Occasionally we get a load that is referred to as being "Hot." When we get a "Hot" load, that simply means that it is especially urgent, it has got to get there ASAP! The customer needs it badly. Sometimes we have loads that are called "JIT" loads, and that simply means that it is a "Just In Time" load. On these loads it is critical that they are delivered exactly when requested. They will usually have an appointment time, and it is critical that you make your appointment. Often times "JIT" loads come with a fine to the shipping company if they are delivered late. These "JIT" loads are usually delivered to manufacturing facilities whose assembly lines will be held up if you are late delivering their product. These are usually going to someplace that doesn't want to spend the capital required to build a large warehouse to store excess stock, so they sort of use the shipping company as a place to keep their goods, but they expect it to be delivered when needed. Of course there are financial incentives for the shipper also - they get paid higher rates to do these "JIT" loads. Some of the customers that I serve on this dedicated account are "JIT" loads.
Recently after delivering to Stanley Access Technologies in Farmington, Connecticut I got a back haul load from Cressona, Pennsylvania that delivered down to Alro Metals in Tampa, Florida. When I got to the SAPA plant in Cressona, they informed me that they had to add a "hot" piece onto my load that would need to be dropped at the Great Dane Trailer manufacturing facility in Statesboro, Georgia on my way down to Florida.
I've been to this facility plenty of times before, and not only do you have to have an appointment set 48 hours in advance, but you are going to be there a while. They are notoriously and methodically slow about getting you unloaded. Quite often the material that we bring them is almost 53 foot long, because it is the extruded aluminum pieces that make up the decking, or flooring, of the trailers that they build here.
I didn't need to wait 48 hours, I could be there in less than half that time. Remember, in this business time is money, and I don't like to waste money. I called to set my appointment, and told the person on the phone when I could be there and asked for a ten o'clock appointment that morning. I was going to be pushing it all I could to make it at that time. Their terse reply was that they had already over booked deliveries for that day and I would have to come the next day. Well, not to be put off like that, I engaged the clerk with the following conversation...
Me... "I think you might want to check this purchase order number and see if you can go ahead and take me at that time I requested."
Clerk... "I doubt it, but go ahead and humor me."
Me... "It is purchase order xxxxxxx" (now I hear pecking away at a keyboard)
Clerk... "Hmmm, I think you are correct sir, it seems that we have a spot for you at ten a.m. Come on in and we will get you unloaded. There is an extremely urgent message attached to that purchase order."
HaHa, sometimes you can use these "hot" loads as leverage to get yourself in and out of there in a hurry!
Well, here is how it went down as I arrived at the gate:
The guard phoned his "receiving gal" as he called her, and she told him to let me in and have me back up to door number xx. By the time I got around to that door and started setting up to back up to the door, two forklifts came racing around the corner and were waiting on me to get it untarped and unstrapped. You can see in this photo one piece of material lying on the ground next to my truck. That is the one that was "Hot." Before I could even get my straps back on the rest of my load and my tarps pulled back into place, about four of five young men showed up and hoisted it up onto their shoulders and took it inside the building to put it to good use.
Speaking of "Hot Stuff," let me tell you about what I picked up next. After delivering the rest of that load to Alro Metals in Tampa, I was dispatched to Port Manatee to pick up some aluminum logs that were going to the SAPA plant in Gainesville, Georgia. If you are not familiar with these "logs," as we call them, here is a look at what a load of "logs" looks like for me...
In the plants where they make the extrusions that I haul around the country, these "logs" are heated up until they are glowing "cherry red" and then forced with powerful hydraulic presses through a "die." If you have ever seen one of these little toys that kids use that forces "Play-dough" through a machine and it comes out a certain shape depending on the "die" you are forcing it through, that is the simplified version of the principle of manufacturing aluminum extrusions. Here are some of the shapes that I just delivered this week to a job site in Hermiston, Oregon. These are for the stadium seating at a new Rodeo arena being built there. This was my second trip up here.
You can see in the background of the following photo how the stadium is taking shape up there in Hermiston, Oregon. This is a look at my truck being unloaded by the construction crew. I am actually parked inside the rodeo arena in this shot.
I've got so much "Hot Stuff" on my mind as I'm posting this. Like the terrible heat I drove through on my way to Oregon. As I was coming through West Texas. I stopped at a rest area near Chilicothe, TX to stretch my legs a bit and it felt like opening the door of a blasting furnace when I stepped out of my nicely air conditioned truck. It was 102 degrees outside. Not only was I greeted by the heat as I exited my truck, but I was also greeted with this ominous warning as I entered the building to use the restroom...
I also enjoyed some "Hot Stuff" to eat while in Florida, I tried a Caribbean restaurant where I ate some Jerk Chicken, as the Jamaican's call it. Very spicy, and very good. Forgive me for the quality of this photo - it is out of focus, but I wanted you to see how carefully they plated this meal with the shaping of the rice and the pretty color of the cabbage. It was all done up very nicely...
I even had a Jamaican soda to go with the meal...
When I returned to Delhi, my dispatcher said, "Dale, we don't have any good loads today. Would you be willing to run a little short load just for something to do today, and then we will see what develops for tomorrow? I hate to put you on one of these loads I've got today, when there is bound to be something better show up for tomorrow." Okay, I was game, and it gives me a chance to do my dispatcher a favor. He always treats me so special, that I really owe it to him to work with him whenever he requests it. What he had me do was to take an empty "scrap" trailer from the plant to a facility that puts their "scrap" aluminum into the "scrap" trailer that we leave on their property. They call us when it is full, and we bring them an empty, and haul the loaded trailer back to the plant. I have never done this duty since I first started here, and I guess it was time to take the plunge. It felt kind of odd, because all I have ever hauled are flat-bed trailers. Here is a picture of the "scrap" trailer that I took down to Alexandria, Louisiana, and a shot of the loaded one that I brought back...
These trailers are typically a little on the "junky" side - after all, they are just used for hauling "scrap" metal.
As a truck driver, we get to see some "Cool Stuff" also. I see really cool stuff all the time, and I try to share as much of it with you as I can. Time is limited though, so you really only get to hear a small portion of what my life on the road is like. Being an over the road truck driver is literally like living three or four lifetimes. It is incredible what all you are exposed to. Truck drivers are full of stories to tell, but it is only because they have been so many places and seen so many things. While I was parked at a truck stop down in Florida I saw this rig... Pretty cool, don't you think?
Although I didn't make it clear yet, after doing that little short haul of scrap metal for my dispatcher this past week, he came up with that second load going to Oregon for me. That is a lesson for you about truck driving and how you need to interact with your dispatcher. Don't be thinking you are too good to do a short load now and then. Don't start refusing loads that you think are beneath you. That type of behavior only puts you a little lower down on his list of priorities. Your dispatcher wants you to be moving as much as possible, but sometimes things don't all come together just right. If you can show that you can do a great job at the little things, then you will begin to be trusted with the bigger things. And that my friend is how you begin to make your dispatcher think of you as "Hot Stuff!"