Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., introduced a bill that would require the Department of Transportation to study industry detention practices and establish a maximum number of hours that drivers may be detained without being paid.
"Over the years I've heard anecdotes from truck drivers that detention time is a big problem and contributes significantly to inefficiencies in the supply chain productivity," DeFazio said. "I asked (the Government Accountability Office) to study detention time and quantify the results. It's clear from the report that detaining truckers at loading docks is a significant problem that FMCSA needs to regulate."
Besides setting a time limit on pay, the bill would require shippers and receivers to pay a fee for detention of drivers beyond the established time and authorize civil penalties against shippers for failure to pay for unreasonable detention time.
The GAO found that driver detention is a prevalent problem: of over 300 drivers interviewed by GAO, 68 percent reported being detained within the past month. It also found that 80 percent of detained drivers had difficulty complying with hours of service requirements, and 65 percent reported lost revenue.
Shippers and receivers control many factors that lead to detention, such as facility staffing, lack of loading or unloading equipment, poor service, and products not ready for pick-up, GAO found. And shippers often disagree with carriers and drivers about the amount of detention time and some motor carriers choose not to collect detention fees from their customers.
DeFazio said the legislation is needed because shippers and receivers are not held accountable for the roles they play in affecting motor carrier safety.
Also, he said truck drivers have hours of service rules rather than wage and hour laws. Without addressing detention time, hours of service rules do nothing to ensure a driver can make a living even when working a full day, DeFazio said. "If a driver is detained beyond a certain period of time, he should be compensated."
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association hailed the proposal.
"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. The problem persists because it doesn't cost shippers or receivers to squander drivers' time," said Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice president.