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Federal Study on Truck Safety Focuses on Potential Risks & Costs of Trucker ‘Detention Time’

Federal Truck Safety Study Focuses on Trucker ‘Detention Time’ Risks & Costs

Regulators Want to Know How Waiting at Shipping & Receiving Docks Affects 18-Wheeler Safety

A new federal trucking study will soon get underway, focusing on how detection times for truckers affect driving safety, regulatory compliance, and on-time delivery rates. Officially titled,  Impact of Driver Detention Time on Safety and Operations, this study and the authorities behind it are looking to find out if longer detention times elevate crash risks, with a solutions-oriented view to inform future trucking regulations.

What Is Trucker Detention Time?

Before diving into the details and objectives of this trucker safety study, it’s first crucial to define detention time within the context of the trucking industry. Notably, there’s no standard definition of “detention time.”

Trucker Detention Time Study Nevertheless, federal authorities say that they’re using “detention time” similarly to “dwell time,” and that it refers to waiting periods that:

  • Occur at shipping and receiving facilities
  • Do not involve cargo loading or unloading activities
  • Last at least 2 hours

According to regulators, trucking detention time “is a longstanding issue” that “consistently ranks as one of the top problems for a large portion of CMV operators on an ongoing basis.”

Beyond questions of lost productivity and revenue, detention time raises concerns about:

  1. Trucker safety when drivers have to get back on the roads after extended waiting periods
  2. How detention times affect the limits on truckers’ driving time and time behind the wheel

Those are some reasons why authorities are now intent on getting a better handle on detention times — and why they opened up a public comment period for feedback, so motorists, trucking industry players, and others could weigh in on the issue before the study gets underway.

Details of the Federal Trucker Detention Time Study

Initially announced in August 2023, this trucker detention time study will include roughly 80 motor carriers and 2,500 truckers that were carefully selected to represent “major segments of the motor carrier industry.” Over the course of this 12-month study, participants will share data with researchers to create a clearer picture of:

  • Trucker Detention Time & Driver Fatigue Study How often detention time arises: Currently, regulators are in the dark about how often detention time affects truckers on average and within different sectors of the trucking industry. This has created somewhat of a safety blind spot for authorities, fueling the need for this study, they say.

  • The severity of detention time: How long does detention time last, on average? How does it affect truckers’ alertness, responsiveness, and adherence to safety requirements? Regulators are looking to answer these questions too, especially when it comes to how detention times may affect compliance with hours-of-service (HOS) rules.

  • Detention time dangers: Are there correlations between detention times and fatal big rig accidents? What about injury crashes or wrecks only causing property damage? Authorities want to uncover as many insights as possible about how detention periods and dwell times contribute to crash risks, with an eye towards the duration of detention time, the time(s) of the day this “event” occurs, and more.

  • The costs of detention time: Summing up their findings, authorities hope to put a number on the impacts of detention time, particularly in terms of lost productivity costs, supply chain disruption costs, crash-related costs, and the costs associated with physical trauma and the loss of human life.

At the end of this study, authorities hope to have a stronger understanding of trucker detention time risks and precisely how those could be contributing to 18-wheeler accidents in Texas and nationwide.

Risks of Detention Time

Critically, this isn’t the first time federal authorities have studied the impacts and risks of trucker detention time. A decade ago, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a groundbreaking study that not only brought important attention to this trucking safety issue but also highlighted some of the risks associated with truck driver detention times.

According to that 2014 trucker detention time study:

  • About 2 in 3 truckers had “experienced some detention time in the past month.”

  • The duration of detention times varied widely, with some truckers waiting an average of 2 hours while others ended up waiting 8+ hours during these periods.

  • No sector of the trucking industry is immune to detention times. Also, there’s no one type of facility, commercial vehicle, or sector of the trucking industry that’s known to have longer detention times.

  • About 4% of truckers involved in this study admitted to violating HOS rules and fudging their logbook entries because of extended detention times.

  • Many motor carriers have systems for tracking driver detention times. According to these systems, over 1 in every 10 hauls is disrupted by detention time.

  • Trucker detention times can contribute to driver fatigue, frustration, and stress, and “reducing driver fatigue is a necessary step in reducing serious [truck] crashes.”

With renewed attention to the issue, regulators are eager to uncover novel findings that can guide policy updates, new regulations, and better ways to keep truckers and the public safe on the roads moving forward. Only time will tell if regulators, the public, and the trucking industry are able to make real progress with this 18-wheeler safety.

Until then, big rig accident victims, including truckers themselves, can find out more about their rights and options by talking to an experienced attorney.