Monday, December 13, 2010

Payback time

Some people won’t like this, but let me say that Pittsburgh, PA, is my least favorite destination except for New York City, and I’ve always refused to go there so it don’t count. I have been to Pittsburgh 15 times in my career, and of those I’ve probably been lost more than 20 times.

Now, if you have been out there trailer trucking for any time at all, it’s a given that you’ve had it stuck to you (probably many times) by shippers, consignees, etc. Maybe an unpaid load, maybe for a ticket you didn’t deserve. It’s hard to get back at them for any kind of satisfaction or out-and-out revenge.

After I became an owner-operator, I quickly made a rule for myself. If you get treated badly by a shipper or receiver, don’t ever go back and let them mess with you again.

Of course, there are exceptions to all rules. I was doing dedicated liquid tank work for a shipper in Whiting, IN … great people to work for. Everybody in the plant called you by your first name. They offered you coffee and donuts while they loaded your tank. They had a good freight rate and all accessorial charges like out of route, reconsignment, demurrage, etc., were on your next statement. No questions asked or delays. Every freight bill was prepaid, or so I thought.

One day my dispatcher – let’s call him Wayne – offered me a load to Pittsburgh.

No way, Jose.

Later on Wayne said he was in a spot and would I please take the load. Since I’m a player, I agreed to run it, as bad as I hated going to Pittsburgh.

I was sitting on their customer gate at 7 a.m. The man checked my bills and said he would get back to me. Sound familiar?

He got back to me eight hours later and said he was ready to unload me. Anyway, everything is cool except the guy wouldn’t sign my demurrage papers and he had a real nasty attitude. He says things like “you’re just a low-life trucker and should know it’s part of your job.

“That’s OK,” says I. “I’ll get my money.”

Guess what? I didn’t.

I asked Wayne (remember him?) about it, he checked it out, and it turned out to be a customer pickup and they are paying the freight. You know what’s coming next.

Through a strange set of twists and turns, that load comes up again a month later and Wayne is crying tears big as horse apples. I’m the last option, and if I don’t take it they will have to give the load back. The boss would rather eat ground glass than lose a load they have booked.

Easy me, I buckled under and took it with the stipulation that Wayne starts thinking about how he is going repay me.

Here we go again. The freight bills once more called for an a.m. delivery so this time I showed up at 11:45 a.m. The same guy who unloaded me before was standing in the middle of the street waiting for me. “Where the hell have you been? Why weren’t you here at 7?”

He is going postal on me, screaming and cussing like a wild man.

My turn: “I’m on time, it’s an a.m. delivery and it’s still a.m. Where have I been you ask? Just down the road at a diner playing video poker all morning. … Last time you kept me here 10 hours. You’ll have to work late to do it again!”

I don’t know that I’ve seen anybody any madder than this guy. I suspect he must have had something really important to get to but had to receive this load first.

The sun was shining in Pittsburgh that day, and I didn’t get lost either.