To continue from last week; Planners are the big ugly Oz behind the curtain of mystery. If you’ve got a beef about a load you’ve been given, they are completely unattainable. You can’t reach them directly by phone. Your dispatcher won’t transfer you to them. The office receptionist won’t transfer you either.[box]Listen to the audio version above and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
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There is only one way that you can get to these puppet masters. They have to want to talk to you. It just so happens that the only time they choose to lower the veil is when they’ve done something good. One example is when they’ve swapped a couple of loads around, or arranged for you to swap loads so you can get home on time. Or maybe they need some help with a load because another truck has broken down. Basically, they either have to be really pleased with themselves, or in a tight pinch where some strategic grovelling is needed.
Now I’m not an unfriendly person by nature, but I really don’t want to speak to ANYONE at my company unless I’m having a problem with something. You send me load information; I’ll run the load. If I need you, I’ll call. If I need my dispatcher, no problem; he’ll answer the phone. Need a HazMat permit for Idaho? The receptionist will patch me right through. Even the CSR’s (Customer Service Representatives) can be reached if I’m having a problem with a shipper or receiver. But the Planners? Oh no, you can’t talk to them! Mere mortals cannot speak to the Gods.
The Evil Overlord and I recently went through a round of planner-hating, spurring on the title of this post,”When Planners don’t.” As those of you who follow me on twitter know, we recently got a brand-new truck. It had 8.7 miles on it when we got it. Unfortunately, new trucks require some things to be reinstalled. I wasn’t about to tap into the wiring harness to hook up my CB and the company policy was that our inverter (to convert DC power to AC) had to be installed by a company shop. By the time we got to the yard to pick up the new truck, the shop was getting ready to close for the night. Also, our brand-new satellite system wasn’t working. There’s a good start for you.
“When Planners don’t” example number one is on the way. Instead of letting us sit overnight to get our stuff installed, the planners (through our dispatcher, of course), told us to deliver our load we were under the next morning and they would route us back through the yard to get our stuff put in. Knowing planners as we do, we argued, but our dispatcher was only following orders.
After our delivery the next morning, we got sent in the opposite direction from the yard. Again, we called to argue, but our dispatcher couldn’t get the planners to budge. On we went. This is one bad thing about forced dispatch. Had these been safety issues, they would have been forced to get it taken care of. Since it wasn’t, they thought it could wait.
Next example. We were due home in three days and we got sent in the opposite direction from our house. This direction also happened to have a lovely little blizzard on the way. As some of you may recall, this has happened to us a lot this past year, starting at Halloween, when we missed a big shindig we’d been planning with our nephews for nearly three months. That was the first blizzard in the opposite direction from our house.
Although we did make it home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, the same thing happened at those holidays too. So by the time this fourth time rolled around, I WENT OFF on my poor dispatcher. He could do nothing but apologize and tell us we had to take the loads. We got home two days late.
Coming back out from the house, we again stressed the need to get to a company shop. Instead, we were sent out west, were we don’t have any shops at all. Finally, we got that load heading back through a shop near Chicago. We asked to stop in, but the planners said that there wasn’t enough time. More arguing and promises to get us back through there, and on we went, steaming out the ears. We did get back through, but again, they said there wasn’t enough time. There were too many important loads. So we passed by again.
Now it comes to a head. We delivered 90 miles from the shop on a Friday afternoon. I asked to deadhead (take an empty trailer) down to the yard, where they said they could get us in immediately. The planners didn’t want to send us there. They kept sending us load after load, which I promptly refused. They hate it when we do that. Good.
In the end, we had to threaten to quit. Even then, they finally gave in too late. The shop would close before we could get there. Having threatened to quit, and gotten permission to finally get the work done, we weren’t about to let them give us more loads though the weekend to keep us rolling, with “promises” to get us back through.
Now since the shop wouldn’t be open until Monday morning, we went to a nearby truck stop so we would have access to food and showers. We could have gotten showers at the yard if we had went on in, but without an inverter to operate our microwave, we would have been eating Chinese take-out and pizza delivery all weekend. We got to the yard by Monday morning and I was waiting at the shop doors before they even opened.
Now here’s the real kicker. Installing an inverter, a CB, and updating the software in our satellite system was only supposed to take about 3-4 hours tops. That’s why we were so hacked about having to pass up getting it done so many times. The shop foreman told me to wait in my truck and they’d call me shortly. Awesome! I’d be on the road by noon!
However, when I got the call an hour later, they informed me that my transmission had a recall part that needed to be replaced. When they saw my expression change, they assured me that the job only took 45 minutes and the dealer where they were sending us had put us on a priority list. So you can guess what happened. Eight hours later we rolled out of the dealer and back to our yard, where, of course, the shop was closed for the night. Nice.
Now it’s Tuesday morning and I’m once again standing at the shop door before the foreman gets there. The truck finally rolls into the shop about 9:00 am. My “3-4 hours of work” was finally done at 5:30, which just so happens to be the time that the shop closes. Well, it took a lot longer than expected, but at least we were ready to roll. CB hooked up? Check. Inverter installed and working? Yup. Satellite system updated. You bet. But the update wasn’t working. Now not only was our GPS not working, but our messaging system wasn’t either. We could live without GPS, but if your messages aren’t working, it’s a royal pain in the sitter.
I jumped out of the truck and ran back inside. Door’s locked. It’s 5:35. After a 15 hours of yoga, meditation, a massage, and a round of acupuncture, I was finally able to calm down.
Wednesday morning and those shop guys knew not to jerk me around anymore. It usually doesn’t do any good to get pissy with these people, but sometimes that’s what it takes to be taken seriously. Sometimes nice guys do finish last. Anyway, they replaced the faulty unit and we were ready to go by 9:30 a.m. So now we just needed to get a load and get moving. That shouldn’t be a problem since there was SO MUCH freight that we hadn’t had time in the last three weeks to get our stuff installed. Right? 2.5 hours later, we finally got a load. Where’s all those freakin’ loads now, you jerk-wad Planner?
So that’s what happens, “When Planners don’t.” If they had just planned to let us stop at a shop and get this stuff done when we had our chances, they wouldn’t have lost the use of our truck from Friday morning to Wednesday afternoon. Their greed caused them to lose a truck for 5.5 days, but more importantly for us, it shorted us 5.5 days of driving. That paycheck sucked worse than a vacuum cleaner convention.
I apologize for the 1400+ words rant, but it had to be done. I’m pretty sure my dispatcher was getting tired of hearing it, and I know The Evil Overlord and I are tired of hearing each other whine about it. That leaves whatever sucker has bothered to read this far down.
I promise I’ll have a more upbeat post next time around. Maybe something great will happen soon. Personally, I’m praying for a chance to leave a Planner with a few less teeth to brush. Anyone have their address?