The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is stepping up its efforts to collect more data for its study on whether truck driver compensation affects commercial vehicle safety – a linkage that many in trucking feel isn’t valid to make.

“They are totally unrelated as salary is tied specifically to recruitment and retention,” David Heller, director of safety and policy for the Truckload Carriers Assn. (TCA), told Fleet Owner.

“Now, many motor carriers are offering safety bonuses but that is an entirely different and separate incentive from basic compensation,” he stressed.

FMCSA added that its submission of a new information collection request (ICR) in support of this study – originally launched back in 2012 – to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) should not affect its completion date, which is still targeted for September this year.

To date, some 2,184 responses have been received by the agency for its compensation study

The agency reiterated that the goal of the study is to evaluate all compensation methods including pay by the hour, mile or load; not emphasize one compensation method over another. The sole determinant of this research is to determine if there is any relationship between compensation methods and safe driving behavior.

The issue of uncompensated detention time and its possible connection to highway safety is a major sore spot within the debate over truck driver pay – one highlighted regularly by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn. (OOIDA).

“In a just-in-time, deregulated industry, trucking has de-evolved to where truckers are donating their time to the benefit of shippers and receivers, noted Todd Spencer OOIDA’s executive VP in comments several years ago. “The problem persists because it doesn’t cost shippers or receivers to squander drivers’ time.”

Surveys conducted by OOIDA indicate as many as 40 hours per week are spent by drivers waiting to be loaded or unloaded and the group referenced as study by FMCSA says the cost of “uncompensated wait time” to the industry is more than $3 billion per year.

Even the U.S. Government Accounting Office (GAO) conducted a survey on the detention issue back in 2011 and strongly recommended that FMCSA address the issue.

GAO’s interviews with over 300 truck drivers others four years ago found that detention time can result in reduced driving time and lost revenue for drivers and carriers alike.

“For those drivers that reported previously experiencing detention time, about 80% reported that detention time impacts their ability to meet federal hours of service (HOS) requirements by reducing their available driving time,” the agency noted. “About 65% of drivers reported lost revenue as a result of detention time from either missing an opportunity to secure another load or paying late fees to the shipper.”

GAO added at the time that while FMCSA collects data from drivers during roadside inspections regarding HOS infractions, the agency currently does not collect – nor is it required to collect – information to assess the extent to which detention time contributes to these violations.

“The colossal, mind-numbing wait times at loading docks are the biggest drain on productivity and on drivers,” OOIDA’s Spencer stressed. “Shippers and receivers have for too long gotten away with wasting truckers’ time without any accountability for their role in the ultimate effect it has on highway safety.”