3 Strategies for Shippers and Carriers to Reduce Truck Driver Detention

Truck driver detention is an ongoing issue facing the trucking industry in the United States. As shippers, consignees, and carriers look to improve their respective links within the supply chain, it’s critical that the three work together to understand where there are efficiencies to gain. All parties note that timely communication between carriers, consignees, and shippers is essential to addressing this issue.

Working collaboratively to reduce detention times can ultimately lead to a reduction in cost and an improvement in overall transportation spend. Even marginal improvements could mean better pricing, better carrier route planning, and managing expectations with each party’s respective customer.

What is Truck Driver Detention?

Detention refers to the period of time that a driver spends waiting for a shipment to be loaded or unloaded beyond the agreed-upon time. Detention is commonly measured in lost time, financial impact, lower customer satisfaction, and impact on driver safety.

When trucks are held up at facilities beyond their scheduled appointment times, it can lead to two key negative impacts for the shipper:

  • Increased Costs: When trucks are detained, shippers and carriers must pay for the extra time spent waiting, increasing their operating costs. Ultimately, these costs are passed along to the customer and are always a factor into contract pricing. Getting trucks loaded and unloaded quickly and efficiently means potential cost savings.
  • Lost Productivity: Detention time can cause trucks to be delayed at facilities for extended periods, reducing the amount of freight a truck can haul in a day and increasing the time and cost required to complete each load. According to the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), a recent study reported drivers experiencing a 27.4 percent increase in delays of six hours or more.

3 Things Carriers Can Do to Improve Truck Driver Detention Times

  • Communicate Early and Often with Shippers/Consignees: Carriers should communicate with their shippers and consignees to understand their loading and unloading processes and any special requirements they may have. By understanding the shipper’s needs, carriers can better plan their routes and schedules to avoid congestion and reduce wait times. Carriers should also provide shippers with regular updates on their estimated arrival times to help them better manage their resources. Real-time communication between parties will optimize scheduling, reduce wait times, and improve communication between facilities. In short, the sooner the party knows, the better.
  • Use Technologies to Improve Processes: Technology solutions such as real-time tracking and automated appointment scheduling can help carriers and shippers more efficiently manage loads and reduce wait times.
  • Negotiate Detention Clauses: Carriers can negotiate detention clauses with their customers that specify the amount of time they will wait before detention charges kick in. This can incentivize shippers to load and unload trucks more efficiently, as they will face financial penalties for excessive detention time.

3 Things Shippers and Consignees Can Do to Improve Truck Driver Detention Times

  • Provide Accurate and Timely Information: Shippers should provide carriers with accurate and timely information about their facilities, including hours of operation, pinpoint dock locations, and any special requirements. This can help carriers plan their routes and schedules more efficiently, reducing wait times.
  • Implement Appointment Scheduling: Appointment scheduling can help shippers or consignees manage the flow of trucks in and out of their facilities, reducing congestion and wait times. By implementing an appointment scheduling system, shippers can better manage their resources and ensure that they have adequate staff and equipment available to handle each load efficiently.
  • Streamline Loading and Unloading Processes: One of the most common reasons for detention time is inefficient loading and unloading processes. Shippers and consignees can work to streamline these processes by ensuring that they have adequate staffing and equipment available to load and unload trucks efficiently.

Shippers, carriers, and consignees working together can improve productivity and efficiency within the supply chain. Industry groups such as the American Trucking Associations and ATRI are raising awareness of the issue to push for policy changes at both the state and federal levels. However, shippers, carriers, and consignees will need to lead the way. 

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