'Hurry up to wait!' We've all heard that expression...you're loaded and ready to put down the miles. The shipper took his time getting that last pallet stretch-wrapped, the office took even longer to ...
‘Hurry up to wait!’ We’ve all heard that expression…you’re loaded and ready to put down the miles. The shipper took his time getting that last pallet stretch-wrapped, the office took even longer to get the paperwork together and now all advantage has been lost because you’re facing heavy traffic to get out of town.
Or you’ve been stuck in a steel yard waiting for a welder to put the finishing touches to a structural girder, which has to be on the job site before an impossible deadline expires.
And now, after putting in the hard miles, usually overnight, compromising your usual excellent fuel economy and fighting yet another rush hour, you arrive at the designated time, which has been looming over your whole trip like a threat, only to discover that there are several other trucks in line ahead of you, all with the same appointment time and all now waiting on the pleasure of the receiver to remove their ‘rush’ loads.
At least now you can get some of that desperately needed sleep. But no…you now have to remain awake to move ahead in line to avoid being passed over in the unloading order. The receiver certainly doesn’t care whether you miss your turn and the other drivers are usually in such a hurry themselves.
You now add to the misery by realizing that, because you’re operating on a percentage-revenue basis, you will not be paid for the amount of lost time despite the fact that you were advised of the consequences of missing your ‘appointment.’ No sleep, lost time and now the final insult: you wait for free because ‘it’s built into the rate.’
These are clearcut instances of the driver’s resources being used as free, temporary, warehousing-on-wheels. We’re not talking about cases where the driver leaves early on a trip on the off chance that they can get a quick unloading before the rush starts.
Nor are we referring to a driver who misses an appointment and is relegated to the back of the line. But when a truck has been scheduled in advance for a pick-up or delivery, there is a reasonable expectation that the transfer of goods must take place in a timely fashion. Like any contractual arrangement, if the driver arrives at the correct time, the onus is on the shipper/receiver to fulfill its part of the process or be compelled to pay for the privilege of detaining an outside contractor’s equipment.
In an industry where time is money, truck drivers routinely give up considerable amounts of both because it’s expected, demanded by shippers and receivers and ultimately by the carriers desperate to obtain and keep customers in this hyper-competitive business.
Just how much time and money is lost? It’s difficult to estimate because of the variety of working environments for the roughly 50,000 O/Os in Canada but, at a minimum, if we say that 75 per cent work on a revenue-sharing basis, and if those operators routinely give up at least two hours a day in unpaid waiting time, then, based on a 230 day working year and suggesting that $40 per hour is a reasonable figure for the time of the driver and truck, then roughly $690 million is lost each year because O/Os have been shut out of a significant legitimate share of the revenue-sharing equation.
This is a staggering figure, which mocks the efforts of every self-employed driver to realize a reasonable return on investment. O/Os do it on a regular basis and consider it one of the many costs of doing business; ‘taking the bad with the good.’
Taken on its own, the business loss recorded by a single Canadian O/O of a ‘mere’ $18,400 isn’t going to rattle the solidity of the trading marketplace. But when the amounts involved get in to the millions, then clearly something has to be done.
Trucks don’t come cheap and neither does the wherewithal required to keep them moving. If trucks are held up for any reason beyond the owner’s operational capacity, then the buck stops, taxes don’t get paid and obligations aren’t met.
We encourage O/Os to respond by visiting OBAC’s Web site: www.obac.ca. Give a short description of a typical episode involving unpaid waiting time. These testimonials together with the hard numbers of lost revenue due to forced downtime will form the basis of an action plan which features the fine tuning of the O/O contract through OBAC’s contract advisory service, a subject which will be dealt with at length in future columns.
Continuing erosion of the financial stability of one of the country’s most important industry players cannot continue unabated. OBAC’s motto is ‘On Your Own But Not Alone.’ There’s power in numbers and OBAC intends to harness that energy to change the fortunes of Canada’s trucking O/Os.
– A long-time owner/operator, Mike Smith, is a member of OBAC’s board of directors. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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