Costs of driver detention can no longer be ignored

The trucking industry has harvested every low-hanging fruit when it comes to improving efficiency and eliminating waste from the supply chain. With one glaring exception. Driver detention remains a costly issue that is too
often ignored.

Many fleets are too sensitive about losing business to confront and challenge their customers on this issue. But with electronic logging devices (ELDs) now required in the U.S., and soon to be so in Canada, and the capabilities of telematics, there’s no longer any excuse to tolerate unreasonable driver and equipment detention.

This issue will come as no surprise to anyone in the industry. However, a new study by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) has put a spotlight on the costs of driver detention. The findings are disturbing.

ATRI surveyed more than 1,900 truck drivers and motor carriers between 2014 and 2018, and found that during that time period, detention frequency and length increased. During the survey, ATRI found drivers reported a 27.4% increase in delays of six hours or more.

Maddeningly, female drivers were 83.3% more likely than men to be delayed six hours or more. Really? What possible explanation – beyond discrimination – can we chalk this up to? And we wonder why female representation in the trucking industry is inexcusably low.

There was a nearly 40% increase in drivers who reported that the majority of their pick-ups and deliveries were delayed over the past year due to customer actions. And this at a time when capacity utilization was high and shippers were forced to accept significant rate increases. Yet, they still seemingly showed little respect for drivers’ time through the boom years.

But carriers share the blame. They, on average, charged US$63.71 per hour for excessive detention. That’s less than the cost of a truck and driver, according to ATRI’s Operational Costs of Trucking survey, which concluded it costs $66.65 to pay for a truck and driver. This industry is losing money on detention that is caused by its customers.

More shocking still, 20% of smaller fleets – with 50 power units or less – don’t charge for excessive detention time. There’s no excuse for the trucking industry to tolerate excessive driver and equipment detention. The data is readily available.

Fleets can use telematics to geofence customer facilities, and bring hard proof of the cost of detention to the bargaining table when negotiating rates. They can also help shippers and receivers improve operations at their facilities; they’ll surely welcome the expertise if facing punitive accessorial charges for excessive detention.

Fleets can also educate shippers on the impact of ELDs, and how drivers can no longer be – and never should have been – expected to hide inefficiencies in the supply chain by creatively making back lost time in their logbooks.

Click here to download the full study. Download it. Read it. Share it.

As the trucking industry enters a possible downturn, with increasing pressure on rates, driver and equipment detention is the obvious area to focus on to reduce costs for both trucking providers and their customers. And it will go a long way toward addressing driver turnover, too.

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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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  • Definition of the word censor:
    “an official who examines material that is about to be released, such as books, movies, news, and art, and suppresses any parts that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security.”

    And NOTHING that I write violates ethical behavior nor even remotely justifies suppressing any part within my comments , NOTHING !.

    And that’s a FACT Truck News(member of the CTA) !

  • Great article James!
    It’s time for fleets to develop some cojones. It’s like facing a wild animal. If they see fear in your eyes, you lose. “female drivers were 83.3% more likely than men to be delayed six hours or more” Wow! What fleet owner thinks this is acceptable?