U.S. regulators are taking further steps toward a rulemaking on the detention of truck drivers by shippers and their customers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is set to begin an audit focused on loading and unloading delays at shipper and consignee docks, reports the Journal of Commerce.
The audit, required by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015, will also collect information on measuring the potential effects of loading and unloading delays on truck driver fatigue and crash risks. The gathered data will be the basis for a future rulemaking.
The FAST Act directs FMCSA to “issue regulations that cover collection of data on loading and unloading delays,” reports JOC, and to report on the impact of such delays on the transportation system, the Department of Transportation’s Inspector General’s Office said in a June 15 memorandum.
The FMCSA actually has been studying driver detention, or loading and unloading times, for more than a decade, starting with a 2001 study that found a “strong positive relationship” between the percent of time spent loading and unloading and crash involvement.
A 2011 Government Accountability Office study fueled greater concern over detention time. The GAO study found that medium-sized carriers with fewer than 500 power units experience detention more often than larger trucking companies.
Under former administrator Anne S. Ferro, the agency began looking at more concrete regulatory steps to discourage detention, including penalties. “I’m pretty passionate about driver compensation and driver detention,” Ferro told the Transportation Research Board in 2014.
That year US DOT asked Congress for authority to require carriers to pay drivers an hourly minimum wage for time spent on duty but not driving, namely when waiting idle during periods of detention – signaling the federal government’s first attempt in decades to weigh into driver pay regulations.
Detention time has been a hot button issue between carriers and their customers – especially as the industry transitions to mandatory electronic logging devices.
Driver detention costs the trucking industry as much as $4 billion a year in lost productivity, according to a 2009 DOT study. Truck drivers measure that lost productivity in hours spent waiting for trailers to be loaded or unloaded, the lost miles they could have been hauling with freight while waiting, and the money they’re not earning while waiting at a customer’s site.