker hauling their loads.  I respect that because these are the shippers I want to work for.  They recognize the value of the transportation industry.  They’re willing to pay for the best service they can afford.

I get dozens of emails a day looking for truckers to haul loads. Most of them I find we can handle.  There are always a few that I wonder if I want to handle… just like there are a few truckers I don’t want to work with again.

Sally’s Story

Sally has been driving for several years now.  Back in June, she arrived when she was scheduled, but the load wasn’t ready.  Finally, the shipping office told her, “Come back tomorrow morning. We get off in 15 minutes.”

So Sally spent an extra night just to get the load first thing the next morning.  She’d already committed her time and fuel to pick up this load.  Giving up meant finding another load and taking a loss on the deadhead miles.

In 2019, OOIDA published a 15 page report on detention pay.  According to their surveys, 36% of drivers wait 11 to 20 hours per week for loads to be loaded or unloaded.

The trucking industry has traditionally defined detention as any time spent waiting to load or unload in excess of two hours, thereby if a driver spends five hours waiting to load at a dock, the first two hours would be considered free, while the remaining three would be classified as detention. Although members indicated that shippers and receivers utilize this customary definition in general, they presented additional definitions for detention time, which included anything in excess of a half hour to an hour and all time spent at a pick-up or delivery location, including when their truck first enters the yard.  – 2019 Detention Time Survey

Breaking Down Detention Pay

The trucker gets in trouble when a shipment is late.

Several members commented that while they are often penalized by a shipper or receiver if they are late  for their pick-up or delivery time, shippers and receivers ought to be held accountable for breaking appointment times. – 2019 Detention Time Survey

When shippers fail to honor detention pay, drivers aren’t the only ones who suffer.  It’s not only about the money.  Look at it this way: if a driver is forced to wait to load or unload, they get behind schedule and may push harder to make up the time.  They’ll skip rest breaks or park in unsafe locations if they run out of hours.  Drivers have enough stress without this added headache.

Surprisingly, truckers have mixed feelings about trying to collect detention pay.  For instance, in past surveys conducted by OOIDA, 52% of respondents indicate that they always attempt to collect detention pay.  However, most of the remaining 48% believe they won’t receive it no matter how hard they try. 

An independent owner-operator can choose just not pick up loads for a shipper who has failed to either load the freight in a timely way or who fails to pay detention fees.  A leased-on trucker may not have that right.  Failure to pay detention fees means the driver is really working for free.  Even the rates that many shippers will pay for detention are low – too low. 

This can translate to thousands of dollars in lost revenue.  

Load boards such as the DAT load board or freeload boards may be of some assistance in helping drivers avoid detention.  But, things happen.  Ultimately, the shipper is the primary culprit in charge of ruining a driver’s week, and they should be willing to compensate.

Detention Pay: It’s All About Time

When a trucker agrees to take a load or a fleet manager assigns it, both recognize that there’s a time element in the shipping.  The trucker wants the delivery done as quickly as possible so the invoice can be sent and paid and the next load loaded and moved.  Profit is made when a load gets moved as fast as possible.

Sometimes brokers or fleet managers will even tell the trucker the appointment time is earlier than the shipper’s schedule, just to be sure that the truck is there on time.  Truckers want to be there on time or earlier.  Delays in picking up a load from the dock cost trucker money.

Why Detention Pay Matters

Drivers probably suffer the most when it comes to detention, but other customers and the driver’s company can feel the ill effects as well.  Why?  Think about it this way: if a driver has to wait for hours at a loading dock, he’s agitated and tired.  Plus, he may have other loads on his truck that need to be delivered.  So he’s getting behind and getting really stewed about it.  His frustration can manifest in reckless driving as he attempts to make up lost time, with an accident being the ultimate price.  

Detaining a driver can have repercussions down the line.  Although there are truckers who refuse to haul for those customers who repeatedly detain drivers, it doesn’t truly solve the problem.  Those customers simply find another trucker or another company to haul their goods.  

How long and how much?

Typically, detention pay trucking standards dictate that trucks must be loaded within two hours.  After that, the shipper is expected to pay from $25 to $100 for each hour the driver is kept waiting over the limit.  However, this fee doesn’t always make up for the costs already incurred.  According to DOT, drivers lose about $1 billion or more in pay each year because of detention.  So, if you’re asking what is detention pay and does it matter, the answer is, yes, detention pay matters.  A lot.

Why?  To put it in the simplest terms:  ELD.

Now that we’ve got electronic logbooks tracking the truckers, there’s no downtime.  A trucker is on duty, regardless of driving or sitting in a dock until the clock that stops at 14 hours.  On duty means the trucker is working.  There’s simply no give in the rulebook.  At 14 hours, the trucker is supposed to stop the truck, regardless of how many actual miles have been driven or how many hours were on the road.

The shipper doesn’t really care too much about time because, from their perspective, the driver isn’t hired yet.  They think only about the driver’s time from the time the truck pulls away from their dock until it arrives at the destination.  They think the trucker is going to deliver in exactly the time that Google Maps says it will take to drive there.  If a trucker has wasted 6 hours in the dock, they only have 8 more hours on the clock.  That may not be enough to make the delivery.  Who do they blame?  Not the shipping crew.

Detention pay is the penalty the shipper will pay for calling in a trucker for a pickup and making the trucker wait.  There’s a difference between 10 minutes while the load gets wrapped up or stacked on a pallet, and waiting hours because the request called for the trucker to arrive too soon.  In Sally’s case, she opted to stay overnight and pick up the load the next morning.  The penalty to the shipper:  a $75 detention fee that the trucking company means to collect and send on to her.  Does that cover the 11 hours she waited to get the load?  Barely.

Time Constraints

There are lots of loads out there that don’t have a time issue.  A driver might have the option of flexing her time, picking up the load, and dropping at her convenience rather than having a set time for pick up and delivery.  But with smartphones and load boards, there’s an expectation of pick-up appointments and delivery times being met.  The shipper doesn’t care about the trucker’s HOS.  They just want the delivery done as quicly as possible.

A lot of times, these shippers are looking for the cheapest trucker they can find.  What they do find is a cheap trucker – who might bail out on the load due to “mechanical difficulties” or a “breakdown.”  Those mechanical difficulties may be a trucker who isn’t making enough money to keep his rig in good shape, or the breakdown may be another load with more money just turned up for the trucker to take instead.

For a shipper like this, they have to switch to plan B, whatever that is.  Find another trucker and go from there.

What if the driver doesn’t have a plan B?

A late load steals time from the road.  It can make the driver late for her delivery. Like dominoes, one late load can topple a week’s worth of scheduling.   That ruins reputations and may build up fines. The next shipper doesn’t care why the trucker is late, only that the trucker is late.

This is why there are some companies that I just don’t want to deal with.  They don’t treat me or my drivers with respect.  They will change the paperwork and lie and never pay the detention fees.  I don’t want to put my drivers in the position of being promised a detention fee and not getting it.  I don’t want them to get a bad reputation down the road because this one shipper always makes the truckers wait.

ELD for the win?

If a trucker is dealing with a late loading or delayed delivery, the ELD can often help support the claim for the detention pay.  A shipper who claims that the truck arrived late may have to face the evidence that the truck was there and waited in the parking lot for the shipping crew to get to them.

Sally is still waiting for her detention pay four months later.  That’s just wrong.  The government rules regarding on-duty hours plus the ability the shippers have to just ignore the detention fees put the truckers in the middle of a very tight squeeze.

That’s why I ignore some shippers who send me an email looking for a trucker.  I want customers who respect us, pay a fair amount for a load, and treat us well.

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