On Jan. 15, 2002, I accepted a load through broker Fulmer Brothers, Greensboro, NC. At the time, I was in Rosehayn, NJ, about 26 miles from their warehouse in Winslow, NJ. I was asked to “stop” at Vineland, NJ, in order to pick up four pallets for another order. Thinking we would head to Winslow from there, we made the stop. At that point, Larry Fulmer gave instructions to go to another warehouse to pick up a pallet.
The directions to this warehouse put us in full circle where we were before, and not any closer to their warehouse to pick up our order. The excuse given is “everyone picks up on their way to the warehouse.” These miles are never paid. It is their way of saving the expense of having their own local trucks by taking advantage of the carriers and independents that take their loads. This practice will continue as long as they have drivers and carriers willing to “donate” diesel fuel, time and trucks.
Upon arriving at the dock, we were given four drops - Abington, VA; Shelbyville, TN; Nashville, TN; and Memphis, TN. After getting loaded and receiving my bills, it was noticed that there were no weights on two of the bills. As this broker had loaded my truck 2,000 pounds overweight once before, and I had informed them I do not run illegal and would not do it again, I proceeded to the closest scales at the Flying J, Carney’s Point, NJ. My instinct was correct. I was 2,280 pounds over gross.
My wife and co-driver, Renee, called the broker, Fulmer, who proceeded to tell her how to go around the scales. She informed him we do not run illegal, and he insisted. I got on the phone with Fulmer and advised him I would not, under any circumstance, run illegal. I was 2,280 pounds over gross and he needed to make arrangements to make the load legal. Larry said there was no one at his warehouse that late, as it was 11:30 p.m. at that point. I told him I would meet them there in the morning.
I got onto Interstate 295 and immediately was pulled onto the scales. I got my bills and went in the scale house when requested. Trooper McLaughlin did not give me a ticket, as I was headed back to the warehouse. Even though Fulmer Brothers had a track record of loading overweight and told me how to bypass the scales, she said there was no recourse, however, she did put Fulmer Brothers’ name on the warning and proceeded to do a full inspection on my truck. While I was speaking with Trooper McLaughlin, Renee phoned Fulmer and advised him we got pulled into the scales. He proceeded to use profane language, asking why we didn’t run around the scales. Again, Renee reminded him we do not run illegal. We proceeded back to the warehouse.
Upon our arrival, we were surprised to find a dockworker waiting and a truck backed into the dock, along with a message for us to call Fulmer. He advised Renee that he was pulling the entire load off us and had found a driver who did not mind running illegal. The driver of the other truck stopped Renee on her way out, and asked her how much over she was. When she advised him 2,280 pounds over gross, he said OK and proceeded to let them load his truck. She made note of the name, Williamson Trucking out of Wilson, NC, on the side of the truck. By this time, I had 136 miles on my truck between the extra pickups and having to turn around to go back to the warehouse to make the load legal. The incident set me back at least one day of work.
As long as carriers such as Williamson Trucking, who pulled the illegal load, are willing to put themselves at risk, it makes it harder for those of us who run legal. These brokers take no risk. The extra wear on the equipment is borne by us, as well as tickets for being overweight, not to mention if we are caught dodging scales. The brokers save money by not having to contract so many trucks, but pay us no more.
It is not just the produce warehouses anymore. I recently loaded at Americold in Texarkana, AR. When Renee checked in, she noticed the weight on the bills was more than 44,000 pounds. The clerk noted this did not even include the weight of the pallets the product was shipped on! They do not add in the pallet weight! He was surprised when Renee asked this extra weight be taken into account. She advised him we could only handle 42,000 pounds, which is what the broker advised us the load would be. I had extra pallets after the pallet exchange, but told the shipper to cut the load, rather than keep my pallets. The clerk told her they would not issue a credit slip or reimburse us in any way for the pallets I paid for! At $7 per pallet, that was $140! She asked if they would sell the pallets they confiscated from our truck to another driver, and was told yes. She told them to make sure we had room and weight for our pallets, as we would not “give” them our pallets, only to make a 100 percent profit off the next driver.
After we were loaded, we went to a nearby scale. I was 1,300 pounds overweight. They had only cut our weight 1,000 pounds! Renee called the shipper and advised them we were returning. Again, the load was cut and we were finally on our way, legally, 12 hours behind schedule.
Being loaded overweight and the pallet scam (making drivers pay for pallets and leaving them behind on docks with no compensation) are just other ways the shippers and receivers are taking advantage of independent owner-operators and small carriers. As long as they can make a few dollars at our expense, they will. Ours is an honorable profession, one we enjoy. We can always “find another job,” but the problems will just be there for the next driver. My small company is not only committed to excellent service to our customers, but also to fairness, safety and professionalism in the industry, writing letters, making phone calls and standing up for our principles and concerns.
It’s obvious the stand I have chosen to take in not hauling illegal loads and not providing free services will not solve this growing industry problem, but it’s also obvious I will not be contributing to further escalation of the problem. The solution lies in all of us taking a stand against these types of practices. If enough of us do, the problem will be solved. At the very least, if you take a stand you won’t be contributing to further growth of these unfair practices.
Editor’s Note: Do your really have something to say that just doesn’t come across when it’s squeezed into several paragraphs in the “Letters to the Editor” section? We prefer it typed, maximum 1,000 words. Remember, this is not a gripe venue and your submission must be verifiable. Send it to “Road Forum” at Land Line, P.O. Box 1000, Grain Valley, MO 64029 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org