The Electronic Log Device (ELD) Mandate of 2017 has fueled many discussions as of late, including those about driver dwell time. Traditionally viewed as a carrier issue, the dwell time problem has become critical due the constraints drivers face from the mandate’s strict Hours of Service (HOS) requirements. Last June, Capstone broached this sensitive topic, particularly the costs associated with dwell time, and shippers have been discussing ways to address the problem ever since.

The Dwell Time Problem is Everybody’s Problem

Drivers are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to HOS requirements. Having to fit loading, unloading, and scheduling duties into a strict number of hours per day is challenging. Dwell time is included in HOS maximums, which means delays reduce the number of hours they are legally permitted to drive before having to stop for a rest break. There’s little flexibility on this rule (FMCSA).

The issue is more complicated than it seems. Having to take an unplanned break before making the next delivery means the driver may miss the next 2-hour pickup window and be required to wait to be unloaded again. Some receivers also assess chargebacks to the shipper or reject the shipment.

The ripple effects don’t stop there. Delays also strain carrier relationships with receivers further down the supply chain, or ruin carrier relationships with brokers—resulting in permanently lost capacity. Additionally, shippers who make a driver wait for more than two hours must pay detention fees of between $50 and $100 per occurrence.

But shippers and brokers aren’t the only ones who pay for the dwell time problem. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) estimates that trucking companies pay more than $3 billion per year in costs, and the general public pitches in more than $6.5 billion per year (OOIDA). Ultimately, everyone pays, from the driver to the customer.

The Dwell Time Problem Costs Lives

What may be most surprising about the consequences of the dwell time problem is that it takes a toll in human lives. A recent study by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the FMCSA determined that for every 15-minute increase in average dwell time, average crash rates also climb by 6.2 percent. The logic is that drivers who have been detained may drive while fatigued or try to make up lost time and income with unsafe driving practices. These behaviors make crashes more likely, resulting in more injuries and deaths, in addition to financial losses (

Ways to Address the Dwell Time Problem

Consider acting on the following ideas to reduce driver dwell times and its negative aftereffects:

  1. Enforce Strict Appointment SchedulingWe’re seeing more shippers move away from “first-come, first-served,” to scheduled appointment times to increase efficiency.
  1. Manage Traffic. Help drivers find designated loading places, entrances, and exits by posting clear signs to helps you better manage traffic flow and bottlenecks. This is especially important for larger facilities.
  1. Use Drop and Hook. Dedicate trailers to drop and hook, instead of live loading. It just may be worth the investment when it offsets the costs of dwell time—in terms of both productivity and relationships.
  1. Pre-Stage Freight. Help carriers get in and out faster by prepping freight on the dock, so it’s ready to go.
  1. Pre-Cool Trailers. Save drivers an hour or two—the time it takes to cool a refrigerated trailer for produce – by starting the process ahead of their arrival.
  1. Communicate Proactively. Keep carriers in the loop by calling them as soon as you know about delays. This helps them re-plan their schedule around hours-of-service requirements.
  1. Track Dwell Time. Make dwell time a Key Performance Indicator (KPI). Track loading and unloading times, compare metrics across days of the week and against other variables, review metrics regularly, and include dwell-time reduction in your continuous improvement initiatives.

Capstone Understands the Dwell Time Problem

Understanding the big issues and trends that affect transportation is essential to effectively serving shippers and their customers, as well as the industry at large. And, keeping you informed is a key part of that commitment. Check back regularly for the latest insights from Capstone or subscribe using the form below to have valuable updates emailed directly to your inbox.