So typical is the abuse of the “industry-standard” 2-hour grace period from appointment times that I get quite sick of it happening just like most of the drivers out there. It happens all too often that a driver shows up on time for a pre-scheduled appointment and the shipper is ill prepared to load them in an a quick and efficient manner. What I do about it, for anyone that drives for me including myself, is akin to calling someone’s bluff in a tough game of poker. It has worked on many occasions and actually got a reaction from a shipper I didn’t expect earlier this week when I decided to flex my “carrier muscles”.
Arriving twenty minutes early to load a backhaul out of Las Vegas is something we typically do to make sure we aren’t late, but was even more important this time with this one being a new shipper for me. Upon arrival the shipping clerk asked for my pickup number and said, “We needed that one!” Typically this gets me excited because I figure they were waiting for me and I can back in and hear the ramp drop as soon as I bump the dock. I found out this was quite to the contrary this time as three hours from my appointed time passed, when I went inside and found out that the load still wasn’t even finished being pulled and staged. Upon further interrogation of the shipping manager, it was his slowest order puller working on it, who’d known about the load since the day before when we booked it, but had waited until I arrived to check in to start pulling the product!
As far as I see it, I lived up to my end of the deal by giving them a “grace” period in which to even start the loading process. By blatantly disregarding the need to prep this load, then not even starting it in a timely manner, I approached the broker with my logical proposition. Explaining to him the logic in the absurdity that I had not even a pallet on my trailer yet and that I was ready to pull out empty so that this customer could find someone else to haul their load when they decided they were finally ready, he was in agreement that he was going to press them for a TONU (truck ordered – not used) if I chose to leave at that point for the product not being ready upon arrival as agreed. He called the customer to let them know and they must have got the message and called the shipper because I was being loaded no sooner than 10 minutes after I hung up with the broker! Although they had to short-ship the order and I ended up with only half the scheduled load, I was finished with BOL’s in hand no longer than thirty minutes after they started.
As I went in to sign bills in the shipping office this time there was the usual cold silence I am used to when I do something like this. What ended up breaking the silence was the shipping manager asking me, “Were you really going to leave out of here empty?” Without missing a beat I answered back, “Yes Sir. I have before and would have this time as well.” You could imagine the surprise on my face when he commented back, “That takes guts and I admire that! Most drivers would have just said it, but to know you would have actually left is brave on your part and takes courage.”
While this type of “muscle flexing” typically is just a threat from most carriers, I actually mean it when I do it and have pulled out empty before when a shipper thought I was bluffing after they disrespect me and my operation by wasting mine or my driver’s time. I always make sure to let the broker know when I am going to do this though and oftentimes the ones that I work with will have my back on the issue and fight for a TONU. I don’t always get paid for leaving, but I have always have made up more money by catching another load rather than having to sit around for however long it would have taken for that shipper to finally figure it out.