And now for the first annual, “It’s About Time, Long Overdue Award”: It goes to Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., who recently introduced a bill requiring the Department of Transportation to study the amount of time truckers spend at loading docks and use what they find to draft a rule setting a maximum number of hours drivers can be detained.
Not only that, DeFazio had the Government Accountability Office (GAO) do its own study on the age-old problem.
The GAO interviewed more than 300 drivers and — surprise, surprise — 68 percent said they had been detained during the past month. We bet it would have been a much greater percentage if more drivers had been interviewed.
Commendably, the GAO started out its report by saying “more could be done to determine [the] impact of excessive loading and unloading wait times on Hours of Service violations.”
The report went on to say that “about 59 percent of interviewed drivers reported experiencing detention time in the past two weeks and over two-thirds reported experiencing detention time within the last month.”
“Drivers cited several factors that contribute to detention time,” the report said, adding that “About 43 percent of drivers identified limitations in facilities, such as the lack of sufficient loading and unloading equipment or staff. These limitations can occur when facilities over schedule appointments, creating a backlog of vehicles.”
In its interviews the GAO said about 39 percent of drivers reported their long wait time was because a product wasn’t ready for shipment. Other factors included “poor service provided by facility staff, facility scheduling practices that may encourage drivers to line up hours before the facility opens and factors not under the control of the facility, such as drivers filing paperwork incorrectly.”
It said “some facilities are taking steps to address these factors, such as using appointment times.”
No reader will be surprised that about 80 percent of the drivers experiencing detention reported that the waits limited their ability to meet federal HOS safety requirements by reducing their available driving time.
In another non shocker, about 65 percent of drivers “reported lost revenue as a result of detention time from either missing an opportunity to secure another load or paying late fees to the shipper.”
GAO said that the federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration doesn’t collect — and is not required to collect — information to assess the extent to which detention time contributes to HOS violations.
“To date,” the report said, “FMCSA research has focused on an overview of freight movement, but not the extent to which detention time occurs or how it may impact HOS violations.”
FMCSA said it will conduct a 2012 study to determine the extent to which detention time occurs.
The GAO said this could help FMCSA “determine whether additional federal action might be warranted.”
“However,” they added in the report, “any additional federal actions to address issues associated with detention time beyond HOS would require careful consideration to determine if any unintended consequences may flow from federal action to regulate detention time.”
Hmmmmmm … did FMCSA carefully consider how its proposed HOS might result in any “unintended consequences”? How about the effects of its proposal mandating black boxes for all?
Enough with the studies, already. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist to know that this is not a new problem or that waiting at the loading docks is costing drivers and carriers big time.
At least DeFazio has been listening. He said he’d heard a lot of stories from truckers over the years about the problem of detention time and how much it hurts supply chain productivity.
He appears to finally get it. Will anybody else?
Dorothy Cox of The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at firstname.lastname@example.org.