When any of us drivers pick up a shipment we know it is expected to be there on a certain date and at a specific time. Our tardiness can have a dramatic impact on some types of businesses we deliver to, which is why I live by an old saying that my high school marching band teacher put on the wall during one year’s band camp that stated, “Early is on-time, on-time is late, and late is VERY, VERY BAD!” What we sometimes don’t get a feel for is what may happen on the back end of things, should we miss our appointment for delivery. Sometimes a minor hitch in the time of delivery can have a big impact on our customers and in some cases even halt production all together. On the flip side, sometimes we can be on-time for an appointment and a customers disrespect for our time can make our efforts to be punctual go unnoticed.
Some manufacturers I have serviced operate in a Just-In-Time, or JIT, form of production. This type of operation focuses on reduced idle inventory costs through scheduling deliveries only as the current stock is completely depleted. This may seem to some like a recipe for disaster, but this can be a very effective way of ordering goods for some operations without excessive idle inventory holding costs. One hiccup in the time of delivery for these types of businesses can easily spell disaster, as it usually means production has to stop until the inventory replenishing delivery arrives. Many of these operations pair with trusted and dedicated partners for their deliveries, or have their own fleet trucks to service pickups and deliveries.
Sometimes we can do everything to arrive on-time and still be late. For instance, this week I did a load for a receiver I know that is notorious for having a line of trucks 10-15 deep waiting to get in for their morning delivery appointments. The only problem with this is that the line takes up to an hour to get through and they will not mark your arrival time until you reach the front of the line for their check-in window. In anticipation of this, I made sure I was an hour and a half early for my appointment of 7am. Unfortunately, some drivers were not as fortunate that day, not having possessed the local knowledge of this customer’s reputation. I felt very bad for the driver who arrived behind me in line at 5:30am for a 5:30am appointment and had to watch him unsuccessfully beg and plead with the security guard guiding trucks into the warehouse to let him through to check in.
As important as it is to remain punctual on our appointment times, remember that the feeling on the other end may not be as respected. It is our duty to get the goods there on time, for that is the nature of being a responsible truck driver. Be sure to research your receiver as best as you can prior to delivery, even if this means calling to talk to them about how they work their check-in procedures. You may be surprised to find a lot of these customers are anxious to get their product early and may even let you check in early to load or offload. Do not be afraid to ask these questions, or any questions for that matter, since the only dumb question is the one that doesn’t get asked! Most important of all, do not let the few that may punish you for being on time get under your skin. Keep the course and continue to try and be early whether it is noticed or not by others. After all, on-time is late!