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Shortages and Damages in Truck Dispatching

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Today we're going to talk about shortages and damages. As an independent truck dispatcher, sooner or later, you will, unfortunately, run into a situation where you will have to deal with shortages or damages. 

But what are shortages and damages? Shortages happen when your client's truck arrives at the receiver, and according to the paperwork, some of the product that was supposed to be transported is missing. There just aren’t enough boxes or pallets or something like that.

Damages are somewhat similar. When your client's truck arrives at the receiver, some of the product or the cargo is damaged. 
In this situation, you, as a dispatcher, can only provide two things. One is efficient communication, and the second is advice (if you are experienced enough with your client as to what should or should not be done). We will discuss some solutions below that you can utilize that may help you and your client in the future.

Dealing With Shortages

So first, we shall discuss shortages because they are somewhat easier to deal with than damages. In most cases, when a shortage occurs, it happens because the shipper miscalculated the number of products they put on the truck. The shipper assumed that they loaded, let's say, 50 boxes onto the truck, when in reality, they only loaded 48 and two went missing. It is a much less likely scenario that your driver ate a pallet of potato chips or sold three boxes of 7Up off the back of the truck. 

So, more than likely, it is a miscalculation, and to deal with it, the easiest thing that can be done is to make sure that the freight broker is immediately notified and reaches out to the shipper to see what they say about this situation. Because very often, the shipper will say, “oh yeah, that's right. We thought we shipped this much cargo, but in reality, it was this much.” 

With that being said, the next question might be, “Is your client responsible for this shortage?” And the answer is that it depends. In most cases, the shipper loads the trailer, and the driver does not participate in the loading process. Therefore, the driver doesn't know what or how much is being loaded. Very often, the trailer gets sealed at the end of the loading process, and the receiver breaks the seal when it is unloaded. So, as long as your client's truck arrived with the seal intact, it is very likely the shipper miscalculated, and this needs to be noted. 

Now, in a different situation, some loads require the driver to count the freight. So, the truck driver has to count the box as, say, pallets, and then the driver must sign off on the number of items that went on the truck. 

Now, in this case, if there is a miscalculation, it was made by the driver. And if the shipper does not play along or agree that something went wrong with calculations here, this may become the responsibility of your client because the driver had to count the freight and the driver put a certain number on the bills of lading. 

So, if the driver doesn't know how to count, that can lead to an unfortunate outcome. One way or the other, it is very important for you as a dispatcher to immediately do one thing: 

Advise the driver to stay where he is. 

Don't leave the facility. Don't sign any bills. Don't do anything until he gets further instructions. 

Second, you must call your freight broker immediately and let them know you’re dealing with this problem. Then, you may want to wait for the broker to clear out this situation. 

For example, if the shipper says, “Oh yeah, we forgot to load this X number of boxes on the truck,” you’ll want to get a confirmation from the broker that that is the case and that it is okay for your driver to leave the facility. 

You may want to send them an email and say, “Hey, I want to make sure that those five missing boxes were a miscalculation by the shipper because when we build this load we want to make sure there are no issues.” You want to get that confirmation in writing, preferably not over the phone. You could have them send you an email that says, “Hey, yeah, everything is fine. You know, there is no problem.” 

Once the situation is resolved, everything is clear and good to go, so the driver can leave and pick up another load.

Packaging Factory

Dealing With Damages

When it comes to damages, this situation is usually more complicated. One of the main causes of damage is improper loading. The truck is not properly loaded, and then something falls on or crushes something underneath. 

In some other cases, say if you are dealing with a NASCAR type of driver, it may also be the fault of a motor carrier. Some reckless driving or some emergency braking could have been involved, damaging the load. So again, just like with shortages, as soon as those issues are discovered, the driver must let you know and, preferably, take as many pictures as possible so it can be determined what happened and why the cargo got damaged. 

If it is clear that the cargo wasn't properly loaded or secured, and it is the shipper's fault, you need to notify your broker to let them know what happened. Send them pictures and say, “Hey, we don't want to be responsible for this. We didn’t load the trailer, and this is the situation. We need you to provide us sort of confirmation that you are not going to claim it on our insurance or hold us liable in any other way.” 

And again, preferably, you want your driver to stay at the facility until this situation is sorted out. If your driver leaves, it becomes more complicated to resolve. But once you’ve got clearance from the broker that everything is okay, they can leave. Obviously, if it was your driver's fault, then there is a reasonable chance that the shipper may file a claim on the cargo insurance stating that the cargo got damaged in transit. If that happens, your client may have to deal with that.

I will, however, provide you with a word of advice. Sometimes a load may get delivered, and your client may leave, and then you or your client may receive a call from the broker stating that something was damaged and that they will be filing a claim on your client's insurance. If this is the case, again, you want to advise your client to get as many details as possible. 

First of all, you want to know what was damaged, how much of that was damaged, and where it is. You need to know this because, in some cases, if your client will be paying for the damages, they may not be all that high, so it wouldn't be worth going through the insurance company. Your client may just choose to pay for the damaged goods. 

But when your client does that, those goods belong to your client. I have seen situations when the broker would say, “Well, you owe us this much money, or we're filing a claim.” Then, clients would ask the broker, “Where is the freight? I want to go look at it. I want to take some pictures of it for my insurance company and pick it up if we're filing a claim because it's mine.” Then, the broker suddenly disappears. 

This tells you they were trying to pull a scam with the insurance. So, be aware of those situations, try to get as much information as possible, and clearly communicate between the driver, the client and the freight broker. 

A Potential Aftermath of Damages

There is also another aftermath effect of damages that can happen to your client: damaged cargo being left on the trailer. This can also happen in a situation of overages, which is similar to shortages but goes in the other direction, where 50 boxes had to be delivered, but there were 55. So, the receiver is not willing to accept the extra cargo units on the truck. 

What do you do in this situation, and why is it so unpleasant? Well, when you have stuff on your truck, you cannot pick up another load because you'll have some leftovers of cargo on the trailer. This can be handled by you but needs to be handled primarily with the freight broker. 

In some cases, a broker may say, “Hey, you know, it’s okay. A shipper doesn’t need those extra boxes. You can just keep it. Again, its fine.” If it's a few boxes and the driver can keep whatever is in those boxes or discard them, that's fantastic. But if there are a couple of pallets left, it might be a more challenging situation. 

You need to find out what should be done with this product from the broker and how big of a problem it will be for you. Now, you are stuck. And you are losing time. You cannot go anywhere, and your client cannot make money by picking up another load. You are stuck with the leftovers on your trailer. 

At this stage, you, as a dispatcher, probably want to start applying some pressure to the freight broker by saying, “Hey, we need to get rid of this stuff ASAP because we have another load we need to pick up, and we can't.” Again, in most cases, the broker will find a location where you can either donate or discard or deliver whatever you have, and then you can move on with your life. 

Sometimes, though, it takes too much time, and your client will miss the next load and, therefore, their revenue for that day. This is a very unfortunate but common aftermath of the shortages, damages and overages that you may encounter in your career as a truck dispatcher. 

So, to summarize, damages and shortages will happen, and you will have to deal with them. Your primary goal is to communicate. Your second is to provide advice to your client as to how they could handle these situations. Try to stand your ground because sometimes brokers will try to take advantage of you, so just do your best to resolve this situation, so there is as little damage to all the parties as possible.

© By Alfa X Logistics January 2023

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