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Regulators seek better data and technology on driver detention

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Filling a “critical data gap” behind driver wait times during loading and unloading could help better determine how driver detention affects road safety, according to regulators.

Following up on conclusions reached in a 2018 report issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is requesting information on data sources as well as existing or potential new technology that could help the agency better understand loading and unloading delays.

FMCSA’s proposal issued today (June 10) notes that several studies have attempted to address the causes of driver delays during the loading and unloading process and their impact on road safety and the economy.

Last year’s OIG report, for example, estimated that a 15-minute increase in average dwell time (the total time spent by a truck at a facility) increases the average expected crash rate by 6.2 percent. It also estimated that detention can reduce a driver’s annual earnings by $1,281 to $1,534, based on overall driver earnings of $1.1 to $1.3 billion per year in the for-hire commercial truckload market. Trucking companies in that market saw net income reductions associated with detention of $250.6 million to $302.9 million per year, according to the report.

But according to FMCSA, while the OIG and other studies were able to estimated overall wait times, “they were not able to separate normal loading and unloading times (e.g., the time it would usually take to load and unload a commercial motor vehicle under typical schedules) from detention time (delays in the start of the loading and unloading process that disrupt the driver’s available driving and/or on-duty time). This is a critical data gap in our understanding of the detention issue.”

The FMCSA’s proposal asks the public to address seven questions:

  • Are data currently available that can accurately record loading, unloading and delay times?
  • Is there technology available that could record and delineate prompt loading and unloading times versus the extended delays sometimes experienced by drivers?
  • How can delay times be captured and recorded in a systematic, comparable manner?
  • Could systematic collection and publication of loading, unloading and delay times be useful in driver or carrier business decisions and help to reduce loading, unloading and delay times?
  • What should FMCSA use as an estimate of reasonable loading/ unloading time? Please provide a basis for your response.
  • How do contract arrangements between carriers and shippers address acceptable wait times? Do these arrangements include penalties for delays attributable to a carrier or shipper?
  • What actions by FMCSA, within its current statutory authority, would help to reduce loading, unloading and delay times?

Responses to the agency’s request must be received by September 9, 2019.

John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.