In her May 19, 2013, article, Wendy Parker wrote about a financial penalty — a fine — that truckers who arrive late at a Safeway warehouse in Tempe would be required to pay.
The line translated from the in-cab message read:
“Late drivers will be fined $500.”
We had never heard of professional truck drivers having to pay money out of their own pockets for a late arrival or missed appointment to a shipper or receiver.
(If you as a professional truck driver have paid this, please contact us.)
But the point is that the sentence was sent out in the dispatch that Wendy’s husband George accepted.
What’s going on here?
We’re going to address some key issues and then make a prediction regarding the trucking industry on this page.
Huge Problem in Trucking Industry Identified
Wendy correctly identified a huge problem in the trucking industry:
- Shippers/receivers who schedule more trucks at a certain appointment time than there are docks to accommodate loading/unloading; and/or
- Making drivers wait (sometimes exorbitantly long periods of time) for freight to be loaded onto or unloaded from their trucks.
Making truckers wait because the shipper/receiver has failed to stagger truck arrivals appropriately bites into truckers’ drive time (thus effectively lowering their potential incomes).
However, Wendy also zeroed in on the inherent unfairness of shippers/receivers penalizing truckers for being late for appointments when the shippers/receivers aren’t even ready to deal with them when they are on time!
This mentality shows lack of respect for
- the trucker,
- the utilization of the equipment and
- the trucking company hauling the freight.
Not only that, but issuing such a fine against late truckers when the facilities aren’t ready to handle those who are on time sounds to us like sheer unadulterated corporate greed.
When a Trucker Misses an Appointment
If a trucker has missed an appointment, it is reasonable that he/she gets “worked in” later on in the day.
Mike had that happen once because of heavy traffic congestion in the area.
But there was never any financial penalty associated with his late arrival.
Has it now become standard practice in the trucking industry to penalize truckers for late arrivals — even when circumstances are beyond their control?
We will discuss some of these circumstances below.
Legal Contracts in Shipping
Do shippers and receivers have a right to put a financial penalty into their terms for pick-up and delivery?
Sure they do!
Legal contracts (at least in the USA) may include sections or terms regarding obligations in exchange for payment.
Furthermore, we do not think that contracts between shippers/receivers and truckers/trucking companies need to be regulated or legislated.
These two groups of folks should be allowed to freely accept or decline the opportunity to enter into contracts, no matter how binding they may be.
What concerns us is that trucking companies would be willing to enter into contracts on behalf of their drivers in which the drivers could receive a personal financial penalty for the operation of their trucks.
Note that it is not the trucking company being fined, but the driver!
Understand the Terms
Every trucker needs to read his/her entire dispatch to understand all the terms involved before accepting it.
With the exception of re-powered loads, it is usually the case that any trucker who picks up the freight is bound by the terms in the dispatch from pick-up to delivery.
If the dispatch includes a trucker penalty for a late arrival — and you’re late for your appointment — you can expect to pay the fine.
For many truckers, a $500 fine means an entire week’s worth of pay swirling down the drain. (Ouch!)
Consider what will happen if you
- agree to take such a load;
- are involved in a situation that is completely outside your control; and
- are forced to be late for an appointment.
We can think of several such situations where assessing a financial penalty would be totally unreasonable, including:
- equipment breakdown where no re-power is possible;
- traffic congestion due to an accident; and
- weather-related difficulties (such as white-out conditions causing road closures or even the May 2013 tornado in Oklahoma).
In her May 6, 2013 podcast, Vicki commented on an article that reported that the traffic congestion from a truck accident shut down all lanes of the highway “for 7 hours for fuel and debris cleanup.”
What if you
- were stuck in that 7-hour clog with nowhere to go,
- were only an hour away from your destination and
- had only 3 hours in your Hours of Service left to drive for the day?
Is it possible that in situations like these, a trucker can call his/her trucking company to get the appointment changed?
Perhaps “customer service” can call the shipper/receiver and intervene.
Then again, perhaps changing the appointment isn’t possible.
It depends on the customer.
Complications Regarding Taking Loads With a Financial Penalty
Every trucker should weigh the risks of accepting or declining loads with a financial penalty attached.
Answer these questions for yourself:
- Does the load pick up at a shipper or deliver at a receiver who is notorious for delaying truckers?
- Will you be paid waiting pay that equals or exceeds what you could be earning by driving?
- Will the load be transported through areas where traffic congestion is likely (see list of top 10 most congested cities)?
For company drivers who are under a “forced dispatch” system, ask the following regarding your refusal to take a load:
- Could you be thrown to the bottom of the dispatch pile?
- Could you earn a reputation for being a “load refuser” or “hard to get along with”?
- Could you lose your job?
What Can Truckers Do?
Besides refusing to take loads with a financial penalty, truckers are not without recourse.
There may be repercussions as a result, but any or all of the following can potentially be done regarding taking a load with a financial penalty:
- Complain to your trucking company;
- Require that you be paid for all of your waiting time; and/or
- Report the wait time imposed by shippers and receivers that delay truck drivers in docks.
Can truckers be terminated for reporting online the wait time imposed by a certain shipper or receiver?
We’ve never heard of it happening.
Then again, think this through: If your trucking company exposes you to a potential personal financial penalty and then silences you when you’re inconvenienced, is that the kind of company you want to drive for?
Wake Up, Truckers!
Truckers, which one are you:
- a valuable employee who is helping your trucking company add to its bottom line or
- an expendable pawn whom your trucking company doesn’t mind sacrificing if something outside your control happens to cause you to arrive late?
Why would your trucking company accept the business of any shipper or receiver who is willing to personally penalize you when there are so many unknowns that could affect your arrival?
We ask every trucker to uphold the dignity and respect associated with having successfully earned a commercial driver’s license and obtained a job in an honorable profession.
We think you deserve better than to be given dispatches with a personal financial penalty attached.
We urge all professional truck drivers not to be cowed, intimidated or threatened into taking freight under such conditions.
Wake Up, Trucking Companies!
True professional truck drivers don’t need to be threatened with a personal financial penalty in order to get them to do their jobs as safely, as efficiently and as quickly as possible.
They have enough pressures on them in the course of their work.
When truckers with self-respect start to stand up for themselves by refusing dispatches that contain personally penalizing clauses and conditions, only these truckers will be left to haul those loads: those who are easy-to-intimidate, overconfident or financially-pressured.
Think about it.
- If a trucker can be intimidated in one area, can he/she be intimidated in another?
- If a trucker is overconfident about his/her abilities, is he/she likely to endanger equipment or freight?
- If a trucker is financially pressured, what will he/she be willing to do to relieve that pressure?
In any of these cases, truckers with these characteristics may be willing to take risks with your trucks and the freight in them.
Do you as a trucking company really want for these characteristics to describe your drivers?
If you as a trucking company accept business with a potential trucker penalty, you are not engaging in “Golden Rule” behavior.
What if the roles were reversed?
Do you think that your planners, dispatchers and management — those inside the company — would want to be held personally financially responsible for the on-time delivery of your trucks or loads?
Of course not.
May we remind you that you need to respect your drivers as the professionals they are and to “Do unto your truckers as you would have your truckers do unto you.”
Our Prediction about the Future of the Trucking Industry
More and more professional truck drivers are using the Internet and social media to stay connected.
They are sending out tweets, making Facebook posts, writing blogs and creating YouTube videos about their experiences on the road.
Wendy Parker said in her article that she wrote a Facebook post to the company that issued the dispatch with the financial penalty statement.
As greater and greater numbers of truckers become united in an online community, it will become harder and harder to treat them as less than professional.
Professional truck drivers move about 70% of the freight in the USA.
Many businesses cannot operate without the services that truckers provide.
When self-respecting professional truck drivers stand together and “Just say NO to trucker penalized freight!” then only easy-to-intimidate, overconfident or financially pressured truckers will be left to haul it.
We predict that shippers/receivers who insist on putting conditions in their terms that personally penalize truckers for late arrivals and missed appointments will:
- find it harder and harder to find truckers to haul their freight;
- experience greater losses of freight due to truck accidents involving pressured truckers; and
- realize smaller and smaller profits.
Should all those things happen, then the trucker-penalizing shippers/receivers will eventually be forced out of business and the poison of the financial penalties they imposed against truckers will stop.