The American Trucking Associations released a statement Wednesday saying it would not support regulating driver detention times as proposed in HR 756, a bill recently introduced by U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-OR.

I concur. I don't believe regulation is a suitable way to resolve this issue.

So, ATA, do you have a better idea?

ATA Chairman Barbara Windsor said in the release that "Federal regulation in this area would directly affect shipping rates and would significantly change the playing field for carriers and shippers."

That, Madam Chair, is precisely the point.

Carriers, for obvious reasons, have been reluctant to hold their customers' feet to the fire and demand compensation for waiting time. They would appear to prefer burning their employees to possibly turning off customers -- even though the customer is the source of the problem.

In the days when drivers were a dime a dozen, that might have been a fiscally (if not morally) prudent decision. I'd argue that those days are over. In the face of what's predicted to be a record driver shortage, trucking will not attract new blood when drivers are forced to be on duty without pay.

The Defazio bill seeks to prohibit shippers and receivers from detaining drivers without providing reasonable compensation for that time.

Uncompensated delay time has been one of the Top 5 driver complaints ever since deregulation, but in the brave new world of electronic logs, the complaints could turn into empty seats. When all those wasted hours hit line four of an electronic log, there will be no denying the extent of the problem -- and drivers will no longer be able to recover that lost earning potential with a little creative logging.

I'm afraid, Madam Chair, that when drivers see their paychecks shrink because shippers or receivers keep them cooling their (unpaid) heels for three or four hours several times a week, there will be a stampede for the door.

When you get your EOBRs, there'll no longer be any reason for fleets or shippers to dispute drivers' claims of time spent at the dock, and it should be compensated. When the wheels stop, the clock has to start.

The ATA release went on to quote ATA First Vice Chairman Dan England, chairman and president of Salt Lake City-based C.R. England, saying, "No carrier wants to see our drivers' time wasted. 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."

Well, Mr. England -- and for the record, I agree with you -- it would seem that if carriers are not prepared to place a greater value on their drivers' time, higher powers just might be. I'll be waiting to see some changes to the aforementioned contractual agreements between shippers and carriers.

Carriers, it's time to put your money where your mouth is.