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Watchdog Report: The Effects of Delays in Loading and Unloading Trucks

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Trucking American Government

Watchdog Report: The Effects of Delays in Loading and Unloading Trucks

U.S. Government Accountability Office
February 22, 2011

Listen to Watchdog Report: The Effects of Delays in Loading and Unloading Trucks - MP3 - 4.2MB - 4:36

From the U.S. Government Accountability Office, www.gao.gov

Transcript for: Watchdog Report: The Effects of Delays in Loading and
Unloading Trucks

Audio interview by GAO staff with Susan Fleming, Director, Physical

Related GAO Work: GAO-11-198: Commercial Motor Carriers: More Could Be
Done to Determine Impact of Excessive Loading and Unloading Wait Times
on Hours of Service Violations

Released on: February 22, 2011

[Background music]

[ Narrator: ] Welcome to GAO's Watchdog Report, your source for news and
information from the Government Accountability Office. It's February 22,
2011. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration enforces limits on
the number of hours commercial truckers can drive in a given period.
With thousands of truckloads of goods moving over the nation's highways
every day, any disruption in one truck schedule can have a ripple effect
on others and affect their ability to perform within safety regulations.
One source of such disruptions is delays in the time it takes to load or
unload trucks, also known as detention time. A group led by Susan
Fleming, a Director in GAO's Physical Infrastructure team, recently
examined the prevalence and effect of detention time on the commercial
freight vehicle industry. GAO's Jeremy Cluchey sat down with Susan to
learn more.

[ Jeremy Cluchey: ] This report focuses on detention time for commercial
motor carriers. What's meant by this term?

[ Susan Fleming: ] It's when truck drivers spend an excessive amount of
time waiting to load or unload their goods at facilities. A certain
amount of waiting time is expected, but the industry defines detention
time as anything over 2 hours. We've actually heard of examples where a
truck driver had to wait over 8 hours before being able to unload his
truck at a facility.

[ Jeremy Cluchey: ] And why is this issue such a problem? What happens
when the wait times are longer than anticipated, for example?

[ Susan Fleming: ] Detention time can lead to reduced driving time and
potential lost revenue for truck drivers. As in other industries,
truckers are subject to federal hours of service regulations that limit
the amount of time drivers can work and drive during a normal day. These
regulations allow the driver to be on duty for 14 hours, 11 of which
they can drive their truck. As you can imagine, the longer a trucker has
to wait to unload or load their goods, the less time he or she has to
drive before hitting their hours of service limit. Also truckers can
lose revenue if detention time impacts a driver's ability to deliver a
load on time or pick up their next load.

[ Jeremy Cluchey: ] Can you talk a little bit about the process your
team used to collect the information for this report?

[ Susan Fleming: ] Unfortunately there wasn't much available data on
this topic, so we had to figure out a way to collect meaningful data in
a short amount of time. We considered sending a survey to truckers or
asking them to keep a detention time log for several months, but we
ended up interviewing over 300 truckers at truck stops in several
states. We reviewed the few studies that were conducted on this issue,
and we talked to a lot of trucking industry stakeholders: companies,
shippers, receivers, warehouse facilities, and ports.

[ Jeremy Cluchey: ] What did you find in these interviews? What did the
drivers that you spoke with have to say about detention time?

[ Susan Fleming: ] About two-thirds of these drivers experienced
detention time at least once within the last month, and about 80 percent
told us that detention time impacts their ability to meet hours of
service regulations; 65 percent said they had actually lost revenue.
When faced with the choice of missing a scheduled pickup or delivery or
losing revenue, truckers told us that they will sometimes choose to
violate hours of service regulations. They will actually falsify their
driving logs as a result of detention time.

[ Jeremy Cluchey: ] What recommendations is GAO making based on this

[ Susan Fleming: ] The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration,
which is part of the Department of Transportation, has plans for several
studies on fatigue and detention time in the next couple of years. We
suggested that the agency include in its scope a definitive look at the
link between detention time and hours of service violations. We feel
that this assessment would help the agency determine whether additional
federal action might be needed, but we do have one very important
caveat: Given that the trucking industry was deregulated in the 1980s,
we feel that any federal action to reduce detention time really needs to
have careful consideration whether or not they would also lead to
unintended impacts on the industry.

[ Background music ]

[ Narrator: ] To learn more, visit GAO's Web site at gao.gov and be sure
to tune in to the next edition of GAO's Watchdog Report for more from
the congressional watchdog, the Government Accountability Office.

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