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Detention time math class: Drivers lose over 20,000 miles per year

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By TCA Vice President of Government Affairs Dave Heller & TCA Manager of Government Affairs Kathryn Sanner

The more we hear about the detrimental effects of detention time on our industry, the more truckload carrier leaders should be scratching their heads. Even in one of the most lucrative years on record, it is clear that operations could be made so much more profitable if this simple problem of detention time were addressed.

In fact, TCA has done some elementary number crunching and the results are stark. Let’s start with the assumptions we made to get our equation’s variables. First, we assume that the typical truck-tractor drives an average of 89,804 miles per year, a figure which comes from the American Transportation Research Institute’s (ATRI) “An Analysis of the Operational Cost of Trucking: 2018 Update.” Second, we assume that a typical driver only utilizes 6.5 hours of his or her available 11 hours of driving time. We did not make this up – data from J.B. Hunt shows that this is actually the reality for drivers on the roads today. Finally, we assume a driver is on the road 5 days a week for 52 weeks a year, giving us a total of 1,690 hours driven in a year.

Just with these baseline assumptions, if a driver is able to increase their average driving time from 6.5 to 8 hours per day, they could expand the average miles driven per year from 89,804 to 110,531. That’s over 20,000 extra miles per driver per year.

Why, then, can we not be more profitable and bring those missing hours back from the place where lost things go? There are a few ways for us to get there. Hours of Service (HOS) flexibility is a start. Once drivers have the ability to stop the 14 hour clock, they will not feel pressured to make up for that lost time sitting at the shipper or receiver by speeding or driving while drowsy.

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They will be empowered to drive in a healthier manner that leads to more optimal outcomes not only for themselves but also for their employers. We are awaiting a new Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on HOS soon, and will provide updates on this rulemaking process as they become available.

When we do see the HOS changes come from FMCSA, we as an industry cannot allow them to excuse bad shippers taking advantage of good drivers. Placing value in good customers is a way to address detention time right now. And for as much as the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate was critiqued by some in the industry, including drivers, it is providing the data to prove that detention time is a critical issue that needs to be addressed. Carriers can go to their customers with hard evidence of bad business practices and encourage an overall industry change in our favor. The best shippers in the industry will be raised up for their efforts to make the environment better for truckload carriers, and those that do not will feel the backlash.

Clearly, the tide is changing in the war on detention. These predicted outcomes will not happen overnight, as no war is ever won in a day. But truckload is now on the right path with the right ammunition backing us up.

Future of Supply Chain


The greatest minds in the transportation, logistics and supply chain industries will share insights, predict future trends and showcase emerging technology the FreightWaves way–with engaging discussions, rapid-fire demos, interactive sponsor kiosks and more.

Chris Henry

Chris Henry has spent his entire 20-year career in transportation. In 2014, he founded the online motor carrier benchmarking service StakUp. As a result of a partnership with the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) in 2015, StakUp was rebranded as inGauge and Henry became the program manager for the TCA Profitability Program (TPP), an exclusive benchmarking initiative that includes more than 230 motor carrier participants throughout North America. Since joining the program, participation in TPP has grown over 300%. In June 2019, StakUp was acquired by FreightWaves and Henry became its vice president of carrier profitability, in addition to his role with TPP. Henry earned an MBA from the University of Massachusetts and a bachelor of commerce degree from Nipissing University.