The growing driver shortage has been troubling the U.S. transportation world for some time now. With experienced drivers retiring, the younger generation does not actively pursue a career in truck driving due to long hours, hard work conditions and extended periods of time away from home. In a combination with the implementation of the ELD, the growing driver shortage is tightening the market and driving up rates.
While the driver shortage is indeed a problem, there is another issue we should start seriously addressing. Delays with loading and unloading, or detention, are quite common and have a negative effect on the market conditions. Detention artificially worsens driver shortage by keeping the drivers off the road.
U.S. DOT is aware of the potential negative effects of loading/unloading delays, and an effort has been made to evaluate the current detention problem. They released a report titled, “Estimates Show Commercial Driver Detention Increases Crash Risks and Costs, but Current Data Limit Further Analysis,” with the results of their research. The title of the report gives a pretty clear general picture of the contents of this report. The full report is available online for everyone interested: https://www.oig.dot.gov/sites/default/files/FMCSA%20Driver%20Detention%20Final%20Report.pdf
For example, a 15-minute increase in average dwell time could potentially increase the average expected crash rate by 6.2 percent. Other estimates include the effects detention has on annual commercial driver earnings (reductions of $1.1 billion to $1.3 billion), and the annual net income of motor carriers (reduced by $250.6 million to $302.9 million). FMCSA received a recommendation to improve the collection of data on driver detention in the future.
The report pointed out the lack of accurate industrywide data on driver detention and the limitations it puts on the collection of data and its further analysis. They were able to provide only the estimated effects of driver detention. Taking into consideration the lack of sufficient data, the actual losses and safety impacts could be much higher.
To put it simply, the current market conditions demand adjustments from every party involved in the transportation processes. Shipper efficiency will ensure more trucks are on the road instead of sitting in the docks. This may not resolve the big driver shortage problem, but at least will help ensure that the problem isn’t worse than it already is.