Wait times in the form of dwell and detention are coming down at facilities across the United States, according to a FourKites executive, but the issue was one of the top concerns of truck drivers for the first half of 2020.
That's what WorkHound, a transportation research firm that gathers anonymous input, found in its comment-gathering system. In the first half of the year, drivers' logistical concerns accounted for the plurality of comments gathered and took up 25% of the total, according to Max Farrell, co-founder and CEO of WorkHound, speaking during a webinar held by Women in Trucking on July 22.
WorkHound gathered 18,400 trucker comments, getting input from 7,200 drivers. Farrell said logistics-related concerns included dwell times and detention times, load availability, HOS, and load information. In short, drivers would like more information and better communication with shippers and retailers, at whose terminals the drivers feel they are stuck waiting.
"That time wasted is money wasted for the trucking company."
Founder and President, Logistics TI
"Drivers are looking for support in all areas ... in logistics that ensure that all facets of their work are lined up properly," a WorkHound blog post said. "If they feel forgotten or unsupported, drivers are at a higher risk for turnover," Farrell wrote in the blog post.
Dwell time — the total amount of time waiting at a facility — and detention time — the time waiting to be loaded or unloaded, before such activity starts — can cost truck drivers precious time on the road, where they get paid per mile. The wait times can cost the carriers too.
"That time wasted is money wasted for the trucking company," said Cathy Roberson, founder and president of Logistics TI, speaking to Transport Dive. "[Wait time] will just keep building up, and [drivers] are up against HOS."
The pandemic's effects on dwell times
FourKites cites research by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), which has been a sharp critic of wait times at shipper facilities. For 2018, OOIDA reported 78% of carriers lost at least one load per month because of detention time. Almost half of carriers lost more than one load per month in 2018, OOIDA said. So it is perhaps not surprising drivers expressed frustration with waiting times.
That dwell time did not improve during the COVID-19 pandemic's early days, despite the lack of traffic on the road, according to initial reports by FourKites. The research firm found dwell time jumped significantly in March as the pandemic took hold. Compared to February, March witnessed a 24% increase in late loads due to extended dwell times, according to Vivek Vaid, FourKites CTO.
By May, the dwell times decreased, even as truck volume went up. Vaid wrote that seemed counterintuitive, as more freight should have meant more time loading and unloading, and waiting for such activity.
"We believe the likely reason for this is that while states were implementing a higher level of lockdown in the second half of April, there was an increase in wait times even with freight volumes declining," Vaid wrote on the FourKites blog on May 22. "Now that volume is trending up and people are getting back to work, we are seeing irregularity in these traditional relationships, at least for the short term."
Jason Eversole, FourKites head of carrier product strategy, told Transport Dive that dwell times continue to come down in July. But the problem is still in need of management and technology solutions, which FourKites continues to work on as a freight visibility company.
Eversole said contributing factors to dwell times vary. They include the volatile aspect of consumer demands; staffing at shippers' facilities and retailers; and load preparation, which can be delayed if there is a lot of case picking.
With time spent not on the road, the driver then faces HOS regulatory time limits sooner than expected, because dwell time is counted as working. Drivers told WorkHound that if managers don't plan HOS well for them, they are forced to do things such as the 34-hour reset, as required by the FMCSA.
"We have an internal process called 'Rate My Load,' where our drivers are able to rate our shipper."
Driver Services Manager, Melton Truck Lines
Delaney Rea, driver services manager for Melton Truck Lines, speaking during the WIT webinar, said her company has come up with a system to rate shippers and receivers. Melton uses an Uber-like rating system to help with driver feedback, because drivers will have challenges on some trips.
"Maybe [drivers] feel they weren't treated well, or they didn't feel the space was safe," Rea said. "We have an internal process called 'Rate My Load,' where our drivers are able to rate our shipper."
The program uses a five-star rating system, Rea said, with an open-ended comment section. The system helps Melton managers and drivers choose "driver-friendly" shippers. Melton has been promoting system use to help drivers choose the best loads.
Farrell said drivers are very aware of the time they spend off the road, and that detention pay is one way to address the issue for truckers. On that issue, Eversole suggested detention pay would likely force an end to the inefficient use of time.
"If you start paying people by the hour, you are not having this conversation," said Eversole.
As for WorkHound's findings, Farrell said it's important for the C-suite to use the feedback from the drivers and not ignore it.
"One of the most dangerous things you can do with feedback is nothing," said Farrell.