If there is one thing LTL and TL carriers alike hate with a passion, it is waiting.  The old adage of “time is money” holds true, and waiting at a customer’s site is a big cost for carriers.  Both LTL and TL carriers commonly provide the customer with a set amount of “free time”, or time allotted to perform pickup and delivery.  Their base freight charges include this free time. If a customer delays the carrier beyond this free time during a pickup and/or a delivery, Detention charges can be assessed.

From the carrier’s point of view, the extra time the driver is delayed is time the driver is not generating revenue. Further, the delays can prevent the driver from performing subsequent pickups and deliveries. This is of particular concern with current Hours of Service regulations and the widespread adoption of ELDs (Electronic Logging Devices). So if you as a customer have wondered why your carrier might have been late for a pickup or delivery or, worst case, failed to make the pickup or delivery, it could be that a prior customer caused a delay.

Carriers across both the TL and LTL spectrum are increasing their application rates of detention charges. This is being driven by need, as the application of a charge is a proven mechanism to influence and change customer behavior. It is also being driven by technology. Through the use of ELDs and handheld devices, carriers have the means to readily identify and assess detention situations.

Reducing or eliminating detention at your facility is an excellent way to maintain “Shipper of Choice” status with carriers. So how do customers protect themselves from Detention? Here are several things to consider:

  1. Be aware of the carrier’s detention rules and how free time is determined. LTL carriers may use shipment count or weight as the basis, so know for each pickup or delivery how much free time you have to work with. TL carriers often allow 2 hours.
  2. Have your loads and their paperwork completely ready prior to the carrier’s arrival.
  3. If you are a shipper, be aware of detention charges on the receiver end if you are paying the freight bill. They could be costing you money. Detention is a common problem with grocery warehouses, container freight stations, and residential deliveries.
  4. Be aware that detention charges are not always correct. Technology is often only as good as the user.  If you suspect an error, challenge the carrier. They should be able to produce a certificate or other documentation to “prove” the detention. They should be able to look at the prior and subsequent driver actions to ensure all is good. It could be that the driver failed to record their arrival and departure times, or their lunch break, or downtime. Carriers want to be accurate, and cannot fix a driver error unless they know about it.

When detention occurs, carriers deserve to be compensated. Understand that they are not using detention charges as a revenue stream, but rather as that means of influencing and changing customer behavior. It is a tool that works. They would gladly trade the detention charges for no actual detention.With the strained supply chain we are all dealing with these days, the tight capacity and driver shortages, focusing on detention will be much appreciated by your carrier partners.