View From The Other Side
What do shippers & receivers want from truckers?
By Timothy D. Brady
We truckers all have answers to the question, “What are three things we wish shippers and receivers understood about trucking that would make our job easier?”
That list would have some similarities between drivers, but other answers would be specific to the particular trucking segment in which they’re involved. To have shippers and receivers understand the challenges truckers face would be valuable information, potentially helping things run a lot smoother.
If having shippers and receivers be more knowledgeable concerning the challenges drivers face coming into their facilities would make the job easier, then consider the reverse point of view. Truckers who understand the challenges faced by the very people to whom they deliver or pick up shipments will do a far better job of satisfying their customer.
What three things would a shipper, want truckers to know about picking up or delivering loads to their business?
The best way to answer those questions is to go straight to the source. In this case, I visited two companies in small-town America which have truckers pick up and deliver different products at their facilities. The location may present different challenges than found in a big city, but many issues are the same for facilities everywhere.
At The Andersons, a commercial grain company in Kenton, Tenn., manager Ed Sims had an immediate answer to the question of which three areas truckers could help the most.
1. Paperwork. First, have the correct paperwork and make double- and triple-sure you’ve matched the Bill of Lading (BOL) with the proper contract number. Nothing is more frustrating than to have to hunt down the correct contract for the load that’s being delivered. “It delays the off-loading, takes valuable time for our personnel and delays the delivering trucker and every trucker in line behind him,” Sims says.
2. Accuracy. This entails not only having the correct paperwork matched to the right contract, but also making sure all the information is accurate, from the account numbers, BOL number, truck and trailer number to the correct weight ticket. “If anything’s missing it again delays everyone,” says Sims. “It could mean the wrong account is attached to the load.” Accuracy also means being on time with pickups and deliveries.
3. Cost. This is a major issue for everyone. With fuel costs rising, the cost of parts and repairs on the increase and trucks not getting any cheaper, everybody needs to chip in to reduce costs and save money. “We’ve found many truckers don’t know the cost of operating their truck and if they did, we feel they’d more fully understand when and where costs need to be controlled or cut,” Sims notes. “We want our trucking partners to make a profit. We need truckers as much if not more than they need us. But please don’t make your failure to know and control costs our emergency to cover your loss.”
Sims offers one more helpful hint to make everybody’s life a little easier. As the Fire Chief for the area’s volunteer fire department, Sims has guided many a big fire engine through his small town’s streets during emergencies, and knows what can and can’t be done. So he notes that there’s a reason that very specific directions are provided to drivers coming to a small-town facility.
“We have streets and roads that are either truck-prohibited or can get bottle-necked because a big rig comes through,” he says. “Do not follow your GPS or map; please use our directions. It’ll be easier on all of us and better on your pocketbook (an overweight ticket isn’t cheap).”
Communication is key
Greg Hahn is the owner of Kenton Chevrolet, a car dealership located in the same small Tennessee town. Overall he finds that truckers he deals with are both courteous and professional.
“In all honesty, the truckers that pick up and deliver at my dealership are some of the friendliest and most cooperative folks,” he says. “It’s a pleasure coming in contact with them. These truly professional truckers are helpful in insuring the cars and other items we receive or ship are handled with care.”
The only area where Hahn said there needs to be some improvement is letting him know if there are any special needs to load or unload the items the trucker is picking up or delivering.
“Things like a forklift or a couple of strong backs. Being we’re in a small town, many of the local businesses work together, so if I need a forklift I call the grain folks next door and they come with theirs and we get the job done. Same is true with a couple of strong backs. The local furniture store will send the needed personnel. But since we’re in a small town, we all tend to go to lunch at the same time. And, invariably, I’ll request the trucker to be here after 1 p.m. (when everyone is back from lunch) and he shows up at 11:50 a.m. or 12:15 p.m. needing to be loaded or unloaded immediately.
Hahn’s to-do list for truckers revolves around that need for planning his day:
- Call ahead.
- Let us know what they’ll need from us.
- Tell us their schedule.
- Arrive at the time they’ve agreed to.
- Call if there’s an unexpected delay.
“Even when things don’t quite go right, the friendliness and cooperativeness of the truckers who we do business with goes a long way in taking the sting out of any missed communications. Our business wouldn’t exist without truckers. I appreciate them every single day,” Hahn added.
So, truckers, that should give you some ideas for improving relations between you and your shippers. Because whether you truck in mega-cities, small towns or somewhere in between, truckers and shippers are necessary to keep America’s commerce flowing.
And that’s a big Ten-Ten (Transmission completed, standing by).