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Voice of the O/O: Drivers need to be compensated for ALL their time

When's the last time you were asked to swing by the shop and have a low tire repaired on your carrier's trailer equipment? Or how about this one: You arrive at your delivery location at the appointed...




When’s the last time you were asked to swing by the shop and have a low tire repaired on your carrier’s trailer equipment? Or how about this one: You arrive at your delivery location at the appointed time, only to find a broken forklift. Or worse, you’re told the receiver is still at the dentist’s, and no one else around the place is qualified to operate the darned thing!

Okay, I admit it. Things get in the way of productivity from time to time. That’s the way it goes in the real world.

Although I can readily relate to this kind of frustration, I prefer the cooler-heads-prevail approach – just drop a line to the office, informing them that the lost time I’m experiencing will be added to the bill of lading accordingly, prior to signing off.

Pretty sensible, huh? If it’s so sensible, why does my carrier’s dispatcher lapse into an uncontrollable fit of laughter while trying to tell me, “in your dreams, driver!”

Houston, or rather, Canada – we have a problem!

On the one hand, you have receivers who simply don’t give a rodent’s backside that you just drove through the night in order to accommodate an appointment time that was set by them in the first place. Even further off their radar screen is the economic havoc that lost productivity plays with our businesses.

On the other hand, there are lots of carriers out there who have neither the courage nor the foresight to adjust their rate structure to accommodate certain accessorial charges, fearful of what advantage this might give the competition.

Then there’s the carrier with the “that’s life” attitude, who tries to inject a measure of humour into the whole matter while you’re wasting more time trying to sort things out on the phone. That’s about when I begin to reflect on the flying bar method.

Remaining cool though, I move on with my work week and wait for my next opportunity to go by the office, where I can eventually corner dispatch and management for a chat.

This is where we get serious about working through the whole issue of accessorial charges.

These extra charges aren’t just bonuses for good behaviour; they’re an essential part of the revenue stream needed to make your business profitable. So you explain to your carrier or your customer that you expect to be paid for everything you do. And guess what? Most of them agree.

But just when you think you’re making progress, they undercut their support by some pretty outdated thinking: “We’ll never be able to collect such charges, because the customers refuse to pay for waiting time.”

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’d say this is where they need to either sharpen their negotiating skills, or cut those customers loose. There are good shippers out there, who understand the need to pay and ante up.

And there are good carriers too, who know they have to pay, if they want a stable supply of top-quality, experienced drivers to service those customers.

Owner/ops who fail to come to the table with a solid business model that identifies what they need to run a profitable operation are part of the problem.

Seriously folks, all the chin waggin’ in the world between you, your carrier, and the customer is never going to amount to much until you can show them a professional-looking cost structure that provides tangible evidence of operating costs, wages, and a modest profit.

Many owner-operators will tell you their operating costs are somewhat lower than the average developed by industry specialists. But to keep their costs low, they’ll lie in the mud to change the oil, or even skip an oil change, or maybe haul that extra ton around the dark street behind the scales. Who on earth really wants to do such things?

Those who stand in the office and declare that they’re not being adequately compensated for all they do are undermining their own credibility if they try to minimize costs in the ways I’ve described above.

Building a compelling argument for adequate compensation starts with placing a value on your time, and demonstrating a strong business case based on a well-constructed cost analysis of your operation.

And stop hiding time from your logbook! Stop doing all the things you keep saying you shouldn’t have to do, like waiting – unpaid – for a receiver to get back from that dental check-up, or lying in the mud.

This is the best and most powerful tool you have in building stronger – and more profitable – business relationships. n

– Don Robertson, a working driver, is vice-president of OBAC. He can be reached at drobertson@obac.ca.


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