Detention Pay: What is it? And How To Get Your Truckers Money Worth

When you are a driver in the trucking industry it is important that you are making the most out of the hours you are allowed to be driving. The new ELD requirements and monitoring systems can make detention time quickly cut into your profits. Understanding what detention time is and how to minimize it where possible as well as how to get paid for it when it can’t be avoided will help you to be the most successful. 

What is Detention Pay?

Detention pay is a payment that is made to you (the driver) if you have to wait at the shipper’s facility for longer than the agreed-upon time. The average time in the industry that shippers are allowed for loading/unloading is 2 hours. Detention pay is one of the major issues in the trucking industry that cuts into the profits of both carriers and shippers. 

This is something that you will want to make sure is negotiated in the contract beforehand. If you don’t get this in writing and signed before delivering the load your chances significantly decrease to receive detention pay. It is not something that is required to have in the contract. This can end up costing you a lot of time and money if you get stuck waiting for long hours with no money coming in while still losing your available hours of service for the day. 

A detention pay example would be if you had in your contract that after 2 hours of being at a shipper and your cargo is still not loaded or unloaded then the shipper will have to pay you $75 an hour for each hour that you wait. This isn’t going to make up the entire amount of pay you could be making on your next load, but it does give you a bit of supplemental income so that you aren’t just sitting making $0 dollars. 

What is the Average Detention Pay?

The average detention pay can be anywhere from $25 to upwards of $100 depending on the carrier. Owner Operators who are more experienced in the industry tend to get higher detention pay. Part of this is because they have more knowledge and they know how to negotiate with their shippers versus working for a large company that isn’t able to negotiate as well one-on-one with the shipper. 

The more specialized type of load you are hauling can also factor into the amount of detention pay. If you are an oversize/overweight specialty carrier your fees are larger from the beginning and that will translate to your detention pay rate as well. 

When Does Detention Pay Start?

Detention pay starts after the agreed-upon time has passed and you are still waiting to be loaded/unloaded. Like we said earlier, the average allowed amount of time is 2 hours, but shippers can set it in their paperwork to any duration of time that they want. It is important that you read all of the paperwork and make sure that you aren’t missing out on this part so you don’t end up sitting without the ability to get paid. 

You can use your ELD equipment to check-in so that you have proper documentation to charge the shipper for any detention time that might arise. 

How Do I Calculate Detention Pay?

The most efficient way to calculate what you need to charge for detention pay is by knowing how much your operating costs are per hour. This will vary depending on your level of experience, what you are hauling, and factor in your fixed and unfixed expenses. 

Each trucker’s expenses will be different so you want to be knowledgeable of what yours are. This is not something that you just want to ask a buddy about what they charge because there are too many factors that play into each person’s rates. 

Once you know what the rate is that you need to charge be sure that you have an absolute minimum that you will take as they won’t always meet you at your highest rate submitted. 

Is There a Difference Between Detention Pay and Layover?

Another term that comes into play in the trucking industry is a layover. There are a few differences between having a layover in your day and being detained. 

Layovers happen in between shipments and are when a driver is delayed by the shipper or receiver for one or more days. Oftentimes these are scheduled into the driver’s schedule ahead of time so that they can plan it into their trips for the week.

Detention times happen during a shipment when it takes longer than agreed upon to load or unload the carrier. This is typically caused by a lack of infrastructure or proper organization on the part of the shipper. If you are at a job site and they haven’t properly maintained the roads causing you to be unable to deliver the load you will have to be detained until you can make the delivery. If the shipper is short-handed and doesn’t have the staff available to load or unload your trailer you are going to have to wait until someone can. All of these are at no fault to the driver but will still cause you to have to wait. 

Planning Ahead While Also Learning to Be Flexible

When you are a driver in the trucking industry you can start your week with the most well-laid out plans for your trips only to be thrown off schedule at your first stop. While these can be inconveniencing and frustrating if you have planned your detention pay rates and keep your documentation current you can at least lessen the damages to your profits. 

The more you work with shippers the easier it will be to know which ones have a tendency to make you wait and which ones are run more efficiently. While detention rates hurt shippers’ profits as well, it doesn’t have the same effect on them as it does on the motor carrier. It may take a few trips, but if you have one that always makes you wait and isn’t good at paying your detention rate it is probably best to start looking elsewhere for loads.

When you’re planning your routes, and knowing which loads to take for the best profit margins, you’ll need a light weight TMS  to help lighten your load. Keep things simple by trying our TMS for free today!

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