The Case for Mandatory Detention


“We can not have a free market without regulation” That was not a quote from an unabashed liberal. Mit Romney said it. We can not allow someone to take our wallets as we walk down the street without consequence. My time has value. When someone steals my time, it is the same as stealing my wallet. Yet, in trucking we say lesson learned, I am not going to go there again. They are free to steal from the next driver. Why should we treat someone who steals our time better than someone who steals our wallet?


Now, imagine this scenario. You have dead headed 150 miles to get a load. You have parked in their lot overnight for you 8am appointment. You walk into the shipping office at 7:30 and say good morning. Everyone is as nice as they can be. They even offer you a cup of coffee. You ask where they want you to back in. They tell you that you will have to wait. They have to load there pick up and delivery trucks first. It will be an hour at least. Their trucks are a priority, because those guys are getting paid by the hour.


Finally the last truck pulls out at 9:30. You back into the dock. Every 15-20 minutes they put a pallet in the trailer. The load has 24 pallets. At this rate it is going to take a few hours to load. You walk in and ask how long this is going to take. They tell you it is going to take a few hours. They pick the load as they load it. You ask why they did not pick the load before you got there and stage it. They tell you “ If we have someone pre pick the load he will invest the time to pick the load, stage the load, and then load the truck. It would involve about 4.5 hours of their labor versus just 4 hours if they pick and load at the same time. They are saving money.”


At this point you may point out that, yes they save .5 hours of labor, but it is costing you and extra 3 hours. They tell you straight up that they don't care about your time. It does not cost them anything. You tell them that you are going to charge detention. They say that that they don't pay detention. You have invested 150 miles and 3 hours already. You take the load and NEVER go back there again. The next day they do the same thing to another driver.


The trucking industry is unique. The turnover and churning rates are too high. As much as we may believe that mega carriers determine the market, they don't. More than 95% of carriers are very small or independent companies. The large carriers have more information gathering capacity. They will avoid this shipper. That means that this shipper simply uses a different small carrier for every load.


Shippers operate in their own self interest. Now, if there was an enforceable mandatory detention law with costly penalties for not paying up their behavior would change. They would pre pick the shipments because wasting 3 hours of your time would no longer make economic sense. They would set appointments for when they can actually load you. The system would become more efficient. Drivers would no longer be robbed at the dock. We have to start thinking about the next driver, because tomorrow you might be the next driver.


Comments (24)

Jeff Clark

Jeff Clark of Kewaunee, WI has been driving a truck for 24 years. He has been an owner operator for 11 years.

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Joey started this debate on May 4 with his blog, "An Independents View oh the Detention Problem". Check it out.

May 24, 2014 3:59:28 AM

Check out Henry's counterpoint blog.

May 22, 2014 19:06:20 PM

Thanks Tyrone. I have been out here 26 years. It was happening then and still is.

May 21, 2014 5:21:03 AM

Thanks Tyrone. I have been out here 26 years. It was happening then and still is.

May 21, 2014 5:21:01 AM


May 20, 2014 21:06:48 PM


May 20, 2014 21:05:52 PM

That has to be a monumental task. Wonder what % of businesses have an active grade.

May 19, 2014 12:42:13 PM

@Jeff Dan makes sure that all info recorded is verified before posting anything,

May 19, 2014 10:35:32 AM

www.transpor***** It is an idea worth looking into. I would like some way to make the information objective and verifiable.

May 19, 2014 5:42:25 AM

@CDL0402 There is such a website,Transpor*****, started by Dan Metully. It's a website to report unethical behavior within the industry and also allows for positive comments and recommendations.

May 19, 2014 0:34:02 AM

What if we started a black ball list of companies that don't pay detention, and treat the drivers as worthless? After a while the 95% of carriers would stop grabbing these loads. The companies would have to pay detention or put up with Swift. An Angies list for warehouses.

May 19, 2014 0:02:48 AM

John-That is an outstanding job by your company. I especially like asking shippers if they would like to be at work and not get paid. I have used that with customers that I know and explain it this way to them. :What if you were told to show up for work at 0800 and expected to be done at 1630-and your company - is simply not ready for you to start work until 10:00. Would you be OK with working until 18:30 for the same pay. Universally-they say NO! then I say-Isn't that what you're expecting me to do?

Again though my idea is to protect carriers with no leverage from shippers-receivers who delay them. The idea is not to collect money, but to change behavior. ALSO to make it easier to collect detention pay under like collecting on a bad check.

May 17, 2014 10:29:15 AM

Waiting time will be addressed as soon as ELB is mandatory. I am lucky in my situation as an O/O in that the trucking company I work for is also a manufacturer and distributor of personal care products. When we go to certain customers that are always "running a bit behind" They know with out me saying a word that if i do not get loaded and gone in 2 hours or less they will get a call from my company. Since my company owns the freight in the box. Recently I arrived at one of our regular pick ups the shipper told me they were about 10 hours behind, I asked how long before I would get in a door, was told he would call me in a few hours and let me know. I called my dispatch, he called the sales guy that called the shipper and explained to the shippers boss that they would be deducting $100/hr for every hour the truck was there. Since the shipper requests appointments be made for all pickups days in advance. I was loaded and gone in 90 minutes we do not wait there any more we get loaded on time. Some of the people in shipping do not like us. I explained to them they do not go to work and sit around and wait for free so why would they expect me to? Not all of our pick ups are freight that belongs to us since we need outside freight to move trucks around to pick up our own loads. We have done loads we will not do again we all learn ELB"s will be more of a problem for shippers/receivers than trucking companies, good shippers already know this and work hard to get trucks in and out in a timely fashion and as drivers we have a part to play also. Many drivers take appointment times as suggestions and do not try to make them or do not inform any one that they will be late, when we have that attitude it is difficult to justify billing for waiting time.
I do not think we need more government regulation we need companies to ALWAYS bill for waiting time even if you do not get paid ever for it. When you do this some one up the chain see's this and after a while it is hard to ignore. When you drop the customer or ask for a rate increase you can show exactly why you need the raise or why you are dropping them. with the driver shortage it will hurt the shippers that waste our time and the market will take care of this but not without drivers,O/O and trucking companies doing something about it.

May 17, 2014 9:02:01 AM

Henry and I are not that far apart on the thinking that as time becomes more limited through aggressive enforcement of the 14 hour rule that it will become more valuable.

I don't understand your fear that shippers would waste more of our time. It is free they have no incentive not to waste it. If they are paying for it, they do have an incentive not to waste it. AND since it is my law I would write in punitive rates. After all the shipper has gotten the first 2 hours for free and the objective of the law is to encourage shippers to NOT get to 2 hours. I would even make the penalty retroactive to include the first 2 hours. Say we set the rate a $75 an hour. If they exceed 2 hours they are charged $150 for the first 2 hours and another $75 for each hour after that.

John, I lean pretty conservative so for me to call for mandatory detention pay does go against some of my personal beliefs. Unfortunately this has been a problem since at least 1988 and has not gone away. Perhaps it is my beliefs in small business, fairness, and overall efficiency that has drawn me to believe in mandatory detention pay.

May 16, 2014 12:31:18 PM

I ask you to take a look at this article by Mike Regan. I believe the most powerful statement by Anne Ferro in the article is, " It is not the Agency's job to do your job!"

Although the article is targeted towards shippers selecting the most ethical carrier, the idea of being responsible and holding a certain level of individual integrity can be applied to many aspects and all within the industry:
Drivers, Carriers, Brokers, Shippers.

Which brings me back to what I said in a previous comment, " So many complain about increased government involvement, and yet their behavior dictates the call. This includes everyone"

May 16, 2014 9:12:44 AM

Do we need the government to negotiate every aspect of a business deal? We if can't speak up for ourselves, why will a disinterested bureaucrat do it for us?

Yes, detention is bad. Yes, lost time is lost forever. But life is full of negatives. This is just one more thing that has to be negotiated, if it is a problem. Sure, no one likes to have to get in line at 3AM to be one of the first trucks to unload at 6AM. It always leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

On paper, new regulations always look good. The reality is always something different and I fear a loss of freedom -- which always follows the good intentions of new rules and regulations. Time will prove me wrong -- hopefully not right.

May 16, 2014 7:19:58 AM

I agree more with Henry on this one. My other worry is what if the shippers and receivers decide this is a necessary expense and add that to their costs and hold the truck even longer? I envision that sitting at a dock basically doing nothing will be minimum pay as I do not see them taking into consideration our fixed costs.

May 16, 2014 6:01:28 AM

WEll at least I got Joey the driver to agree with me. lol Even a fairly conservative small businessman like myself agrees that the free market can not operate with some basic rules. And I know that the Constitution charges congress with the responsibility of regulating and insuring the free flow of interstate commerce. When a shipper holds a trucker involved with interstate commerce up, that shipper is interfering with interstate commerce. The purpose of mandatory detention pay should be to promote fairness and efficiency. It is not with regular customers that I have a problem. It is with the 1 time customer. Collecting detention pay is more can cost more than the detention pay itself.

May 15, 2014 14:24:26 PM

Jeff, the driver in me agrees with you, but the business owner does not. After reading the blog, I don't agree that you made a case for government mandated detention pay, but you made a great case for activism with any carrier that hasn't addressed the problem effectively. If any of the readers of this blog are getting taken advantage of by long detention, have they voiced this to their carrier? It's in the best interest of a carrier not to be unnecessarily delayed. The industry can take care of this.

With all due respect, as a small business carrier, I don't need this. If it's a problem in your corner of the trucking world, take care of it without imposing a behemoth of regulations to those who aren't affected. Be careful what you ask for, because you probably won't like the other stuff that'll come with it.

May 15, 2014 14:02:30 PM

Allen, the exception for interstate workers in the original Fair Labor and Standards Act should not include truckers. I think that some trucking companies pay their drivers a small retention amount and do not collect anything from the shippers. That can be as big a problem as trucking companies that collect detention fees from shippers and don't pay the driver. The idea should be to prevent detention. Henry, I am agreeing with you. The FMCSA is putting real pressure on us to be accountable for our time. The problem is getting shippers to be responsible. For too long drivers have been "maximizing their efficiency" to please the shipper.

May 15, 2014 12:37:41 PM

I believe as though the FMCSA really understands this issue but has no authority to regulate the practice of detaining trucks and drivers. How much do you think the industry will respond to this "lost" time after electronic logging devices become manatory and make time a more valued commodity ? Could it be the FMCSA is addessing detention time by making our industry more accountable for our time ?

May 15, 2014 11:30:48 AM

I agree Jeff, it's unheard of. Where else is it acceptable to work for free? The industry itself should acknowledge this and resolve it. Wouldn't paying drivers detention time be an enticing perk in a time when there's a "driver shortage"

I wonder how many carriers do receive detention compensation and it's not passes on to the driver?

So many complain about increased government involvement, and yet their behavior dictates the call. This includes everyone.

The Senate Environment and Public Works committee delivered the policy portion of a six-year surface transportation reauthorization. Unfortunately it did not include that drivers get paid at least minimum wage for on-duty time not spent driving.

May 15, 2014 11:09:46 AM

The trucker in me agrees with you. The accountant in me doesn't. If you include the wait times it works as it is, but does not improve the situation. Basic Accounting principles suggest breaking thinks into smaller units. Say for instance that you have a 500 mile run that pays $750. The drivers are getting hung up on both ends. The shipper realizes this and is willing to "up" the rate to $1,000. It is fair for everyone. That's great except for a couple of things. One is a competing trucking company may come in and bid the load for $850 not realizing why the rate is so good, and the cycle continues. My idea is to identify revenue and expenses where they are generated from. Say instead of saying the load is $1,000. The freight rate is $750, plus a $250 dock charge. Then someone may ask why there is a $250 dock charge. It is because we ship 1000 cases of toilet paper on the floor. It has to be hand loaded and unloaded and the trucker wants to be compensated for the time. Could it be done faster. Yes, we could put this load on pallets. The total dock time would get cut from 8 hours to 2 hours. The world becomes more efficient.

May 15, 2014 8:34:37 AM

I agree. For a lot of shippers, they may have a contract with a carrier that will not allow the charge. It could be remedied by a willing and able salesteam backed by a carrier who will stand with them. It seems that sales staff give away what they consider freebies, like detention pay, because it doesn't affect them or the carrier. Price sells.What if a driver is late to pick up, will the shipper want detention pay for being held up? I would think the better solution would be to have sales staff factor it in to the cost of shipping, sort of like the fuel surcharge. Shippers complained about it in the beginning, but now it is the norm.

May 15, 2014 6:10:36 AM