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Reduce Driver Detention Time With Routing and Scheduling Software

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Reduce Driver Detention Time With Routing and Scheduling Software

Apr 12, 2022

Shannon Sickmon
Driver in truck cab

If you own or manage a fleet, you know that hiring and retaining drivers is a very real issue right now. You want to keep the drivers you have happy, and that means you must maintain efficient schedules to ensure your team is productive and HOS (Hours of Service)-compliant. But if your drivers must wait to load and unload the truck at every stop, your carefully planned schedule goes out the window, customers start to complain and profits disappear.

What Is Driver Detention?

Truck driver detention time is a very real issue and has become even worse as the global supply chain becomes increasingly complex. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, driver detention refers to the amount of time that a driver is delayed at a stop while waiting for the team at the dock to load or unload the trucks. For HOS purposes, it means that a driver is delayed for more than 2 hours during pick up or delivery. After this 2-hour ‘free time’ period, most fleets will charge a detention charge—usually about $35 to $75 an hour—to compensate the driver and carrier for the interruption to their schedule.

While that charge seems reasonable at first glance, if the delay is lengthy enough, the driver could run out of legal driving hours or miss later appointments. This means lost revenue for both the driver and the carrier. Current regulations state that a driver can only be on duty for a maximum of 14 hours, with 11 of those spent driving. There are hundreds of factors that can affect a route, but studies have shown that detention is the biggest factor in deferred schedules.

In 2019, ATRI, did a study on driver detention. Here are some of the stats that they found.

  • Drivers reported a 27.4% increase in delays of six or more hours.

  • There was a nearly 40% increase in drivers who reported that most of their pick-ups and deliveries were delayed over the past 12 months due to customer actions.

  • The negative impact of detention on carrier revenue and driver compensation may be greater among smaller fleets (<50 power units) with 20% reporting that they do not charge for excessive detention to stay competitive with larger fleets.

The same study found that the average commercial truck driver will only drive for about 7 hours per day, which is well below the 11-hour driving limit. This means that other factors must be causing the delays. After all, your drivers know their routes better than anyone, and know how to avoid trouble spots caused by rush hour traffic or inclement weather. Here’s the rub: statistics show that the average national wait time at most facilities is 156 minutes.

156

The average national wait time at most facilities is 156 minutes.

What Are the Effects of Driver Detention?

So, what does all this mean for your fleet? Your drivers have an appointment at the facility, show up at the right time, and then wait in line for hours. This has a snowball effect on the rest of the day’s routes and could mean that they hit their HOS limits without finishing the day's deliveries.

The labor shortage is not exclusive to logistics. In the same ATRI survey, truck drivers stated that most warehouse facilities are understaffed. This leads to constant impediments in loading and unloading times, and sometimes preloaded trucks aren’t ready for their scheduled appointment. Often, the warehouse facilities overbook appointments to meet their own revenue goals, but if the staff can’t keep up, it only leads to further setbacks.

Driver detention has a direct impact on driver productivity as well as driver morale. Delays happen in this business. But if it is due to detention, your drivers lose on duty hours as well as revenues. Your driver then may feel that they must rush to make the rest of their appointments, which means they are putting their safety on the line. You also run the risk of angry customers, as late deliveries and missed pickups could mean you lose business to the competition.

What can you do? You could run second shifts, but for smaller fleets, that could get expensive or may not be viable. Instead of trying to hire more drivers to compensate, which we all know is a challenge in itself given the current driver shortages, let’s explore how you can smooth detention delays with the resources you already have.

Reduce Driver Detention With the Right Technology (And Some Common Sense)

What can you do to reduce driver detention and get products from one place to another on-time and without added expense? Here are some simple suggestions.

1.   Have your sales and service teams renegotiate the contracts between your fleet and your customers.

Include a clause outlining a driver detention pay agreement. This clause, while punitive, might be the deterrent your slow customers need to increase their efficiency at the warehouse. Many states are arguing for a higher detention fee, which shows that it has become a very real issue for logistics companies.

2.  Implement routing and scheduling software.

Robust routing software operates on a continuous improvement loop, so if you know that constant delays at the customer level are hampering efficiency, you can look at ways to improve that issue. With gas prices steadily rising and eCommerce booming, you need to keep your trucks on the road.

Ineffective scheduling is one of the main reasons for driver detention. If a shipment isn’t ready to go when the pickup time arrives, or if the customer has overscheduled, the driver might be forced to wait. Optimizing your scheduling process can eliminate detention, because you can schedule those customers at times where they won’t affect your other deliveries.

With routing and scheduling software, you will also be able to check and make sure that your drivers are on-time. Real-time updates coupled with in-cab telematics will update your dispatch manager so that they know whether drivers are following the routes. If a driver misses an appointment window, it could have a snowball effect on the rest of the schedule. However, with agile route optimization software, you can make sure drivers have plenty of time to make their appointments.

Aptean’s routing and scheduling software not only helps you plan the most efficient routes instantly, but it can also help you examine different “what if” scenarios so that you can see alternatives to solve problems. For example, you can look at adding in second shifts to alleviate detention delays during peak hours. Or maybe you want to know if adding another truck to the daily schedule will be useful—and more importantly—profitable. Pivotally, the software allows you to evaluate the impact of these scenarios before making any changes, reducing the amount of risk you must take and ensuring you’re able to make the smartest decisions every time.

3.  Communication is key.

Talk with your drivers after every shift. They are the ones driving these routes every day, and they will know which customers always present a problem at the loading dock. Contact the customers where your drivers have reported delays and find out the busiest times at the docks. Discuss options for alternate times, then tweak your schedule accordingly. Another option is to use intelligent software to create a customer-driven delivery schedule allowing your customers to choose delivery times themselves through an online portal, while the system directs them to the slots that work best for you. This allows you to be more efficient, continually optimize routes in real time and offer an improved customer service.

Take Back Time with Route Optimization

Think about this—If you can reduce driver detention time by even 30 minutes, you could take back your share of the industry’s annual $1 billion a year in losses and put some money back into the drivers’ pockets. It also means that your drivers will have more time at home, because they won’t have to worry about going over HOS hours, helping you attract and retain qualified truck drivers.

At a time when driver recruitment is difficult, implementing routing and scheduling software can increase driver confidence and satisfaction, because it shows that your management team is committed to rooting out inefficiencies and improving driver welfare. Truck driver detention time is a very real problem, but it’s one that you can address with communication and route optimization software.

To find out more about how Aptean Routing & Scheduling can put you on the path to success, reach out now. We’d love to talk.

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