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May 23, 2011 10:45 AM, EDT

ATA Leaders Advise Federal Government to Drop Attempt to Regulate Wait Times

By Howard S. Abramson, Editorial Director

This story appears in the May 23 print edition of Transport Topics.

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — The leadership of American Trucking Associations last week urged the federal government not to attempt to regulate the speed with which trucks are loaded and unloaded.

Specifically, ATA’s board of directors said the government shouldn’t meddle with contractual agreements between carriers and shippers by trying to set national standards for how long drivers can be made to wait for their trucks to be filled or emptied.

Meeting here for its summer leadership meeting, ATA took issue with legislation proposed by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) that would authorize the Department of Transportation to establish national standards for so-called detention time and set penalties for shippers that violate them.

DeFazio is on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s highways subcommittee.

While trucking officials agreed that loading delays are a serious issue for carriers, they said it was not an appropriate area for additional government regulation.

“ATA and its members value the time of our drivers,” said ATA President Bill Graves, “[but] federal intervention into this area would have significant impacts on the contractual agreements between carriers and shippers.”

“Federal regulation in this area would directly affect shipping rates and would significantly change the playing field for carriers and shippers,” said Barbara Windsor, chairman of ATA and CEO of Hahn Transportation in New Market, Md.

An advisory committee established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration last month urged the agency to encourage Congress to set detention standards and penalties (4-25, p. 4).

And a recent Government Accountability Office study said driver productivity was sharply affected by unreasonably long loading dock delays.

DeFazio, who requested the GAO report, said he introduced the bill because loading delays contribute to supply chain delays and increase the possibility of hours-of-service violations by cutting into driving time.

“Over the years, I’ve heard anecdotes from truck drivers that detention time is a big problem and contributes significantly to inefficiencies in the supply chain productivity,” DeFazio said in a statement when he introduced the bill.

“I asked GAO to study detention time and quantify the results,” he said. “It’s clear from the report that detaining truckers at loading docks is a significant problem that FMCSA needs to regulate.”

 

But Dan England, president of C.R. England Inc., said, “No carrier wants to see our drivers’ time wasted. However, this is not an issue that can be handled with a ‘one size fits all’ regulation and as a result is best addressed in contractual agreements between carriers and shippers.”

England, who runs the large Salt Lake City-based refrigerated carrier, is also first vice chairman of ATA.

Many fleets have detention standards written into their contracts with shippers, and they fine customers who exceed the time limits.

However, smaller carriers have more trouble enforcing such provisions, according to Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.