I guess I should have known by how easy check-in was at this shipper and how quickly they were going to get to loading me, that things were going a bit too good to be true!  As I walked in onto the dock to supervise the loading of the empty glass production bottles I was picking up, I watched them bring around the corner a towering stack that was to be one of 16 pallets I was picking up for transport to Las Vegas, NV.  Glass has never posed a challenge to me, always taking precautions to secure it properly in my air-ride dry van trailer.  The thing that had me worried on this one from the get-go though was the fact that as the forklift driver passed me with the first stack, he got down to give me a word of caution to pass along to the receiver to the tune of, “Make sure you tell them to unload this load carefully because it wasn’t wrapped right and some bottles are loose.”  Without missing a beat, I responded by thanking him for the warning and letting him know he wasn’t putting those on my truck if they weren’t set and proper!

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So with strike one against this shipper already, they proceeded to dig and bring out only tightly wrapped pallets for me to take.  It is important to remember that as the driver, you are always responsible for what is put on the truck and how.  Now was to come strike two on this load in the form of the way they wanted to load it.  I’m no mathematician, but when they said they wanted to load 16 pallets, weighing 2811 pounds each and measuring 44” x 56” straight-in and side-by-side, I figured this was going to be fun.  As I proceeded to argue with several loaders on the dock, the best excuse they could muster was that they had been shipping it side-by-side like that and had no problems before.  More to stop the 3-on-1 bantering with the forklift drivers and less to humor their notions on how correct they were in their configuration, I agreed to let them load it that way since there was a CAT Scale just two blocks away I would assuredly be stopping at.  They quickly loaded the trailer and I jokingly said “See you in a bit” as I sealed up the trailer and pulled out to go to the nearby scale.  This was one time I both hated and loved being right.  I hated the fact that I had to waste time going back to re-work the grossly overweight truck drive axles, but loved the look on all their faces when I showed them the emailed CAT Scale ticket on my phone to prove it, since they thought all was “right in the world” based on the choice of previous drivers not double-checking their weights.

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Since these were larger than standard pallets they had no way of knowing now how they should load it, so I stepped in with some quick calculations.  The hard part was that this load put me 600 pounds from breaching the 80,000 limit here in CA, so there was not much wiggle room.  The best decision at the point we reached after several attempts was to just cut a pallet, rather than them have to take the whole load off to reset the pallets how I had suggested, only to risk it still being over on an axle group.  Where other drivers had just “got lucky” by letting them load it and rolling out of there, hoping that the DOT scales were closed, as a professional decision I was not willing to settle for taking that same chance.  Part of my job as a driver has always been verifying the condition of the load, making sure it is loaded and secured properly, and making sure the paperwork matches the product.  I was glad I exercised my power that day as the decision maker, not only because I stopped myself from getting a possible overweight ticket, but because the end result was them having to rethink how they were going to ship these from now on.  Even though it was a real pain to go through the motions, my decision to stand up for my right as a driver resulted in the other load next to me having a pallet cut as well and the customer reaching out to me the next day to figure out a possible solution for allowing 16 pallets to ship legally.  

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Jimmy Nevarez

Jimmy Nevarez is the Owner/President of Angus Transportation, Inc., based in Chino, California.  Jimmy pulls a 53' dry van hauling general dry freight for his own small fleet, operating on its own authority throughout all of Southern California and Southern Nevada.

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