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Driver Detention & Layovers, How to get paid every dollar you earn.

How to Manage Detentions and Layovers

There is much more to a professional OTR truck driver’s job than just driving. Driving time must be managed, records kept, trucks must be loaded and unloaded and—to stay in business—the next load must be found and scheduled.

“Truck driving means the stress of never knowing where you will be and what you will be doing the following day.” Connor Syrewicz, Author, “Truck Driver”

All of these, and other, tasks required a high degree of time management, which is often beyond the control of the driver. The industry standard is to allow two hours to load or unload a truck, and for this time, drivers are generally paid an hourly rate. The rate may differ from the hourly rate earned while actually driving.

The problem occurs when a truck arrives to pick up a load, or arrives at its destination, and, for some reason, loading/unloading cannot begin promptly—either dock space is not available, or loading crews are busy at other loading docks. You as the driver, will be detained until the delayed unloading or loading can be completed. This may be an hour or two, or it may be much more time.

You are in “Detention”

And this is every bit as bad as being “in detention” in school. This could mean lost time, both loading the next load, and getting on the road. The time spent waiting after the two-hour allotment anticipated for loading/unloading is called “detention.” By definition, detention is the fault of the shipper or receiving company, assuming you are on-time for pickup or delivery.

Detention and Pay

Detention pay rates vary widely but anticipate rates to be less than your hourly rate driving. Companies have different policies regarding “detention pay,” and may even include a no-pay period of several hours before they will pay. To protect yourself in this situation, make sure your company or broker includes a “Detention Pay” clause that spells out when detention starts and the hourly rate you will be paid.

Rates for detention pay vary widely, from $25 to as much as $100 per hour. In any case, detention pay does not make up for your lost time driving. For shippers, detention pay increases their costs. Consequently, meeting scheduled loading and off-loading times benefits both the shipper and the driver. Detention pay may be a point to include when evaluating your preference for driving for a company.

Avoiding Detention

Communications, with your shipper or receiver, is perhaps the best way to avoid or reduce periods of detention. Call the shipper’s facility to make sure they will be able to load you on time. Once loaded, contact the receiving agency and alert them to your planned time. If they will not be able to unload you at that time, try to set an appointment time, and then plan your travel time accordingly. Plan a fuel or rest stop that will allow to arrive at the appointed time.

If you arrive early, or late, and have to park and wait, your wait is your “fault” and detention time will not be compensated. Still, being early is better than being late, assuming their offloading time is accurate. That means you will be unloaded and on your way to your next load on time.

ELDS and Detention Times

The use of Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) in trucks has provided hard evidence of detention times that once were either estimations or otherwise contentious “he said-he said” debates between receivers and drivers. With this evidence, many carriers are more selective about the loads they will haul, pointing to a pattern of disregard for loading and offloading schedules, resulting in a pattern of excessive detention times at specific shippers and receivers.


Layovers occur when the trucker has to wait a day (24 hours) or more to be unloaded. “Layover pay” is the rate that the shipper or broker will pay the driver if he has to wait overnight to unload load.

Whether you are running your own truck or applying to a company driver position, review the policy regarding layover pay before you start the job—these policies vary significantly from one company to another. Layover pay rates can range from $150 to $500 a day.

Making the Best of a Layover

Think back to when you were considering OTR trucking as a profession. Was one of the advantages or perks the opportunity of seeing more of the United States while being paid to drive the country's highways? Regardless of the pay rate, a layover is your opportunity to add to your travel experiences. Each stop has its own unique history, sights, interesting people, food, and character.


Even with the best strategies and planning, detentions and layovers are going to be part of your trucking experience. Find a way to make use of idle time while trucks are being loaded and unloaded. Catch up on paperwork and records, make calls, or read a book. You may be able to add some value back to your idle time. On layovers, get to know what the local area has to offer. Learn to take advantage of your forced idle time.