Increased Driver and Drayage Delays at American Ports

A new four-year study was just completed by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) has revealed increased driver detention rates. The length of time that CDL truckers are detained at ports for pick-up or drop-off of drayage has risen overall.

The ATRI is the non-profit research branch of the American Trucking Association, and it conducts studies to determine what is working and what can be improved within the logistics industry. Their focus is reducing costs for businesses and increasing efficiencies for freight companies and vessel ports.

The American Transportation Research Institute has estimated that driver detention of commercial vehicles and carriers costs more than $1 billion annually. They have also discussed the safety implications of detained drivers. Those who have been unreasonably detained for hours at a busy port are more prone to accidents and higher risks for their businesses.

In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at the impact of driver detentions during drayage delivery. We will also show you how HOS (hours of service) regulations make the detentions even more precarious for delivery times. Finally, we will show you Canal Cartage believes why the answer is better technology and expansion of American commercial Ports.

A Closer Look at the ATRI Study and Findings

The fact that driver detention frequency and the length of delays increased exponentially was no surprise to any commercial freight provider. These issues have been growing annually for the past seven years. Around the same time as e-commerce and online shopping became a big thing for consumers, and when businesses began importing parts, merchandise, and components for overseas manufacturers in enormous volumes.

The e-commerce industry is responsible for tremendous growth in the demand for logistics and drayage providers. In 2018 alone, 106.2 billion dollars of total freight goods were moved within the United States by air, rail, vessel, and truck. Recent data reveals that, on average, freight shipping helps import 1,145 million tons of goods in the U.S. annually. Exports average 992 million tons per year. The top three cargo categories are electrical machinery, computer parts, and assembled motor vehicles (cars and trucks) and maintenance parts.

Here are some of the specific findings in the ATRI study and report:

  • Truck drivers that experience delays at Port of six hours or more rose by 27.4%.
  • Women drivers were 83.3% more likely than men to be delayed six or more hours. No reason was provided to explain why female drivers were experiencing more obstacles and delays.
  • Reported delays of pick-up and drop-off of containers that were delayed because of commercial customers actions (i.e., incomplete or inaccurate documentation) increased by 40%.
  • The average cost of a detention fee paid by drivers or logistics companies for the delays was $63.71 nationwide per hour.
  • The additional detention fees are typically charged back to the commercial customer. However, the report indicated that logistics companies with less than 50 trucks (or small carriers) were more likely to absorb those fees to provide competitive rates.
  • Excessive detention is considering a delay of more than two hours. Commercial customers can incur the cost of the detention fee, averaging $50 to $70 per hour.

There are only 360 commercial Ports that serve imports and export needs in the United States. Three hundred sixty ports may sound like a lot, but you have to consider the millions of tons of goods that are moving through those ports annually. It’s not difficult to imagine how these disruptive delays can slow down the whole drayage supply chain.

That means additional costs for freight providers, frustrations and other fees for owner-operators, and ultimate freight delays and increased costs for commercial businesses. And while Ports are congested, transmodal options are also in high demand and can result in similar delays depending on peak season demand.

Tightening Security at Mexican Border Causing Increased Delays

In April of 2019, President Donald Trump briefly discussed a complete shut-down of the border between Mexico and the United States of American. The concern was legitimate, as a record number of migrant families were being detained at the border.

The business community and the trucking industry sounded the alarm and protested any actions that would shut down the border to freight and logistics. The United States currently processes an average of 1.7 billion dollars (U.S.) in daily trade at the border with Mexico.

While the border was not shut down or suspended, a large number of new border agents were dispatched to the Texas and Mexican border, to assist with migrant processing. For weeks afterward, truckers experienced delays of up to a staggering 12-hours at crossing points in El Paso from the Ciudad Juarez in Mexico.

Delays Also Increasing at Customer Facilities

If it seems like a truck driver is impatient to get back on the highway, it’s because their livelihood and income depend on it. Most truck drivers are paid by the mile. When they are parked at a customer location waiting to pick-up or deliver drayage or containers, they are not making money. There is an average time that it should take to process the paperwork, park the truck in the proper location, load/unload, and then allow the driver to leave.

A 2011 study by the Government Accountability Office reported that of all truckers surveyed who faced excessive delays, 65% of drivers indicated that the delays significantly reduced their revenue. And another 80% stressed that customer side delays resulted in challenges to adhere to hours of service (HOS) requirements.

It has a compounding effect on the trucking industry. A driver that is detained is not making the maximum number of miles he or she can earn revenue on. The delay in a pick-up of a container that heading to Port Houston (for example) can miss the delivery window, resulting in additional fees and delays for the driver. Those delays and the associated fees drive up the cost of drayage and logistics services.

When truck drivers are detained at busy commercial ports, there are no winners. Getting that driver out of there and back on the road requires additional dispatch support and effort from the carrier or drayage provider. Independent owner-operators serving on contract, experience less productivity and increased fees for delays, while commercial business owners can experience many setbacks and inconveniences.

Canal Cartage is Your Solution

As part of our service, Canal Cartage will provide you with customer support to help ensure that documentation for your goods is completed correctly. In 2019, we installed a secure platform for our owner-operators to electronically access cargo documents and other essentials through a secure portal on our website.

Contact us for a competitive drayage quote, or consolidated warehouse rate for your freight. We serve from the Port of Houston, across Texas and to surrounding states like Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Orleans, Lousiana.

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