The FMCSA Researches The Dangers of Detention Time For Truck Drivers

Driver of semi-truck sitting and driving his vehicle. Concept of shipping and delivering.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is embarking on a new study to understand better the effects of driver detention time and its impact on safety and lost pay.

Data previously has been hard to correlate, so this new focus will aim at federal regulators gaining a fresh perspective on this hard-to-define area.

At the core is a quest for better data on how delays waiting to load and unload affect drivers’ lost pay and safe operation on the roads.

The FMCSA has disclosed parameters of new data collection that it hopes will fill the information gap that has prevented regulators from fully understanding the effects of driver detention time.

Research in this area began in 2001 when an FMCSA study found that drivers with more loads with longer-than-expected load times were associated with more driver fatigue. In this study, drivers reported that about 18 per cent of their work time was schedule delays due to long wait times. The study also found a relationship between the percentage of time spent loading and unloading and crash involvement.

It’s a complex problem related to safety but difficult to quantify. “This research study will collect data on commercial motor vehicle driver detention time representative of the major segments of the motor carrier industry, analyze that data to determine the frequency and severity of detention time and assess the utility of existing intelligent transportation systems solutions to measure detention time.” According to an Information Collection Request (ICR), the FMCSA plans to submit to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for approval.

A 2014 FMCSA study provided “valuable insights” on the effect of detention time on carrier and driver safety. It was limited by the small sample size and the inability to separate legitimate time drivers spent loading and unloading from excess wait times.

The FMCSA has determined that it needs additional data from a broader sample of carriers to understand the safety and operational impact of detention time, to understand better why detention time occurs, and to identify potential mitigation strategies the industry may use to reduce detention time while improving operational efficiencies and safety,” the ICR notes.

The FMCSA’s study will use data collected from electronic logging devices, transportation management systems, vehicle telematic systems, safety records and from questions using carrier dispatching systems.

According to the ICR, carriers are already collecting TMS, ELD, telematics and safety data. The additional data to be collected will be answers to questions through carriers’ dispatch systems. This additional information will enable FMCSA to identify the frequency and severity of detention time, what contributes to that time, and the administrative, operational and safety outcomes of detention times.

The Agency aims to recruit approximately 80 carriers and 2,500 drivers for the 12-month study. Data will come from clients of SpeedGauge, a telematics company that generates data used by insurance companies to help make underwriting decisions for commercial carriers. The FMCSA will also consider data from individual carriers that wish to participate.

The primary objectives for the data collection, according to the FMCSA, are: Assess the frequency and severity of driver detention time using data that represents the major segments of the motor carrier industry.
Assess the utility of existing intelligent transportation systems solutions to measure detention time.
Prepare a final report summarizing the findings, answering the research questions and offering strategies to reduce detention time.

“Completing these research objectives will provide insight into any relationship between driver detention time and CMV safety,” FMCSA stated. The FMCSA believes that the findings from the study will provide a more complete understanding and help the private sector with decision-making that will help reduce detention time and improve safety and supply chain efficiency.

The general public will have 60 days to comment on the ICR before submitting it to OMB.

A better understanding of the effects of driver detention time on safety and driver pay has been a priority over the last five years of regulators and on Capitol Hill. In 2018, an analysis by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General estimated that a 15-minute increase in dwell time (the total time spent by a truck at a facility) increased the average expected crash rate by 6.2%. The theory is that drivers paid by the mile or the load will try to make up lost time by speeding.

The same report also estimates that detention reduces annual earnings for drivers in the truckload sector by anywhere between $1.1 to $1.3 billion.

In 2020, Democratic lawmakers attempted to include in a highway reauthorization bill a detention time study and a follow-on rulemaking to establish limits on how much time a shipper could detain a driver before being required to be compensated for lost time. This supplement did not make it into the final bill.

How the FMCSA will apply its research findings is open to conjecture at this time. Detention time for loading and unloading Commercial Vehicles comes at the cost of safety and earnings for the drivers. From the overview, this seems extraordinarily unfair and needs to be corrected. Hopefully, this new research will help make that happen!

While a teenager Tony was fortunate to have the opportunity to pursue his love of aviation and began a career began in the airline world during his days in high school and university as he grew up in Toronto. After completing University at Guelph he moved to Ottawa, following a path in urban agriculture and environmental awareness. He shared his insights for over 2 decades as he appeared on TV, and radio, as the "Plant D octor", and operating his own business in horticulture. Later he reentered the transport industry and became involved in the manufacture and marketing of sustainable fuel-saving and safety products for the truck industry. He is director of an African American art collection based in Washington D.C. Today he writes passionately about transportation, sustainability, concerns of our modern-day world, and the intrigue of the human condition.