US truckers are losing an estimated $1.2 billion in income annually waiting at loading docks, shows a new study released by the Department of Transportation.
The Department of Transportation office of inspector general audit conducted its own research, simulations, and interviews, as well as analyzing research from other government and industry organizations and discovered that, not only are individual truck drivers losing between $1,281 and $1,534 a year sitting at loading docks, the detention time also makes them 6.2% more likely to get in a crash after they leave the dock.
Even just a 15 minute unplanned increase in time spent waiting at a loading dock leads to one additional wreck per 1,000 semi trucks because “frustration and reduced income and may contribute to dangerous behaviors such as speeding and violations of (hours of service) requirements.”
Unexpected detention time also leads to between $250.6 and $302.9 million in losses for motor carriers, on top of the approximately $1.2 billion collectively lost by the truckers themselves. That means that between 3 and 3.6 percent of a driver’s annual income is lost to detention time, otherwise known as dwell time.
“It [the study] gets to the original sin of the industry, which is drivers aren’t paid for their wait time and so their time is used inefficiently and it has effects on safety and income,” said author of “The Big Rig: Trucking and the Decline of the American Dream” and a sociologist and lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania, Steve Viscelli.
The Transportation Department’s inspector general believes that the loss of income and threats to road safety that detention time poses may even be “substantially higher” than the report estimates, because most truck drivers and carriers only record time spent at a loading dock after the standard two hour window has passed, skewing the information available to researchers.
“Given the fact that the top 20 percent of long-haul truck drivers work 75 hours a week or more, and given the likelihood that most of this excess labor time is detention time, this could be a really substantial risk,” said Michael H. Belzer, associate economics professor at Wayne State University.
Despite the report’s findings, the Federal Motor Carrier Administration says that it is too soon to be sure that the report’s statistics are accurate.
“It would be premature to draw any empirical conclusions about the impact of driver detention times on crash rates or driver incomes at this time,” said FMCSA Deputy Administrator Cathy Gautreaux, who plans to increase the amount of information available on the subject of detention time by adding a reporting form to the FMCSA website as a way for truckers to voluntarily submit information regarding excessive wait times, which truckers experience an estimated seven times a month.
The FMCSA claims it plans to discuss the issue of excessive wait times with industry groups, but did not offer any specifics regarding that plan.