Sunday, July 2, 2017

And Now You Know... The Rest of The Story

If you are old enough to remember Paul Harvey's radio program, and him putting just the proper pause in that phrase to grab your attention, then you are "old" like me.  I keep thinking of that phrase when it comes to this crazy perishable load of onions that I took on last week.  So, here's the rest of the story...

Part of the plan on this load was to empty out there in Dallas first thing Saturday morning and then go to our terminal in Dallas and have my "A" service done on my truck.  These services are critical if you are trying to make your bonus money, and must be performed by certain mileage limitations.  If you go past that mileage mark, then you just lost your bonus money for that quarter.  I have found that a lot of our drivers don't even make an effort at making their bonus money.  It seems rather an easy thing to do to me, and it means usually an extra $6,000 dollars or more on my pay by the end of the year.  I've actually shown several of the other SAPA drivers how to accomplish this, and since then we have been consistently having more of our SAPA drivers on the "Three Star Driver" list at the end of each quarter than there are of any of the other drivers in our terminal's various fleets.  What's amazing about that is that there is only fifteen of us, and there are probably 350 or more drivers that are dispatched out of our terminal.  That "Three Star Driver" list is considered the "cream of the cream" at Knight, and we have been consistently having our drivers appear on that list.  The list is usually small, maybe up to twenty drivers at the most will be found there.  There are several measurements involved in achieving the bonus.  These measurements include fuel mileage, productivity, safety training, and having your truck serviced in a timely manner.  Here's a look at one of those lists from a while back, just to give you an idea of how few make it onto that list...

Of the sixteen drivers on that list, seven of them are on the SAPA account.  Lately, we have been having as many as eight or nine of our drivers on that list.  If you are wondering why you don't see my name "Dale" on the list, it is because my first name is "Garland."  I actually had one driver tell me that he didn't believe what I was telling him about the steps you need to take to get the bonus money.  He said he had been there for about a year and never gotten any bonus money.  He considered it to be sort of a lottery type thing where the computer just selects certain drivers at random!  Truck drivers!  Some of us will believe anything!

Okay, my intractable prose is getting away with me, and I am veering off course.  The point I started to make was "the plan" to get emptied out on Saturday morning and get my service done at the terminal in Dallas.  I had set an appointment with them so that they could make sure and make time for me, but with all the delays at OM Produce, and then the entire load getting rejected, I didn't get back to the terminal until it was about five minutes to closing time for the shop.  They looked at me and said "Where have you been?  We've been looking for you!  We are sorry, but you missed your appointment - you will have to wait until Monday morning."  Meanwhile the heat is cooking these onions back there in that Conestoga, and I'm afraid they are going to be caramelized by the time I get them up to Michigan where they are now destined.  I can't sit in the parking lot during record heat for the whole weekend.  I need to keep these onions on the move, driving with my rear door open so they get some ventilation and relief from the heat.  We send an email to the terminal in Kansas City and request an "A" service from them for first thing Monday morning.  There is no way we are getting a response because they are closed at this time, but I decide to take off after my ten hour break in Dallas and get myself up to the Kansas City terminal since it is on the way to Michigan from here.  If they can get me in and do that service for me I will still be on schedule for the bonus pay, but anything further than that and I am out of luck.  With this load I have been sliding the Conestoga open while taking my breaks just to give the onions a break from the heat being generated inside that cover, but I've got to tell you this load sure does smell good - I love the smell of onions cooking!

Everything worked like clock-work when I got to Kansas City, thankfully they accommodated me and sent me on my way, helping to set me up for success not only on this load, but also for an extra fifteen hundred bucks or more this quarter.  When I got to Hearty Fresh in Michigan they were glad to see the onions, and unloaded me promptly.  They didn't even balk at the load!  This was the strangest experience I've had yet in trucking.  One customer thinks I have brought them rotten onions, and the next one thinks they are lovely!  I don't get it, but I did tell my driver manager that he can count me out on the next load of onions they come up with.  I'm sticking to the non-perishable things like metals.  Here's a look in my drivers side mirror of the fork lift driver scurrying about taking my load of onions off and putting them right into a refrigerated warehouse full of all kinds of produce...

This load really got crazy for me. There must have been at least three different brokers involved in this thing, and they were blowing up my phone! One of them even called me wanting to know if he was going to get paid for the miles to Michigan! I laughed at him and said, "Sir, I am the driver. I don't know why you think I would have any say in whether you are getting paid or not. You gave this load to someone at Knight, and I suggest you contact that person if you are worried about your paycheck. As for me, I am doing everything I can to protect these onions from the heat, and make sure they make it safely to Michigan." His response was, "Those are my onions, and I expect to be paid fully for the miles they travel. Who authorized you to take them to Michigan?" At that point I was throwing up my hands. I gave him the person's name in claims who told me to take them to Hearty Fresh, and told him he needed to contact the claims department at Knight and talk to them. Not five minutes later I got a call from another guy who claimed the onions were his, and he wanted me to take them to some place in Virginia!

Here's another strange twist in the whole scenario. One of the brokers (the one who wanted me to take the onions to Virginia) sent a nasty email to my driver manager complaining about me. He said he had called the receiver in Michigan and they said that I had not contacted them to set an appointment. He also claimed I had lied and told him I'd be there on Monday, when the truth was that I spoke to him on Monday and told him I would deliver on Tuesday, and that I had already set my appointment with the customer. There was actually about five lies he told my dispatcher. So my dispatcher calls me and says he's got to call the guy when there are complaints like that, but he wants me to tell him exactly what has taken place first.

My response was, "Do you mind if I call him and straighten this out, because you know nothing in that email is correct." He says, "Go right ahead Dale, I hate dealing with these snakes."

The Broker is perturbed that I'm the one responding to his email with a phone call, and wants to know how I know what is in his private emails to another person. I tell him it's called "communication," and that's what we do to make sure his product is delivered properly. I remind him of the exact times of our conversations, and the content of each one. I also remind him that I'm on a cell phone, all my calls to his number are logged with dates and times. I calmly and professionally let him know that if he had some legitimate complaints about me he had better have them substantiated, if not then he needs to let my driver manager know he was mistaken.

Five minutes later my dispatcher calls again saying he got a new email from the broker apologizing and saying he got this load confused with another one! What a piece of work these brokers can be!

As a musician, I've written a fair amount of songs over the years.  I'm thinking of working up something about "The Onion Blues" right now.  Who knows, it might be a big hit among the truck driving crowd!

I'm back in Delhi Louisiana today.  It feels good to have a full load of aluminum behind me.  I'm heading out tonight on a 1,500 mile run that has it's first stop at Sigora Solar in Waynesboro, Virginia.  Then I will go to a regular customer, Camfil, in Riverdale, New Jersey.  From there I have a stop in Storrs, Connecticut, one in Bristol, Connecticut, and two in Farmington, Connecticut.  Some degree of normalcy has returned, if you can call the life of an over the road truck driver normal!

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