Truck News


Just in time – Part 4

The story so far...Johnny Jones is being stiffed on a pair of loads to the tune of $6,000 and is in danger of losing his rig, his wife and everything else he's worked for. Unsure of just what he can d...

The story so far…

Johnny Jones is being stiffed on a pair of loads to the tune of $6,000 and is in danger of losing his rig, his wife and everything else he’s worked for. Unsure of just what he can do, Mark agrees to help Johnny.

After picking up their load of car parts, but before delivering it to the plant, Johnny calls Tony and tells him about a problem he’s having with his rig. Johnny explains that he’s broke down and needs to be paid for the loads he’s owed so he can fix his rig. Tony balks at Johnny’s requests, but with Mark coaching him, Johnny stands firm.

As they waited for Tony to call back, Johnny started getting nervous. Mark offered to buy Johnny a coffee, hoping that getting out of the truck and stretching their legs would do them both some good.

“But what if he calls while we’re out of the truck?” Johnny asked.

“That’s why we’ll take the cell phone with us.”

“Oh yeah, right” They walked the block to a coffee shop and back to the truck without getting a call. “What if he doesn’t call?” Johnny added.

“Don’t worry, he’ll call.”

“How can you be so sure?”

Mark climbed back up into the Freightliner and made himself comfortable before answering the question. “See, his first offer to you was for a load of broccoli. Sure, vegetables have to be into the food terminal, and then on to stores before they go bad, but broccoli’s not a valuable enough load for what we’re trying to do.” Johnny looked surprised.

“Okay, so the broccoli goes bad. The entire load is maybe worth $6,000, maybe $7,000. That’s about as much as they owe you on the missing bills of lading. So even if you hold onto the load until the cows come home, they’re still going to break even, so you don’t really hold much of a hand over them.”

“That makes sense.”

“Now, a load of car parts like we have now is probably worth $100,000. But that’s not the half of it… Most car plants work on a Just-In-Time basis, so if they want these parts at the plant at 11:00 Friday morning, they’re probably going to be putting them into cars by about 2:00 in the afternoon. If you’re late, or don’t deliver on time for whatever reason, they might have to stop the line, and the cost of that is something like $110,000 for each hour a car’s not being spit out at the end of the line.” Johnny laughed.

“Funny to you, but you just have to know that Tony’s sweatin’ buckets right about now. Any foul up in delivery puts his contract with General Motors in jeopardy. Hell, even if GM catches wind of a problem like this, they might pull their contract. And these contracts are worth millions.” Mark paused to take a sip of his coffee. “So, after Tony gets tired of trying to figure out a way to get the load delivered without paying you, he’ll be calling.”

At that moment, as if on cue, Johnny’s cell phone started ringing.

“What if I don’t answer it?” Johnny asked, an ear-to-ear grin on his face.

Mark shook his head. “No, we want to talk to him. Just let it ring a good long time.”

After the seventh ring Johnny answered the phone and held it so Mark could listen in on the conversation.

“Hey, Johnny,” Tony said, a bit of nervous laughter to his voice. “You scared me there for a minute. I didn’t think you were going to pick up the phone.”

“What do you want?”

Mark nodded approvingly, knowing this was the last time Johnny would ever be caught up in a mess like this.

“Well, we went through the office with a fine toothed comb and uh… we found your bills of lading.”


“Yeah, they were under a bunch of photocopies nobody bothered to check, so you’ll be getting your money the next pay period.”

“That’s not good enough, Tony. My truck’s broke bad. I need the money now.”

Tony paused for a long time, as if he were trying to keep his cool. “Okay, I don’t usually do this, but I’ll see if I can pull some strings and get you your money by the end of this week.”

“Not good enough, Tony. I need it right away.” Johnny paused a minute. “And I want to be paid for the load I got on right now too.”


“I want the money for this load,” Johnny repeated. “See, I can’t be sure you’re not going to stiff me again on this load. Truth is, I don’t trust you anymore, Tony.”

“Absolutely not,” said Tony. “I can’t pay you for a load you haven’t delivered yet. We don’t work that way in this business.”

“But I delivered loads for you and you didn’t pay me. I don’t work that way in this business.”

Tony took a deep breath and sighed, making it sound as if there was a blizzard blowing over the phone lines. “If you don’t deliver this load by 11:00 this morning, you won’t be working for JJ & G again.” It sounded like a threat, but Johnny didn’t look all that threatened by it.

“Can you put that in writing, Tony? See, I have no intention of driving for you anymore.”

“Or any other company either.”

“I doubt you’ve got that much pull, Tony. Besides, have you taken a look at the Truck News lately. There’s all kinds of companies lookin’ for drivers. And I bet they all pay on time too.”

Tony began screaming a string of expletives in a couple of different languages. Johnny just held the phone out in front of him until the man was done, then said, “You pay me for my missing loads, and for the one I have now, and that will be the end of our dealings. Okay?”

There was silence for a few moments, then, “Fine.”

“A certified check, right?”

“You sonuvabitch…” Tony screamed, launching into another tirade, this one more vile than the first. Johnny just hung up on him. A minute later the phone rang. “Fine.”

“Fine what?” asked Johnny.

“A certified check.”

“Great. You can deliver it to my house. Tell my wife to call me when she has it.”

The phone disconnected without another word. Johnny looked over at Mark, and then burst out laughing. The two men laughed for a long, long time.

An hour later, Johnny’s cell phone rang again. It was his wife, and she sounded as if she were in tears. “Johnny, you’ll never believe it!”

“Let me think… A man came by and gave you a check for $9,000?”

“We can make the truck payments,” she said between sniffles. “And we can settle our debts and finish off the baby’s room. How did you manage it?”

“Let’s just say I got some help from a friend,” Johnny said, smiling at Mark. n

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