The 8 Best Ways to Avoid Freight Detention Charges

September 30, 2019 at 12:51 PMJen Deming
The 8 Best Ways to Avoid Freight Detention Fees Blog Post

Detention charges are the single most common accessorial fee that shippers see when they receive a final bill following a truckload haul. The typical industry standard for unloading/loading times is two hours, and anything after that will incur a fee. Two hours can seem like plenty of time, but the truth is that time can slip by much too quickly if you, your shipment, and your loading team aren't completely prepared. The end result often includes costly fees and a higher freight bill. The good news is that with the right plan in place, detention charges can be avoidable. These eight simple tips help to proactively offset going over that time and help keep your budget in check.

Have an experienced team ready

First and foremost, in order to avoid detention charges, it's important for shippers to have an experienced team ready and familiar with the process of loading and unloading a truck. Have a detailed plan in place, make sure the product is ready and packed the way you need, and stage the shipment in the order which you want to load. If you have a multi-drop load, be sure the items you need to be delivered first are loaded closest to the doors. If you happen to be the customer, or delivery location, make sure your dock space is cleared out, and the unloading team is prepped and waiting at the time delivery is anticipated.

Extend warehouse/dock hours

One of the toughest parts of freight transit that a truck driver struggles to anticipate is unforeseen hold-ups, including pick-up delays, traffic, or weather conditions. Many times, simply being stuck in rush hour can make a driver late, and while it's not the shipper's responsibility to accommodate the delay, there may be benefits in doing so. By extending your warehouse hours beyond what is typical, it gives an already pressured driver more flexibility. By doing that, you ensure a full team is at the ready while also strengthening your carrier relationships.

Open a back-up dock

Once a driver arrives for the load, assuming it is within the negotiated window, the countdown begins. It doesn't matter if the warehouse lot is congested, the dock you need is being held up, or the team is busy with another shipment. Once the driver has parked his truck, your two hours are dwindling away and you're inching closer to detention fees. It's important to keep a back-up plan ready, a second dock location, and a few extra hands at the ready, so that if any unexpected delays occur, you can get going at your regularly planned start time. 

Aim to be a "shipper of choice"

In the current freight market, it's no secret that the carrier holds the cards, so smart shippers should do everything they can to be desirable to available drivers. Factors like warehouse hours, streamlined loading and unloading, prepared paperwork, and available parking space all help the driver, especially in an industry where wasted time means wasted money. By being flexible and making the pick-up and delivery process as easy as possible for the truckload carrier, shippers can reap the benefits of a strong relationship. A driver may be more willing to look past minimal amounts of detention time if your business is easy to work with and keeps operations flowing smoothly.

Negotiate extra time beforehand

Some shipments may be extra difficult to handle and therefore take extra time to load. Good examples of these types of shipments include over-sized or wide-loads or those delivering to limited access areas. Though industry standard is typically two hours, if you have a strong relationship with a regular carrier, and you anticipate needing extra time, it doesn't hurt to approach the possibility of free, or discounted, extra load time when negotiating the initial rate with the carrier. A truck driver is much more likely to be flexible if they anticipate being held up, rather being delayed the day of and likely set back in their transit time.

Check your loading equipment

You'd be surprised how many times a shipment is held up at a location just because the proper loading equipment is not available or in working order upon carrier arrival. Because it's rare for a truckload carrier to have a liftgate, it's important for both shipping locations to have proper loading equipment on hand such as a forklift.  If you are moving a larger piece of freight, such as a machinery load, and need cranes or other nonstandard pieces of equipment to load, these must be accessible and operable by certified team members. Additionally, all parties involved have to do their homework and be familiar with circumstances at either location. If a shipper arranges a delivery to a customer without a dock, you can bet that team will be scrambling to unload on time if they aren't prepared. That means detention charges are likely. 

Get your paperwork in place

Every shipper knows that freight shipping involves a lot of paperwork. Minimally, a shipper needs to have a bill-of-lading prepared at pick-up, and additional documents can include product invoices, customs paperwork, insurance certificates, hazmat documents, among many others. If you are moving freight across the border, there are a myriad of other pieces of information a carrier and border officials will need as well. Having these items prepared for the driver upon arrival will help get your shipment loaded, and the driver back on the road, within the allotted loading time.

Consider drop-trailer programs

For shippers who are moving freight regularly to and from consistent locations, a drop-trailer program is an efficient and expedient option. In this type of freight haul, a carrier brings a loaded trailer to a location, unhooks and "drops" the trailer, and picks up a pre-loaded trailer that's been packed with freight. This cuts down on time waiting for loading and unloading, and gets the driver back on the road at a much faster rate. Drop-trailer programs are becoming increasingly popular, especially with new hours of service rules issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association that affect the amount of time a truck driver can be on duty. Using a drop-trailer program not only guarantees better efficiency and convenience for the driver, it also streamlines a shipper's supply chain operations.

Unexpected fees tacked on to a freight bill are never a welcome surprise. While detention charges are very common, truckload shippers have options to avoid detention and spending more money than anticipated. Simple measures during preparation and packaging and being extra flexible with your truck driver can help offset any potential hold-ups while also strengthening your working relationships with regular carriers. The truckload shipping experts at PartnerShip can help simplify your shipping procedures with reliable carriers and customized service options. Call 800-599-2902 to learn more or contact us today.

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