Imagine that every driver that loads at your facility is only allowed to load there once. How quickly do you think it would be before you were having trouble finding drivers to take your loads to your customers?
Without your own drivers or ready access to common carriers, many wholesale growers would perish. The amount of your sales or the quality of your product does not matter if you are unable to ship them to the customer.
Every truck driver knows two things that relate to his or her job. First, they know the shippers that pay the best and worst rates. The second, often overlooked, item is drivers know where the best and worst places are to load and unload (and, moreover, the best and worst products to haul).
These two items are not mutually exclusive. If a driver knows your loading dock takes 8 or 10 hours to load their truck and you are paying low rates, then guess what? You will struggle to find a trucking company to take your freight. To overcome your loading issues, you will have to pay higher rates.
Conversely, shippers that get a truck in and out quickly, have all the paperwork in place and treat the driver well will be able to push down their rates. Why? Because if a driver can arrive at 7 a.m. and be loaded by 9 a.m., they can get an entire day of driving in. However, if a driver arrives at 7 a.m. and waits until 4 p.m. to get loaded, he has chewed up a significant number of "on duty" hours and, essentially, has lost a day of driving revenue. You can burn a driver or trucking company once – but rarely twice.
The same rules apply to unloading. As we all know in our industry, having 15 or 20 deliveries is not uncommon. A driver will only take these loads if the deliveries come off his or her truck quickly and problem free. They also want help with the unloading process. For some reason, many growers feel the driver’s pay includes him or her unloading the product. This is not usually the case unless it is agreed in writing up front. Of course, if you have your own drivers on staff this may be the case, but common carrier drivers almost never unload for you. Getting them to tail-gate (pull the product to the tail of the trailer for your customer) is the most you can expect.
Drivers Are People, Too
If you go to any busy loading dock, you will often see confused drivers trying to figure out where to go and who to see. For some reason, shippers and receivers have chosen to treat truckers with little respect, rather than providing the same courtesy they would like to have extended to them. This is not fair. Drivers are people just like you and me.
Try to remember a time when you drove to an unfamiliar place. Let’s say, just for an example, you are driving to your hotel at Disney World (or Disney Land for you westerners). You have never been to this hotel and are expected to arrive at 7 a.m. However, that morning your plane was delayed (not your fault) and the rental car company didn’t have cars (another delay and again, not your fault). When you get in your car, you are late and the map you have is not detailed enough to help much. So you call the hotel only to get a harried desk clerk who puts you on hold – indefinitely. After calling back three times, you get the directions. Success, right? Wrong. The directions were not quite right and when you do arrive at the hotel (three hours late), you learn that the hotel check in is in a different place due to remodeling and that your room, for which you have a reservation, was given to someone else 30 minutes ago and you must take a room at their "sister hotel" down the street.
You are probably thinking that this has nothing to do with shipping your product, right? Quite the opposite. If you have a load and the information is communicated properly with correct directions to your loading facility and a friendly staff who understands about traffic issues, weather problems and legal driving limits, you will have an easier time finding trucks to take your freight. When a driver arrives, it is important to give them an obvious place to "check in" and clear instructions on where to go and what is expected of them. And a cold soft drink and warm smile goes a long way to becoming a "preferred shipper."
The bottom line is to provide a driver with reasons to come back for more loads. Drivers who load for you once will often find themselves near your loading locations in the very near future. Most owner operators or common carriers have a relatively narrow number of clients and will load the same "lanes" again and again into your area. This means that they will soon find themselves back in your neighborhood. Wouldn’t it be nice if that same driver came back for more loads and told his "truck stop friends" all about you and what a great place you are to load at? Of course it would. That means 80 percent or more of your loads could be covered by repeat drivers that know your loading process and business practices and can represent you well to your customers.