Lessons from the Road.


Even good brokerages still get burned once in a while especially when a carrier doesn’t respect your desire to provide the best possible service for your customer. As a brokerage operating with high integrity, it’s not uncommon to relax once in a while when things are going well and assume that carriers you work with also operate with integrity. Recently, we were reminded <** palm smack to the forehead **> that not all carriers are straight up.

One of our agents contracted a power only carrier to move a container from TX to OR. We had used this carrier several times before without any issues. After the first day of transport, the customer asked us to have the truck re-routed to CA to deliver the equipment needed to work the recent raging fires in Northern California area. Of course we got the reaction from the carrier that we were expecting, that the driver was already close to Denver and would have to be rerouted, adding miles and more $… of course… we would do the right thing and take care of additional miles and costs associated with the market constraints getting a load out from the new destination.

Getting the gear to the fire was critical. It was also important to know where the truck was and its expected ETA. The customer was making decisions based on said arrival time. They were dealing with large crews of firefighters needing the equipment and were trying to synchronize with the trailer’s arrival. Along the way, we were getting location updates from the carrier that we were relaying to the customer, and again, the customer was making “expensive” decisions based on what we were being told. By now you’ve probably already guessed the punchline… we were not getting accurate information from the dispatcher… in fact, we were being lied to and the “real” truck was nowhere near the route that the dispatcher was relaying to us. The “shill” unfolded when the customer, who happened to get the driver’s cell phone# at the physical pickup location, actually called him to find out where he was at and then relayed that information to us. The driver phone number that our agent was given was different than the driver that picked up the trailer. So our agent was speaking with a driver who was also headed to CA and “played along”. It appears that the motivation behind the “shill” was to get extra $ for a reroute. The actual driver didn’t re-route at all. The path that he had originally chosen in the first place was the same path that he would have taken had the original dispatch been to CA. The bottom line was that the customer lost significant $ because of the information being provided as opposed to the actual information.

Obviously the customer was not happy and it impacted our relationship. So how can an agent prevent this kind of issue happening to them? Get accurate driver information. Speak to the driver directly. Do NOT allow a dispatcher to tell you that it’s their policy to not let brokers talk to drivers. This is where the agent should say that they cannot transport their load then. When you speak to the driver, ask him where he thinks he’s going? Make sure it’s for your load. When you call the customer, ask if they received the driver’s phone number, and if so, compare to what you received. It’s a good reminder that in order to provide the best possible service to your customers, you must remain diligent about collecting accurate details, even when you think you have a good relationship with the carrier/agent. With a good relationship with a carrier, there should be no issue getting accurate driver info.

Have a story to share so others can learn without having to make the same mistake?  Would love to hear them in the comments.