Insuring the load a main priority

One of the scariest words in the trucking profession is insurance.

Specifically, for the power unit and the trailer, but even more so for the load you’re hauling.

Questions abound. Who covers what? What does the fine print state? Should the driver really care?

If the driver doesn’t care, he/she is an idiot looking for a quick trip to bankruptcy, with years to think about their foolhardy, laid back, devil-may-care attitude.

It is scary. One of the things that must be in a driver’s mind, at all times, is that the instant he/she signs the shipper’s papers, the driver is 100 per cent responsible for that load. Unofficially, but almost in the same breath, officially, the driver owns that load until some person at the end of the trip signs off. By signing off, the receiver says the load is as it should be, and there will not be any claims made that the driver will have to answer for.

If all is not well, the driver just might have to pay up, or have the amount owing come out of his/her earned percentage of the trip. Doesn’t take too long to go backwards, financially, in that instance.

When I was hauling produce from Washington, Oregon, California and Texas, one of the first “save my butt” phrases I was taught was, “shipper’s count.”

If you could get that on the shipping bill, somewhere, anywhere, and the shipper signed off, you were safe. There was also, “shipper’s load and count,” meaning if the load was a few items less than the paperwork specified, the driver was totally free of any financial retribution.

Insurance for the load is, and should be, of paramount concern for the driver. So, if the driver is not allowed on the dock, or even to be present to supervise the loading, then the shipper should take full responsibility for the count, and do so by signing off with “shipper’s load and count.” If the shipper refuses, then it is the driver’s right to refuse the load. It will be a verbal fight, but freight is money, and if the load doesn’t move, then nobody gets paid.

Same at the receiving end. The driver should be allowed to watch the unloading. Produce has a way of growing it’s own legs at the receiving end, knowing the driver will pay for the missing sacks or boxes.

Sometimes, if the driver is not allowed to be present while unloading proceeds, he presents his shipping bill, upon which is written “shippers load and count” and the driver is off the financial hook. The receiver now knows he has a thief on his very own dock.

One bit of great advice an old-timer taught me was, from the get-go, try to convince the shipper to throw in one extra sack, “to cover damage from loading.” If I was pulling a mixed load that consisted of sacks of spuds, carrots, turnips, etc., they could get squashed and knocked about in the trip. So, one or even two extra sacks thrown on board kept the receiver very happy.

If there was no damage, and I had secured the load with straps and load locks, I got to keep the extra sacks, and let me tell you, it didn’t take long to get rid of a 23 kilogram bag of spuds in my neighbourhood.

After a few trips, I became quite proficient in talking shippers into throwing on a little extra produce. My neighbours were sad when I switched from produce to hauling containers. No more free produce.

It also seemed to help me that I always seemed to have a box of Canadian suds on board to help speed up loading, especially when I was loading in the excited states, American beer being what it is and all.

Backing into a tight loading/unloading area is never fun. Those darn chain link fences play havoc with the driver’s depth perception, and it’s only a matter of time before the fence is crunched. No resistance, and crunched is the operative word.

If the company the driver is hauling for has insurance, great. If not, once again, it’s the driver’s responsibility.

I hit a fence post once, and it cost me over $700. The company put the boots to me, but I was never caught delivering a load ever again, on either side of the Canada/U.S. border, that did not have me totally covered. Driver’s responsibility. Tough learning curve. Show me the paperwork before I move my truck and trailer.

Driving a big rig is very rewarding, and fun, and those moments far outweigh the moments of utter terror and frustration. If the driver is not on his toes, all of the time, he’ll end up paying, in more ways than just financially.

I could fill a newspaper with stories about life on the road, but why not share yours with readers? Send them to Driving editor Andrew McCredie at [email protected]

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