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Paying for the Details

This is Harkin Road. It is the place where I go to think, unwind, or just spend some time appreciating the beauty of this part of the Salinas Valley. I can walk from my office to Spreckels and back in about 50 minutes, depending on the beat of the music playing in my headphones.

The only time I am not really excited about this route is when somebody is harvesting their crop. Fortunately my music drowns out most of the unsolicited attention, but I have to tell you, these crews have quite a repertoire of animal sounds. Their wolf whistles are often accompanied by something sounding more like a goat. I try not to take it personally, and I guess I can take pleasure in knowing that I have broken up the monotony of cutting and packing product for a few minutes.

One of the more common things to see is a semi truck lumbering down this narrow road. Every time I see one of these guys out there I catch myself wondering why no one told them that trucks this size are restricted past Hunter Lane. I know that either the driver was not warned ahead of time about this restriction, or they missed the somewhat obvious sign, or they are bold (foolish?) enough to take their chances with getting caught. I can see why it would be tempting. It’s such a short section of the road, and really it only takes a few minutes to cover the restricted section. BUT….the pleasant little town of Spreckels lies in the path, with a school, narrow streets and watchful residents awaiting the unwary big truck travelers.

Last week as an Alabama truck rolled past it struck me that these are the ‘little’ things that can really add value to a broker’s service. It’s not a trade secret, or an innovative process, or anything else that makes it inherently unique, but guiding a driver through time efficient routes is a distinctive and significant valuable process. I was trained to pay attention to these types of details, but anyone (broker) who appreciates that a person (customer--carrier or produce) paying for their service should expect this type of diligence in the managing of their load shipment.

Why? How does this small misstep affect a driver’s overall time? After all, a quick turn around and it’s all good, right? Often the answer to that question is ‘Wrong.’

I didn’t watch how the last driver got himself turned around, but he handled it a little faster usual. Somewhere between 10 and fifteen minutes later after he passed me, headed toward the restricted section, I heard the roar of a big engine over my music, and sure enough, he had seen the last warning sign and was rolling back towards Salinas.

I have heard people say that football can be a game of inches. Well, getting a load picked up on time should never be a game (although it really can have some fun parts) but it can come down to managing minutes. My experience with many shipping facilities and their appointment times has convinced me that losing as little as five minutes can result in severely impacting the loading plan. Rescheduling one appointment can mean getting that one piece on the trailer may have to wait until the next day, which affects every pick down the line. Sometimes it requires the truck to travel extra distances. Miles are money. And looking downstream, hopefully this small snafu doesn’t make the truck late for the delivery. Yikes, during a Thanksgiving holiday push? Don’t even want to think about it!

I could list so many negative consequences to this seemingly small detail. Another day, another blog. BUT, I will say that your broker partner should be including this type of information (routing issues) in their dispatches to the drivers. And when I use the term 'dispatch' I am assuming that it is not only in written form, but your broker should be having verbal conversations with drivers about anything that disrupts the flow of the pick ups, down to the nitty gritty details like ‘Don’t take Harkin Road to T & A!’

Lots of trucks were loading last week for arrival in time for holiday shopping. People were paying some big money to get their product to their customers on schedule. As Jack used to say, I ‘bet a dollar to a doughnut’ that within the first week of December some of these people will be complaining about the service they did NOT get for the money they had to pay.

I don’t blame them. Pay attention to the details...

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