A couple weeks ago, I received a call from a broker about one of my drivers’ loads. The broker wasn’t looking for a location update – no need for a call to get that, as they’ve got a tracking link and can access that information on-demand.
What the broker was requesting of our office staff – demanding might be the better term here – was that they wanted the load paperwork the very minute the driver made his 8 a.m. scheduled drop.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been pressured by brokers to deliver what, for lack of a better term, you might call “Instant POD,” or Proof of Delivery. In an attempt to maintain a certain quality throughout our organization, we control all information to and from our drivers personally. Aside from the remote-track link, we do not provide our drivers’ information to brokers. In this, we make sure that any documents that come in electronically from our drivers meet our billable quality standard of shape, clarity and legibility. For both reasons we won’t allow our drivers to forward these documents directly to the broker. After delivery, of course, the driver is already busy planning his or her next trip -- navigating, calculating time, reading all instructions and communicating questions back to dispatch.
Further, demands of “instant PODs” directly from the on-site driver to the broker seem to presuppose that every driver is an expert on the capabilities of their mobile device of choice, and operating with a high level of proficiency there. This presupposition is simply false. We sometimes find ourselves explaining particular aspects of using mobile devices in detail, based on each driver’s phone type and software.
In this particular case, on a busy Monday morning with multiple fires to put out in the back office, it occurred to me that this kind of instant service, like detention incurred at a shipper or receiver, is burdensome and shouldn’t be delivered without a price.
I politely informed this broker that, for an additional $50, I would personally stop what I was doing when the driver delivers and handle his request. He declined and I informed him that we would get the POD to him as quickly as reasonably possible.
Trucking is a service business, ultimately, wherein the prime objective is just that, trucking, the safe, on-time pickup and delivery of goods or products. All of this must also be accomplished while navigating the very complex rules and regulations governing our industry.
As a service provider, we bill based on each service provided under the "accessorial fees” name for those service fees outside the main charge for freight’s movement. While there are many such accessorials and some unique to specific types of trucking, it is time to add another to every carrier’s arsenal.
Just as some brokers will charge a service fee for “Quick Pay,” carriers should be charging for "Quick POD."
The "Quick POD" fee would apply in all situations where the broker is requesting or, sometimes under the threat of fine, demanding the POD within a certain amount of hours. To accomplish this properly, the driver must stop what he is doing and take the time to take good-quality pictures -- sometimes accomplished only on the third or fourth attempt. Next, they have to email or otherwise transmit these to the office, where a dispatcher must stop what they are doing and inspect the document. That dispatcher must either then reject it and request a new copy from the driver, or otherwise find the email of the person requesting the POD and forward it to them.
During the day, trucking companies are busy making sure that we perform the prime duty of making money, which is accomplished by loading and driving trucks. Every minute lost trying to get a driver to send a suitable picture is a potential load lost. This takes time away from our revenue-generating efforts, often enough as in the above example during the busiest time of the day. What is 10 minutes of time worth in this situation? If I had to put a number on it. I’d say $100, easy, but that would be an unrealistic fee. (Now imagine that this happens 10 times a day. Not to be funny, but this is in addition to the people that call looking for PODs of loads that delivered yesterday.)
A year ago, we dealt with a broker in Utah that deducted $150 ($50 per day x 3) from an invoice because it took 4 days beyond delivery to bill the load. They received the signed POD, the invoice and the rate confirmation from us just four days after the load delivered and thought that they were justified in deducting $150. This whole mentality is unacceptable. Because of this, our staff has been trained to completely read and red-line any and all rate-changing clauses such as deductions like these. I’ve seen some that are so draconian as to note any deviation from a broker’s demands give the broker the right to make a 100% rate reduction. Yes, you heard that right. 100% rate reduction = $0 for the load.
This red-lining necessity, also, taxes our operation in time, as we can no longer trust a rate confirmation sheet to be just that.
I am unsure where these demands are coming from. Is it that brokers are factoring their invoices and want to speed up that process, broker agents aren't paid until the POD is received, or something else? Either way, in the current environment I believe that brokers forget that the carrier is extending them credit when carriers wait until after delivery of the freight for payment.
Again, we are a service provider, at the very core of the supply chain. We must bill for those things to which there is a cost. Blind BOLs are another very similar item that some brokers will not mention until a rate has been agreed upon and for which some have threatened a deduction. I could keep going, but I won’t.
I am at least sure of my prime objective. Let’s make “Quick POD” a reality as an accepted fee charged to those brokers who demand it in an unreasonable amount of time.