Friday, January 3, 2014

Lots of blame to go around for holiday package debacle

The shoppers may not care, but the blame for delayed holiday packages should not fall squarely on UPS or FedEx.

Yes, UPS and FedEx made promises to their customers that packages would arrive just in time for Christmas if they were ordered by a certain date. And, of course, it didn’t happen for many.

The easiest thing to do for people who ordered packages was to point the finger at those who were supposed to make the deliveries. The Internet blew up with people giving it to the delivery companies. Some people went so far as to say the delays ruined or canceled their Christmases.

But let’s step back for a second and look at what could only be called a perfect storm.

For starters there was an actual storm. Ice and snow the likes of which many states were not equipped to handle swept across the entire U.S. in the days leading up to Christmas.

That alone could have made the promise of just-in-time deliveries unattainable.

But there are other factors, as well. The online surge by shoppers – likely escalated by the winter weather – cannot be ignored. The sheer volume of last-minute purchases put the squeeze on everybody who handled those packages.

Many of the largest online retailers – let’s take Amazon as an example – made lofty promises to their customers as well. Not just promises, guarantees that they had no control over once the package volume exceeded capacity and the winter weather set in.

Retailers and large shippers should also realize that truckers operate under strict hours-of-service rules. Whether they care or not is another story. Drivers worked their tails off during the season, and certainly would have been butting up against the regulatory clock.

Remember when it used to take four to six weeks for something to be delivered? Those days are long gone. People want their products now, and retailers and delivery companies are more than happy to make promises.

This whole debacle boils down to the promises being made on the backs of those who actually handle and deliver the freight at a time that volume exceeded capacity and Old Man Winter decided to get nasty.

So here we are, many apologies and refunds later, and things are more or less back to normal. At least until the next perfect storm happens.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Holiday roses

Senior Correspondent Terry Scruton and LL’s Managing Editor Jami Jones were in the “Land Line Now” studio last week recording a segment that handed out some special Christmas “roses” to some deserving people. Being on the road can be lonely during the holidays, and it’s good to know there are folks out there doing stuff like this to make it just a little less lonely.

Here are some of their holiday shout-outs.

Terry kicked off the segment with some holiday roses to a group of volunteers led by Ryan Diekmann – a driver for US Foods – who went to the Love’s truck stop the week before Christmas and handed out goodie bags to the truck drivers.

According to Terry, it happened at the Love’s in Cedar City, Utah. About 150 truckers got bags containing a blanket, homemade cookies and other treats. The group is an all-volunteer group called Operation Christmas on the Road, and their trip to the truck stop has become kind of a Christmas tradition.

Each year they dedicate their efforts to one of their own who passed away during the year. This year they dedicated everything to Jeremy Gunter, Diekmann’s former supervisor, who died rescuing his son in a drowning accident last June.

Jami handed out more roses to a group called “A Truckers Christmas Ministry” out of Greenwood, La.

They went out on Christmas Day to the TA truck stop there in Greenwood and handed out gift bags to truckers that included things like a Bible, cookies, CDs and toiletries.

The ministry was started by husband and wife Pete and Tammy Smith who started visiting the truck stop about four years ago.

Terry gave a rose out to the Meals for 18 Wheels group, which was started just this year by OOIDA member Kari Fischer and fellow trucker Crystal Schoonmaker. They started it back around Thanksgiving to try and bring some meals to truckers who are away from home during the holidays.

The group has snowballed since then, with nearly 450 members on Facebook. They have even inspired people outside of trucking to get involved, like a woman named Michelle Hepburn of Mokena, Ill. Now to be fair, Michelle’s son is a truck driver, but her sister-in-law got the idea to deliver goodies to drivers from the Meals for 18 Wheels Group.

Terry says they baked up a whole bunch of stuff, including peanut butter kisses, pecan nut cups and pumpkin spice cookies, which they handed out to truckers on Christmas Day.

As long as we’re talking about people doing nice things on Christmas, Jami gave a rose to police in the town of Melbourne, Fla. They spent their Christmas Day like any other day on duty – and one of those duties is, of course, pulling people over for speeding. But, instead of giving folks a speeding ticket and ruining their Christmas, they gave them a warning – and a scratch off lottery ticket.

The Associated Press quoted one of the cops as saying they bought the tickets with their own money because they wanted to spread a little holiday cheer while still ensuring public safety.

“We don’t know if any of the lottery tickets were winners,” said Jami, “but these officers are definitely winners in our book.”

Terry gave roses to Kennesaw Transportation Co. out of Cartersville, Ga. They started a policy 15 years ago to reward employees who had been at the company for five years or longer with a $10,000 bonus every five years.

This year the bonuses will go to 36 employees for a total of more than $360,000 dollars in bonuses handed out. Some employees there are on their third round of bonuses.

We know there are lots of other people and groups out there, too, but Terry and Jami and the whole OOIDA media crew just wanted to highlight a few and say thank you on behalf of truckers everywhere for making those long holiday hours on the road go by just a little bit faster.