To put a little perspective on this column, I am writing it the week of Super Bowl LVII, and the trophy for the new champion Kansas City Chiefs is named after one of the greatest coaches in NFL history, Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers. Sorry Wisconsin, but I would never claim to be a Packers fan, but I do appreciate and respect the late head coach’s style and dedication.
Obviously, with that knowledge comes the concept of "Lombardi Time," a simple rule summed up by the fact that if you do not show up 15 minutes early for a meeting, you were considered late. Amazing how this anecdote has stood the test of time, yet in our industry, detention time continues to take its toll on professional truck drivers.
Detention has stood the test of time in our industry as an inhibitor of productivity, for which we have yet to truly find a cure. Detention time strains the supply chain, impedes productivity, and can hinder safety in our industry. The truckload segment averages about 6.5 hours of drive time per day, a stat that I have often referred to in this column. Somewhere along the line, our drivers are leaving 4.5 hours of unused driving time at terminals, on the side of the road, or at a place that we have yet to discover.
Obviously, the first step was the data we gained from electronic logging devices for an industry filled with fabricated logs that misrepresented perfect driving days and rarely reflected reality. Now, based on ELD data alone, we can find locations that are a problem for detention time, but we must find solutions. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration seems closer to releasing yet another study related to detention time, particularly a study regarding compensation and unpaid detention time, as we wonder exactly whether the research will reveal something we don’t already know.
Detention time and studies are nothing new. They have been done before and will be done again. One basically revealed the accepted amount of detention time was two hours, an industry norm that may or may not be based on anything but anecdotes, but at least it’s something that now can be tracked.
Eliminating or reducing detention time will get the wheels of trucks rolling—and a moving truck is one that is more productive and safer, as data has shown that increased amounts of detention can cause drivers to increase their speeds to make up for time lost on the road. If we know anything, especially based on the recent National Roadway Safety Strategy, speeding isn’t conducive to safer performance.
See also: Let’s win safety, by any and all means
Of course, the “just-in-time-to-wait” concept almost always comes to mind when debating detention time. As an industry that thrives on its professional drivers, any reduction in detention can attract more drivers. Making better driving days, based on efficiency, productivity, and safety, is sure to ring true for people who are seeking rewarding and profitable careers.
Regulating the problem is difficult, however. Rulemakings based on detention would call much into question—and who would police this problem would top the list. Communicating issues with customers should be at the top of any opportunity to solve this problem. Good business starts with conversations with customers and improves the overall performance of drivers and other employees involved in getting freight from Point A to Point B. Loading and unloading on time works wonders.
Obviously, we don’t operate in an environment where issues with detention are entirely the fault of the shipper and receiver. If they know a delay in the arrival of a shipment is likely to happen, proactive, consistent, complete, timely, and relevant communication almost always is required. Detention and solving the problem always begins with you. “Lombardi” the problem, be early with solutions.
David Heller is the senior vice president of safety and government affairs at the Truckload Carriers Association. Heller has worked for TCA since 2005, initially as director of safety, and most recently as the VP of government affairs.