Try collecting these surcharges

by Bill Cameron

At the peak of the recession, I read an article featuring the various different surcharges larger trucking companies were collecting, sometimes maybe, in lieu of respectable freight rates.

Fuel and detention time, obviously, were the basics, but some of the others were downright amusing and, I suspect, bogus, in an attempt to convince their competitors they had come up with a revenue tool no one else had.

One CEO described a “notification” surcharge, where the customer was e-mailed when a load was picked up or delivered. Most small carriers – and likely many large carriers – could never charge this.

We just pick up and deliver when promised; it’s not such a momentous occasion as to require special notification, especially one the customer should pay extra for.

With that foolish thought in my mind for a while, I’ve devised several equally sensible surcharges. Although this is tongue-in-cheek silliness, I know somebody will attempt to collect on at least one of them. If you’re successful, e-mail me to find out where my commission should be mailed to.

The Driver Didn’t Phone surcharge: On one of my first cross-border trips, before the CB was permanently shut off, I listened to a late night tale being discussed between two drivers. One driver worked for a Southern Ontario shipper who requested two trucks per day, destination to be decided depending on inventory levels.

He was handed paperwork for Portland, Oregon and left for the west coast. Upon approach to Portland, he called on the CB for directions into the address on his papers. Nobody, even the locals, had heard of it, so he called his dispatcher to get directions. His return call informed him that there had been a typo on the paperwork, and the load had been intended for Portland, Maine. Since then, I have never left a shipper’s property for a first time delivery without calling ahead. We have had a couple drivers ourselves who, even after being told where they were going, would start heading to the ‘Bill To’ address on the paperwork, rather than the ‘Ship To.’ Not sure if this surcharge would go to the shippers or drivers, but charge somebody!

The Clueless Customer surcharge: Twice, with the same former customer, the customer would call for truck availability for a load that wasn’t finished yet. We informed them that there were some vacancies in the next few days, where they could be penciled in once they had a finish date for their product. The next day, we would e-mail asking if they had a load completion ETA yet, only to be informed that they had called another carrier since we “couldn’t give firm availability.” Putting up with this level of stupidity shouldn’t be free: charge them!

The Attitude and Personality surcharge: As happens often, your driver has encountered a shipper, receiver, Customs officer, or enforcement person, who, for whatever reason, had a miserable attitude towards your driver. (Maybe the driver instigated this bad encounter, but we’re not supposed to admit that ever happens). As such, to pacify your driver, you will need to shuffle the dispatch schedule so that for the next few days, they get preferential treatment in dispatching. For this inconvenience, someone must pay!

The Truck Stop Preference surcharge: After one particularly unproductive owner/operator left the company, I was made aware that there were two truck stops that he was incapable of passing; once, even travelling an extra 40 miles to visit. Attractive waitresses, apparently. My trailer was being dragged extra mileage for the sake of his carnal fantasies. Another surcharge that might be more properly billed to the driver, but pay up!

The Shiny Truck surcharge: This is one that was actually suggested to me. One owner/operator bought a much newer truck, the second Peterbilt in an otherwise Freightliner and Mack fleet.

He actually had the nerve to tell me that our primary outbound freight customer should see an increase in their freight rates, now that their freight was being moved on “classier trucks.”

He got quite angry when I told him that the first dozen loads we carried for this company was behind my 20-year-old International cabover, so obviously a shiny long hood was not a priority for them. His attitude didn’t change: Charge more!

The Polar Vortex surcharge: We all adjust fuel surcharges accordingly, but who could have predicted the bitter cold of last winter?

Besides fuel mileage dropping at least 10%, I was also dealing with a bunk heater but no auxiliary engine heat, so I spent a few weeks waking up every three-and-a-half hours to start the engine for 15 minutes. Besides the disruption in my sleep pattern, there was the reduction in fuel economy. This is Canada for heaven’s sake; who could have seen such a thing coming? Pay up!

Seriously, if anybody collects any of these, I want my cut.


Bill Cameron and his wife Nancy own and operate Parks Transportation, a four-truck flatdeck trucking company. Bill can be reached at

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