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.