There is growing disagreement about how to handle dock delays created by shippers and receivers, with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) calling for federal legislation to solve the problem and the American Trucking Associations (ATA) opposed to such rule making.

For example, in February, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) introduced a bill, H.R. 756, in the House of Representatives that would require the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to both study the issue of excessive wait times for trucks at shipping and receiving facilities and introduce regulations setting standards for the maximum numbers of hours a driver may be detained and not compensated.

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While OOIDA strongly supports DeFazio’s bill, the ATA’s board of directors voted this week to oppose such efforts at regulating detention time – calling on policymakers to “respect contracts between carriers and shippers and abandon proposals to interfere in those arrangements.”

“No carrier wants to see our drivers’ time wasted,” noted Dan England, chairman and president of Utah-based TL carrier C.R. England Inc. and ATA’s first vice chairman. “However, this is not an issue that can be handled with a ‘one-size fits all’ regulation and as a result is best addressed in contractual agreements between carriers and shippers.”

Todd Spencer, OOIDA’s executive VP, told Fleet Owner that ATA’s position on detention time is “a departure from their previous stance” on this issue – and he further believes, in this specific case, that most carriers would welcome federal regulatory intervention.

“It’s difficult for me to imagine that many of your readers would support ATA’s position on detention time,” Spencer said. “The colossal, mind-numbing wait times at loading docks are the biggest drain on productivity and on drivers – and that’s becoming more critical as the FMCSA prepares to reform hours of service (HOS) regulations.”

Polls conducted by OOIDA indicate that drivers spend as many as 40 hours per week waiting to be loaded or unloaded. Additionally, a survey conducted with 300 drivers this January by the U.S. General Accountability Office (GAO) found that 59% experienced detention time. About 65% of them 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.

OOIDA added that FMCSA has estimated that the cost of detention time to the trucking industry is more than $3 billion per year and the cost to the public is more than $6.5 billion per year. The agency is also proposing to conduct a more detailed study of detention time in 2012.

“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,” said Spencer.

“But this is also an industry that can’t seem to correct itself on this issue, as it remains totally willing to give away the driver’s time,” he stressed. “This isn’t a new issue, either – it’s been dogging this industry for 30 years and there doesn’t seem to be a market-based solution to it.”

From a purely safety perspective, Steve Keppler, executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), told Fleet Owner that detention time is “a significant issue” and that both shippers and receivers should be held accountable for dock delays. He believes that further study of the issue is needed before a legislative or regulatory solution is considered.

“There are differing views on how pervasive a problem this [detention time] is, under what circumstances it occurs the most, and how best to deal with it,” Keppler explained. “The true scope of the problem needs to be determined first. Also, regulations don’t always solve problems they are intended to fix.”