Electronic Logging Devices Fuel Talk of Detention Fees

Tips on how to reduce detention fees and dwell time

Electronic logging devices were mandated as part of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulation Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century) MAP-21.  The intention of the ELD mandate is to help create a safer work environment for truck drivers.  Using electronic logging devices makes tracking, managing and sharing of records of duty status (RODs) faster and easier to handle.  An electronic logging device is synchronized with the vehicle engine so that hours of service (HOS) driving time, information regarding driver behavior, idle time tracking and other data is recorded automatically.  Because ELDs automatically record without need for manual intervention use of a paper log or documentation, this helps to ensure greater accuracy in HOS compliance.

Using ELD solutions is having an impact on various aspects of the transportation, logistics and warehousing elements of the supply chain.  Truck drivers have complained that the ELD mandate is affecting their income.  Without using electronic logging devices, drivers often work beyond the hours of service limit to meet shipper demand, however ELDs provide information visibility, showcasing that infraction. 

One thing that the ELD mandate has done is bring a new focus to the issue of dwell time.  Loading, unloading and scheduling activities have an impact on HOS.  With the shortage of truck drivers today, this is a noticeable problem that requires collaboration from shippers and carriers to solve.  When a truck driver has to sit and wait at a warehouse for an extended period of time, it reduces the amount of hours that can be driven and affects the ability to retrieve the next load on time.


How the ELD Mandate is Impacting Shippers

Limiting the number of hours that truck drivers work combined with the driver shortage, freight volume and dwell time may result in truckload rates increasing by up to 20% due to the reduced capacity on the road.

The strict enforcement of HOS limits and the ELD mandate will undoubtedly impact on-time deliveries.  With this said, dwell time, the amount of time that a truck sits idle while waiting for loading, unloading, etc. costs trucking companies money.

In general, transportation and logistics carriers allot a two-hour window for loading and unloading.  In the transportation and logistics industry, detention fees are assessed when a truck is detained at the pickup or delivery location longer than the allotted time window.  Typically, between $50 and $100 in detention charges are imposed on shippers for any time spent outside that window to help the trucking companies recoup some of the monies that are lost in dwell time.

Usually detention fees are not charged in LTL loads and are only applied in truckload shipping.

Another part of the detention time issue is the trickle-down effect it has on a driver’s schedule.  When a truck is forced to remain idle for 4 or 5 hours during loading or unloading, there are less legal driving hours left in the day to transport loads.  This can mean that the driver will be forced to stop along the route to the next appointment and wait for hours to reset.  When this happens, it creates a snowball effect, making the driver miss the next appointment.  The driver then has to wait to unload, adding more dwell time.  In some instances, the receiver then imposes chargebacks on the shipper or rejects the load.  Late deliveries impact the reputation of the shipper and can damage relationships with receivers.  This may result in the receiver increasing linehaul rates or deciding not to do business with that shipper in the future.

According to FMCSA estimates, detention time costs trucking companies over $3 billion annual and consumers over $6.5 billion a year.  On time delivery of freight, added costs from detention time and reduction in “just in time” (JIT) days are all issues that are impacted from excess dwell time.


Tips for Reducing Dwell Time in Your Warehouse

Warehouse Dock Appointment Scheduling and Execution

Schedule properly.  Make sure that dock appointments are scheduled to allot adequate time for loading and unloading each truck.

Make sure that your warehouse management system can:

  • Schedule dock appointments
  • Display dock appointments so that waiting drivers can keep track of the load/unload status

Prepare for dock operations

Make sure that all goods, documentation, etc. are ready for loading

Check that you have all equipment, mobile devices, etc. ready, in full working order and in readily accessible by warehouse workers in the loading dock area.

Make sure staffing plans and schedules include an adequate number of warehouse workers is available for loading and unloading.  Consider making extra warehouse labor available to load and unload.  Usually this is less expensive that racking up $50-$100 per hour detention fees.

Ways to Speed Up Loading and Unloading

  • Use drop and hook. Using drop trailers can ensure that freight is moved faster from point-to-point, avoiding delays and detention fees.  Drop and hook ensures that time is not wasted and that drivers can proceed without time delays so that trucking schedules can be maintained.  Another benefit of drop and hook is that it enables warehouses to have the flexibility of handling loads at times when there are more workers available for loading and unloading.  Drop and hook helps drivers by enabling them to select their start and end times so that rush hour traffic can be avoided.
  • Making sure that freight is appropriately pre-staged on the dock helps to expedite operations for seamless loading and unloading of trucks.
  • Communicate to carriers if loading will need to be delayed if this is known ahead of time. This will enable truck drivers to adjust their schedules so that their driving hours can be maximized.
  • Make sure your warehouse and yard have clear, easy to read signage in place so that workers and drivers can be directed to key locations including loading areas, entrances, exits, waiting rooms, etc.
  • Place computer monitors in driver waiting rooms so that drivers can be continually have real time access as to load status.

Executive Attention and Oversight is Key to Reducing Dwell Time

Make reducing detention time a top priority for your warehouse, distribution center or 3PL operation. 

  • Focus on KPIs such as loading and unloading times
  • Track missed or late arrivals to dock appointments
  • Use metrics to provide consistent training and reinforcement to warehouse workers and executives to make sure that dwell time reduction is a constant priority.
  • Consider offering incentives to warehouse workers for new ideas to help reduce detention fees
  • Also consider offering incentives to the warehouse workforce for reductions in detention fees


Electronic logging devices were introduced to monitor drive time to help ensure carrier safety and hours of service (HOS).  Despite controversy and objections from the trucking industry involving ELD solutions, the Supreme Court has upheld the mandate.  The introduction of electronic logging devices has increased attention on dwell time.  Consumers, transportation and logistics companies as well as others across supply chain networks are affected by increased detention times.  This results in increased fees to shippers and eventually, added costs for consumers.

Focusing on ways to reduce dwell times as well as on the metrics can aid companies in improving load/unload performance so that detention fees can be reduced.

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