Bottom Line
Hauling Produce
If a receiver makes a claim, get a receipt

Question: I hauled a load of produce and arrived at the receivers a day late. The receiver said they had to "buy against my account" and deducted part of my freight. Is this legitimate? If so, how do I know the figures are accurate?

Answer: If properly documented, the receiver has the right to buy against your account. It doesn't mean that it is an automatic deduction. Good receivers who aren't in dire need of the product would probably inspect it and, if it is OK, send you on your way. Some of the marginal receivers see dollar signs on every late truck and may claim to buy against the account even though they didn't. As I state, they need to document their loss. When a receiver buys against an account, they are "going on the street" to buy some or the entire product that you were to deliver. This means that they are buying from local wholesalers and are paying a higher price, which they will charge against your freight. The receiver needs to provide an accounting of what they purchased and for how much. They can either provide you with an invoice from the wholesaler or a USDA market report indicating what the product in question was going for at the wholesale level on the day they purchased it. If you wish to confirm a price, you could get in touch with USDA's Market News and request a price on the commodity and the day it was purchased. If the price jibes with the receiver's documentation, then they have a legitimate claim.

Question: I have a load that is being rejected because of a truck problem. I admit that we made a mistake, but I don't want the receiver to handle the product for my account. Do I have the right to sell it and hopefully cut my losses?

Answer: Yes, you do have that right. If you know someone who might take it, then I would advise you to take advantage of that situation and move it. If you don't, you may be in for a major undertaking that could cause you more problems than you already have. Taking the load without a potential buyer could mean that by the time you do sell it, it could really be in bad shape. You will get less than the original receiver would have given you. I do understand where you're coming from. There are those receivers who have a tendency to take problem merchandise that they are handling for you and "blow it out the door." What you should do is notify the shipper that you would like to purchase this load, work out the details and have the shipper release the product to you. Get this in writing, and you've bought yourself a load.

Question: How do I get a layover fee and how much should I be looking for?

Answer: In the produce industry, the standard rate is between $100 and $250 per day. If you can get more than that, I say more power to you. Always start high and negotiate downward. In answer to the first part of your question, I would tell you that layover fees are usually pretty hard to collect. Sure, there are some receivers that regularly pay them when they feel that it is necessary, but there are many others who tell you what you want to hear just to keep you happy and later go back on their promise. I always advise truckers to get everything in writing and layover fees are no exception. Once you agree upon an amount, get it in writing. Furthermore, it never hurts to ask if you can be paid in advance for the layover, especially if it's only going to be one day. If the receiver intends to pay it anyway, this shouldn't be a problem and you've got your money in your pocket.

Question: Do you think the Internet, load-posting services, etc. will put the truck brokers out of business?

Answer: Not in the foreseeable future, especially when you're talking about produce truck brokers. I see it as causing them to be on their toes, but I don't see a lot of them folding any time soon. I think that there are still significant numbers of truckers out there who feel the need to have a broker accessible 24 hours a day. There are questions that need to be answered, advice to be given, advances needed and so forth. With many of these things, time is of the essence and an omitted detail could be critical. Truckers feel secure in running these questions/problems by their broker, especially if it's a broker they use regularly, and who gives them an immediate response. As far as load-posting services go, most of those that I have looked at post very few produce loads. It seems to me that only the heartier produce commodities get posted. Having said all that, I would also tell you not to be afraid of the Internet. Become acquainted with it. With all the upcoming truck shows, many of you in attendance will get a chance too see some of these Internet businesses and products. Study them and give the exhibitors your opinion. That's what they're there for.