Your word should be golden

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Saia, a Duluth, Ga.-based LTL subsidiary of SCS Transportation, announced the June 13 launch of its Xtreme Guarantee product that backs all six of the company’s proprietary Customer Service Indicators with a full money-back pledge. Saia will guarantee that shipments will be picked up on the day Saia commits; be delivered by 5 p.m. based on scheduled transit times; be delivered claims-free; receive accurate invoices; receive proof of deliveries, if requested, within 5 minutes; and have all approved customer claims settled within 30 days.

Service Transport Inc., a Cookeville, Tenn.-based carrier with terminals in
La Vergne and McMinnville, has shut down. Employees said they were told the company, which operated nearly 500 power units, simply wasn’t surviving in the current economy.

Prime Inc. launched an initiative to create a new fleet of company drivers within its flatbed division. Previously drivers could take advantage of Prime’s flatbed freight network only as independent contractors.

TransForce Income Fund, Canada’s largest trucking operator, has acquired Groupe Gregoire Inc. of Plessisville, Que. Groupe Gregoire provides cross-border trucking services.

Barr-Nunn Transportation extended its fuel protection guarantee for owner-operators through the end of this year. Through a package of discounts, fuel surcharges and additional fuel protection rebates, Barr-Nunn promises that owner-operators will pay no more than $1.04 per gallon for diesel.

Integrity is one of those qualities that most people think they have more of than they really do. For a trucking company, there is nothing more important than the integrity it has with customers, office staff and drivers. But how much integrity does your company really have? Consider:

A customer calls about a late shipment, which has been sitting in the yard because someone forgot to have it delivered. Does dispatch blame the late load on a mechanical breakdown?

A solo driver says he can overnight a hot load. He’s a dependable, hard-running driver, but there is no way he could log the miles legally. Does he get the load?

A customer has a hot load destined for California. Dispatch policy is for the first driver empty to get the load, and a brand new driver is first on the list. Does the new driver get the load?

A longtime customer calls in a load. There is one truck available to haul the customer’s load, but a broker is on another line offering a load in the same town paying 50 cents a mile more. Who gets the truck – the customer or the broker?

Anyone involved in trucking has faced issues like these. Blaming a late shipment on a breakdown. Turning a blind eye to creative logging. Assigning hot loads to dependable drivers and bypassing those next in line. Trying to make extra money when trucks are in tight supply.

Many questionable decisions might make sense at the time, but the problem is that once you cross the line, you tell your organization that this type of behavior is acceptable. Telling a customer waiting for a late shipment that the truck broke down also tells operations that some level of lying is acceptable. And in the long run, most customers will get tired of the “truck broke down” excuse. But by telling the truth about a late load, you set a good example for your employees, and your customers will find it refreshing when you let them know exactly what happened.

One way for a company to keep its integrity is never to set a policy that it can’t honor. Adopt policies that pass the common-sense test with most people. If you can’t stand behind the “first-empty, first-to-load” dispatch policy, then change it. Tell drivers that the loads they are offered are based on their on-time performance. It’s common sense that a carrier is going to give key loads to dependable drivers. Most drivers know and understand this.

Yes, this might make some drivers feel they officially are in the doghouse when it come to some loads, but at the same time you also can tell them what it will take to get out of the doghouse. That’s better than having an unofficial doghouse, when a driver knows he is getting bypassed but isn’t certain why or what to do about it other than quit. A more open policy also keeps a dispatcher from having to make excuses as to why the driver didn’t get a load. Drivers always are complaining about “lying dispatchers,” but often company policies put dispatchers in that position.

Last fall, I met with the president of a large trucking company. He told me that they were giving their customers take-it-or-leave-it rate increases and warning them of more increases to follow. Fair enough, I thought, because rate increases were overdue.

Recently, I also met with a large customer of the same carrier. They told the story of accepting the carrier’s rate increases. Then, when peak season occurred last fall, the carrier wouldn’t haul the loads unless the customer agreed to pay a special “expedited” rate. Since then, the shipper has found other carriers for its loads.

I recently discovered that the large carrier had lost money in the first quarter of this year. Apparently, its revenue levels were lower than expected. Now, there could have been many factors creating a decline in revenues, but surely one of them must have been customers who decided to take their business elsewhere. Losing integrity with customers, like drivers, always will have consequences.

FDA clearing Peace Bridge shipments on Sundays
U.S. Food and Drug Administration, following lobbying from the Canadian Trucking Alliance, has begun processing paperwork for clearance on Sundays at the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie, Ont. and Buffalo, N.Y. Previously, FDA had no weekend presence, requiring shipments needing clearance to wait until Monday. Some Canadian shippers and trucking companies had been forced to purchase, lease or rent properties to stage equipment for pickup by U.S. carriers for weekend and Monday deliveries.