Monday, April 15, 2013

The Difference A Zero Makes

This is a typical "Day in the Life of a Truck Driver" story.  It'll show you how easy it is for a trucker to get screwed. 

A few weeks ago, we booked a load from Tennessee to New York.  We already had a piece on our truck, a coil that weighted 20,000 pounds and took up about five feet of our 48' trailer - this is called an LTL, or Less Than Truckload - and we booked something else to go with it. 

A lot of agents don't like to book loads when you have an LTL, but since our job is to fill our trailer to make as much money as we can, we try to find stuff that will fit together, and is generally going in the same direction.  This was one of those perfect loads.

Except it wasn't.

The second part of the load, according to the agent - and I confirmed this information at least five times - was supposed to take up 40-45 feet of the trailer and weigh 5,000 pounds.  Perfect.  We had plenty of room. 

It picked up on a Saturday, which was unusual, but we got there as the sun was rising, just before 7am, as requested.  It was a nursery and we were picking up a load of trees.  Something we've never hauled before.  The workers at the nursery started loading the trailer, working their way from the coil that was already on there, backward.  Then the nursery owner showed up.

That's when we found out that he was expecting to load fifty thousand pounds on the trailer, not five.  Well, not only was that impossible because we already had 20,000 pounds on the trailer, but even if we had been empty, we could only scale 45,000 pounds max. 

Someone seriously screwed up in the placement of their zeroes.

This little scenario started a shitstorm of phone calls between the customer, the agent and the horribly evil broker.  The agents are bad enough, but the brokers today are the equivalent of the horse traders of yesteryear. They are dishonest, they lie, they mispresent themselves or the freight, and they constantly bug the shit out of you if their stuff actually makes it on your trailer.  Which is why, if we have the choice, we don't work with or speak to brokers at all.  It's becoming harder and harder though, as more companies work with these thieving bastards.

After being mocked on the phone by the broker, who told me that he "didn't care what I had to say, we were going to haul this load", I told him that we didn't need his load, we weren't taking his load, and he needed to get those trees off our trailer as soon as possible. 

Because it was Saturday, and we weren't running up to New York with a partial on the trailer, we would have to wait until Monday to get another load to go with it.  I was pissed.  This happens more often than one would think and it's always the driver who gets screwed.  Whether it's time or money, we are the ones who suffer.  As was the case here.

They finally got the trees off the truck and I requested what's called a Truck Order Not Used (when they order a truck and wind up not using it for whatever reason) and detention for the five and a half hours we spent there.  Neither is guaranteed. 

There's nothing I hate more than having my time wasted.  It's just not something you can get back once it's gone.  Ed is used to it, after having seventeen years in the business, but it makes my blood boil.  I want to get paid for my time.  I deserve to get paid for my time.  And I deserve even more to get paid for showing up and sitting there waiting to get loaded and then unloaded because they screwed up. 

We made every effort to inform these people what our situation was coming in.  Which, if their load actually weighed 5,000 pounds as the bill of lading we signed off on indicated, we could have just gone on our merry way.  But I'm not happy and I'm not going to back down when I have to lose time and money because someone else wasn't competent enough to handle their end of the shipment correctly.   

We wound up sitting for the weekend and booking another load that Monday.  It took at least two weeks to get any money, and it wound up being several hundred dollars less than I requested.  Needless to say, the entire experience was less than pleasant.

I had a boss who used to say, "If you don't ask, you don't get."  So whenever I find myself in a situation like this, I always ask.  For compensation for my time, to be paid extra money for extra work - additional stops, tarping, changes in route, etc. - for layover and detention pay.  Anything I do that's not in the original agreement, I expect to be paid for.

Whether it's 5,000 or 50,000 pounds, or how much money I get in my pocket, one little zero can make all the diference.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2012: Pre-Digital
2011: The Sun Sets On The Roughrider State
2010: Diamond Studded Proof
2009: How A Book Defies Its Cover
2008: How To Up Your Chances For A Sweet Monkey Lovin’ Romp
2007: Activities Director
2006: Ah, But It Is SO Worth It
2005: Sorry, no post on this day. The blog didn’t start until May 2005!


Scott said...

I like the 1st sentence.... This is a typical "Day in the Life of a Truck Driver" story.

Marlaina said...

This is going to become a very, very important issue after July 1 when the Hours of Service rules change. We will no longer be able to afford to absorb situations like this.

All of us owner/operators are going to have to learn really quickly the value of our time. We will no longer be able to give away a few hours without adequate compensation.

Belledog said...

Any upside in identifying the innumerate broker?

Warning to others; actions have consequences.

(Unless you're planning to work with the critter again.)