Delays that truck drivers experience due to the loading and unloading of cargo can lead to lost revenue and increase the chances that drivers will violate federal regulations to make deliveries on time. Delays could also increase the risk of truck crashes as drivers try to make up lost time on the road by speeding and taking other risks.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently announced a plan to collect new data on the effect of truck driver detention time on safety and operations.
FMCSA’s Guidelines on Truck Driver Detention
The FMCSA serves as the primary federal entity responsible for regulating and overseeing the trucking industry in the United States. Its core mission is ensuring safety in motor carrier operations by enforcing regulations and conducting research as necessary.
The FMCSA has no specific guidelines or regulations concerning truck driver detention times. The FMCSA doesn’t even have a standardized definition of detention time. However, the commercial motor vehicle (CMV) industry, the federal government, and researchers generally use “dwell time” as a benchmark. Dwell time is the total time a truck driver spends at a facility before they can continue on their route. When dwell time exceeds two hours, it’s typically considered detention time.
The lack of clarity around dwell time is a cause for concern in the industry, given the potential implications of detention on driver safety, operational efficiencies, and lost wages. That is why the FMCSA is working to gather more comprehensive data to understand its effects and develop future guidelines or recommendations.
Impact on Driver Safety and Well-Being
Detention time, which refers to the delays truck drivers experience at shipping and receiving facilities, can disrupt operational schedules and lead to decreased driver safety.
A recent analysis by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General highlighted that a mere 15-minute increase in average dwell time can increase the expected crash rate by 6.2 percent. The implication is that decreasing average dwell time by just one minute could prevent up to 400 truck accidents annually.
Research suggests that prolonged detention might pressure truck drivers, especially those paid by the mile or load, to compensate for lost time by engaging in risky behaviors like speeding to meet deadlines. Extended detention times often erode drivers’ earnings, as many are not paid for delays.
Importance of Addressing Detention Time Issues
Detention time in the trucking industry is consistently a top concern among drivers and carriers. The long-standing issue doesn’t just impact profitability, with drivers losing an estimated $1.1 to $1.3 billion annually to delays. It also has profound safety implications.
Delays increase pressure on drivers to make timely deliveries, potentially leading them to bypass safety protocols or hours-of-service (HOS) requirements. Addressing detention time concerns can improve driver well-being, operational efficiencies, and traffic safety.
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