April 23, 2019 | Trucker Tools

Detention Strategies for Owner-Operators and Small Carriers

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Even if you are relatively new to the transportation industry, you have probably heard a lot about detention. Detention is when a trucker spends more time than expected at a shipper or receiver’s location waiting to load or unload freight. Why does detention occur? It can happen for a number of reasons on the shipper/receiver’s end, including inadequate staffing, overscheduling and the use of outdated technology. 

Detention is bad for truckers, carriers, brokers and customers because it reduces the overall efficiency and capacity of the supply chain. It affects truckers and carriers most significantly, because detention decreases revenue and increases stress for drivers, which can result in more accidents.

Detention and Lost Revenue

In a recent survey of drivers who use Trucker Tools’ driver mobile application, we found that truckers spend on average close to four hours at shipper and receiver facilities, usually without compensation. Other industry studies have shown that detention time can be as high as five and a half hours each day. With DOT hours-of-service regulations that stipulate that truckers can only drive 11 hours of the day, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for moving freight. It’s estimated that truckers lose $1.3 billion in wages each year because of detention.

Owner operators and small carriers, who are the backbone of the transportation industry, are hit particularly hard by detention because of the ripple effect delays can have on their ability to pick-up or drop-off the next load. Though there is no easy fix on the immediate horizon for detention, there are a few ways that truckers can potentially reduce the economic impact and pain of detention. 

History with Broker

If you have already experienced a long detention time with a broker/3PL once before, one option is to build detention pay (per hour rate instead of a flat rate) into the rate quotes you give to the broker/3PL.While most truckers would prefer to be on the road instead of sitting at a shipping or receiving location, detention pay can help you recoup your losses, at least partially. Detention pay rates typically range from $25 to $100 per hour.

One strategy that some carriers and truckers are choosing is to avoid accepting loads to/from facilities with whom they’ve experience high detention times previously. In a study conducted last year, approximately 80 percent of carriers reported that they refused to load in/out of some facilities because of high detention time. Being more selective in choosing facilities,while not always possible, can help reduce potential revenue loss from detention.

It is also recommended that you negotiate the detention rate (per hour or per 15 minute intervals) when you negotiate the freight rate with a broker/3PL. This establishes transparency with the broker/3PL and sets the expectation that you will charge them for any excess time that you are detained at a shipper or receiver facility.

The top recommended solution from the Trucker Tools’ driver app has been to seek support from the brokers or 3PLs when the detention happens. We recommend they work with shipper to release the driver soon so that the driver is not late for the next pick up appointment. Providing some basic amenities such as restrooms, WiFi and a lounge are some ways for the shippers to reduce the friction with the drivers. 

Use Mobile App Technology To Track Detention

Using a smart phone-based mobile app, such as Trucker Tools, to track detention time, can help you track and bill for detention pay. Detention time data from an app can also help settle disputes over detention charges. Most systems that record the time a trucker is detained at a facility use GPS technology or a combination of GPS and geo-fencing technology, which means that no special equipment is needed, beyond a smart phone and the ability to download an app. 

At Trucker Tools, we strive to answer the everyday needs of owner-operators and small carriers. Proactively, before the detention occurs, the Trucker Tools app notifies the driver and broker of how much time has elapsed using the smart phone’s GPS.  The detention alert to the broker asks him to talk and work with the shipper to try to speed up things so that the the driver is back on the road soon. To further help the driver find other POIs, we’ve bundled 16 different sought-after tools and features together in our free Trucker Tools app, including real time fuel prices, accurate truck stop guides, information on weight scales and rest areas, a truck wash locator, weather and traffic information, and real-time premium loads

In an ideal world, there would be no detention and no need to measure it. Until then, mobile apps like our Trucker Tools driver app can help truckers and carriers track detention time and deploy strategies to reduce its effects on revenue and safety. 

To read more on detention, visit our recent blog post “The Ugly Truth About Detention.”

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