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  • Writer's pictureEvelina.Petrov

Reaching for the Impossible: Reign in on unpaid detention times

Updated: Dec 3, 2021

The legislation calls for DOT to, within a year, begin a rulemaking to reign in unpaid detention time by setting a limit on the amount of time a driver can be detained at a shipper or receiver without being paid for that time. Likewise, it calls for a system by which carriers and drivers could report detention times beyond any limits set by DOT. The bill doesn’t make clear whether the onus would be on shippers/receivers to pay carriers for that time, or if lawmakers intend for carriers to pay drivers for detention

(which obviously would limit the impact on independent operators). Those details likely would be left to FMCSA to sort out. Nonetheless, it could again expand DOT’s ability to regulate shippers and receivers, at least in their interactions with carriers. Detention times have long been an issue for drivers.

Now that the White House appears to be seriously considering adding mandatory detention pay to the next draft of the Highway Bill, the issue has come to the forefront for many small and independent fleets, and everyone has an opinion. But the question remains; is mandatory detention pay good for drivers? View Point 1: it would cost carriers revenue in the long run and result in new taxes to help pay for government oversight of the program. Other people worried that the money for mandatory paid detention times would just come out of their shipping rates and detention time would stay the same.

The best thing you can do to combat long detention times – according to some of those who are against detention pay – is simply not to accept loads from shippers who can’t give a reasonable turnaround. View Point 2: claim that stealing their time is the same thing as stealing, the scenario where you arrived to pick up a load early, but the shippers choose to load and unload their own trucks first since their drivers are paid an hourly wage. After that, they pick a load, load it, pick a load, load it, and on and on. When asked why they didn’t pre-pick the load, the answer was that it would have taken their hourly worker an extra half hour to accomplish the task that way, ignoring the fact that you had to wait an extra three hours because of it. for owner operators simply deciding not to deal with that shipper again isn’t enough. Even if you decide never to work with them again, the next shipper you work with may be exactly the same. And the shipper is completely unhurt by your decision to not work with them again. There are so many small carriers and owner operators that shippers can easily use a new carrier for every single load they have. There are innumerable other issues having to do with mandatory detention time such as who would be responsible for paying? Would it be the carrier or the shipper? Would the FMCSA be able to enforce payments from shippers? Would all detention time be paid, or only if a driver was kept waiting for an unreasonable amount of time? What if the driver was late to pick up a load? Would rigid scheduling windows be enforced? The questions go on and on, but the most important for truckers is this: Is mandatory detention pay

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