WASHINGTON — Excessive detention time is expensive and unsafe.
That’s according to a recent report by the U.S. Transportation Department’s Office of the Inspector General. OIG said it estimated that detention is associated with reductions in annual earnings of $1.1 billion to $1.3 billion — between $1,281 and $1,534 per driver per year for for-hire commercial motor vehicle drivers in the truckload sector. For motor carriers in that sector, the report estimated that detention reduces net income by $250.6 million to $302.9 million annually.
OIG’s report also estimated that a 15-minute increase in average dwell time — the total time spent by a truck at a facility — increases the average expected crash rate by 6.2 percent.
Here’s the backstory: The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015 (FAST Act) directed the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to issue regulations that cover the collection of data on delays experienced by CMV operators before the loading and unloading of their vehicles.
It also directed the OIG to report on the effects of driver detention.
Accordingly, the OIG conducted an audit to (1) assess available data on delays in motor carrier loading and unloading, and (2) provide information on measuring the potential effects of loading and unloading delays.
In addressing its objectives, the OIG also reviewed FMCSA’s plan to collect data on driver detention.
It said accurate industrywide data on driver detention do not currently exist because most industry stakeholders measure only time spent at a shipper or receiver’s facility beyond the limit established in shipping contracts. It also said that available electronic data cannot readily discern detention time from legitimate loading and unloading tasks, and are unavailable for a large segment of the industry, according to the report.
Although many in trucking see ELDs as the perfect vehicle for collecting this kind of data, FMCSA has repeatedly said it would not use ELDs to collect data on anything except what is directly related to commercial vehicle law enforcement.
“Not using an ELD to measure detention time is like a carpenter blaming the tools for mistakes he made,” said David Heller, vice president of government affairs at the Truckload Carriers Association.
“FMCSA’s plan to collect data on driver detention does not call for collection or detailed analysis of reliable or representative data, and the agency has no plans to verify the data that motor carriers and drivers would provide,” the OIG report said. “As a result, the data may not accurately describe how the diverse trucking industry experiences driver detention, which would limit any further analysis of impacts.”
The OIG did note that FMCSA plans to collect data on driver detention through use of a reporting form on its public website that drivers and carriers can use to voluntarily submit data on detention in response to a FAST Act directive.
“According to an FMCSA official, the costs of rigorous data collection and analysis would likely outweigh the benefit, and the agency primarily views detention as a market efficiency problem best addressed by private industry rather than through government action,” the report noted.
The OIG found that in 2015, FMCSA initiated a study to evaluate the safety and operational impact of driver detention on work hours, HOS violations and crashes.
The planned study would have measured detention time by recording times that a sample of truck trailers’ rear doors are open and closed to measure the amount of time spent loading and unloading.
“This recording would give the agency a better estimate of the amount of detention time and delays by disaggregating legitimate loading and unloading from the total time a driver spends at a facility,” the OIG report said. “However, the agency cancelled the study because the selected technology vendor discontinued its support of the work.”
The report said FMCSA agreed with OIG’s recommendation on gathering more data.