New study shows ‘excessive’ detention times are increasing — especially for female truckers

The survey suggests that women are much more likely than men be detained for six or more hours.

Detention Time

A new study published by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) shows that truck driver detention times are increasing and negatively impacting trucking in terms of driver compensation and productivity.

The study was published by the ATRI on September 4 and was based on data collected from more than 1,900 truck driver and motor carrier surveys between 2014 and 2018. The study focused on “excessive” detention times, which the ATRI defined as detention times lasting longer than two hours.

The study found that during the four year survey period, detention times have increased significantly both in terms of frequency and length.

One of the most surprising findings of the study was the impact that a driver’s gender had on detention times. The study found that female drivers were 83.3% more likely than men to be delayed six or more hours. The study found that on average, women reported approximately 55% of their appointments being delayed due to the actions of personnel at a customer facility, compared to 47% for men.

Researchers said that while “the majority of interviewees were at first very ‘surprised’ by the information and then mentioned how they do not believe the difference is the result of dock workers showing preference toward male drivers,” they believe that male drivers are more assertive with dock workers about long wait times:

The interviewees implied that women are perhaps less likely than men to show persistence and assertive behavior while being detained. For example, when customer facilities are behind schedule, drivers are typically asked to check in with dock personnel every few hours to get an update on the status of their load. Male drivers who check in more frequently or express more consternation than women appear likely to be loaded/unloaded sooner.

Drivers of both genders reported a 27.4% increase in detention times of 6 or more hours. The study found that there was nearly a 40% increase in drivers who reported that the majority of their pick-ups and deliveries were delayed over the past 12 months due to customer actions.

The study also examined excessive detention and driver compensation and found that 79.8% of carriers reported charging detention fees. However, among smaller carriers (those that operate 50 or fewer power units) 20% do not charge any sort of detention fee in order to remain competitive with larger carriers.

The study found that the average detention fee charged by fleets — $63.71 per hour — is slightly less than the average per hour operating cost of $66.65. According to the survey responses, 55.5% of carriers and 46.3% of drivers reported that detention fees are partially passed to the driver, while 19.4 percent of carriers and 16.5 percent of drivers reported that all detention fees are passed to the driver.

One of the most troubling findings from the ATRI survey is respondents say that many shippers are unaware of the problems caused by detention — and that some shippers are even purposefully increasing driver detention times:

Based on anecdotal data, shippers and receivers do not seem to be fully aware of, or overly concerned by, the costs incurred by carriers and drivers while waiting. It appears that many shippers are unaware of the frequency and duration of driver detention. It has also been reported that some shippers and receivers may purposefully create truck queues at their facilities to ensure that truck capacity is readily available to support shipper operations.

The ATRI is not the only agency shining the spotlight on driver detention this summer. In June 2019, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a call for more information on driver detention to try to understand how it impacts highway safety.

For more information about the ATRI study, please click here.

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