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 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. But her broker arranged for her to get detention pay.
Breaking Down Detention Pay
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 a survey conducted by OOIDA, 52% of respondents indicate that they always attempt to collect detention pay. However, the remaining 48% believe they won’t receive it no matter how hard they try. Also, about 54% of the respondents say they lose one or two loads per week due to detention. This can translate to thousands of dollars in lost revenue. Some drivers said they simply refuse to haul loads for those shippers again.
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 company to haul their goods.
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: E-Log Books.
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.
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.
There are lots of loads out there that don’t have a time issue. Taking bricks to a warehouse or mulch to a garden store isn’t usually time-sensitive. 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.
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 next load. 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.
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.