I awoke on my own just before 0300 this morning and had to wait 45 minutes to head out so my 10-hour break finished up. I busied myself with breakfast, pretripping my truck and sorting some clothes (if by sorting “dirty” and “dirtier” are categories; ahem).
The remaining 200 miles to Tupelo, Mississippi from Hayti, Missouri where I stopped last night were nice and easy in the early morning hours. I took a chance on a shortcut the last few miles of the trip, overriding my Garmin 660. This has sometimes screwed me over, like going down dirt paths and the like, but this time all was well and I arrived 45 minutes early at the consignee.
I’m not sure what the malfunction was but they got halfway through unloading me then took an hour off, mid-morning, for some reason. As I’ve mentioned before, a driver’s time only matters to that driver: no dispatcher, shipper or consignee gives two craps about holding up a driver.
Eventually I am empty and get the paperwork back (nice penmanship, by the way… a rarity). There was another driver waiting for my dock so I pulled up a bit into the small parking area, swung my doors shut then left, heading up the street to a warehouse complex where I could park and do my paperwork and satellite goodness.
Unfortunately, of all the places I could have chosen I went in one that looked fine from the street but was extremely tight to turn around in. I went behind the warehouse buildings trying to make a loop but there were cars parked everywhere and a corner I could not get around. I had to back up several hundred yards around two corners before I risked a u-turn and barely had enough room.
Now the fun began. I was sent a load to look over on the satellite unit as I was being unloaded. It was a nasty thing: 44,000 lbs, brokered load, 100 miles of driving over back highways in Mississippi to get loaded, only 430 miles on the load itself and if I took it I couldn’t unload before Monday morning.
Now here’s the thing: one big difference between a company driver (company owns truck, I just drive it, they pay me) and a lease-purchase operator (company owns truck, I lease from company, I may or may not be the driver, I run my own business) is that a L-P operator can turn down loads. A company driver might be able to whine to his or her dispatcher or claim insufficient hours or something along those lines, but for the most part they haul what and where they are told to, no exceptions. Since L-P operators are technically separate entities, a company like Hill Bros technically “offers” me loads and I accept or reject them.
As in every aspect of the business world, there are shades of gray in play. Since my livelihood is based on hauling freight, I can’t turn down many loads or else I will eventually run into problems paying my fixed costs. On the company side, operations people like dispatchers are not supposed to twist your arm to take a load, as that blurs the distinction between business entities and could get the company in trouble. Still, you can hear the pleading tone in their voices if you listen carefully.
The weekend operations people tried a few other tactics:
“Do you want to take it through the house?” (Not so much, as it was considerably out-of-route and even if I did take it home I would only have an afternoon before I had to head out to deliver)
“Maybe your dispatcher can get you layover pay for having to hold on to the load.” (Maybe someone would have thought of this before the sequence of events began that lead to this load being booked in the first place)
Eventually I was told that, it being the weekend and all, that they probably won’t be able to book another load until Monday to get me out of Mississippi. So the calculus of the matter was to weigh the merits of the load (I would be paid something at least, though I would also incur expense) and square them against the demerits (having to deal with brokers, 100 miles of driving along back roads, it is a short run I have to hang on to until late Monday morning, etc.).
Ordinarily I would have squared my shoulders and taken the load but I decided it was time to draw a line somewhere. One area Hill Bros hasn’t done consistently well at is keeping me busy over the weekends. This is due in part to the over reliance (in my view) on short runs that pick up one day and deliver the next. As what happened this time to me: I was given a run that picked up Friday and delivered Saturday then what was left at that point wasn’t worth, as the famous quote goes, a warm bucket of spit.
So, making the best of the cards dealt me, I’m going to take a weekend off for a change. Do some laundry. Get caught up on some movies and Tivo stuff I’ve been putting off. Work on organizing my truck better.
Oh, and updating the blog, too!