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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Impact of Driver Detention Time on Safety and Operations

Project Goal:

The objectives of this project are to 1) collect data on commercial motor vehicle (CMV) driver detention time that is representative of the major segments of the motor carrier industry and analyze it to determine the frequency and severity of detention time, 2) assess the utility of existing Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) technology solutions to measure detention time, and 3) write a final report that summarizes the findings, answers the research questions below, and offers strategies to reduce detention times.


A 2014 FMCSA study showed that CMV drivers experienced detention time on approximately 1 in every 10 stops, for an average duration of 1.4 hours beyond the 2-hour standard (the dwell time was 3.4 hours, of which 1.4 hours was detention time). This study also showed that medium-sized carriers had similar average detention times as large carriers, but they experienced detention times about twice as often as large carriers; 19 percent of stops made by medium-sized carriers resulted in detention time compared to 9 percent of stops made by large carriers.

A 2018 OIG study concluded that detention time reduces annual earnings of for-hire commercial motor vehicle drivers in the truckload sector by more than $1 billion, and that a fifteen-minute increase in average dwell time increases the average expected crash rate by 6.2 percent. This implies that each 1-minute reduction in average detention time nationwide would prevent roughly 400 crashes per year.

Although the above studies estimated overall wait times, they were not able to separate normal loading and unloading times (e.g., the time it would usually take to load and unload a CMV under typical schedules) from detention time (delays in the start of the loading and unloading process which disrupt the driver's available driving and/or on-duty time). This is a critical data gap in our understanding of the detention issue.

This project is expected to produce more reliable and meaningful results than earlier attempts, since virtually all drivers and carriers have been maintaining detailed data on driver activities after the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate went into effect in December 2017.


FMCSA hopes to better understand any relationship between detention time and CMV safety. FMCSA also hopes that collecting and analyzing data on detention time can contribute to a more complete understanding of these issues and facilitate private sector decisions that lead to reductions in detention time and improvements in safety and supply chain efficiency.