Four Steps to Resolve Conflict with a Carrier
Even when you've done your homework and selected the right carrier for your expedite business, there are going to be misunderstandings and mistakes that lead to conflict.
You might feel like you're being penalized unfairly for refusing certain loads. Or, you're paying charges that, according to the lease agreement, should be covered by the carrier. Or, you've discovered from talking with another driver that you might not be getting paid the full amount you're entitled to.
What do you do? How do you voice your concerns in a way that solves the problem and avoids unnecessarily escalating the situation into a full-blown battle?
Follow these four steps.
Step #1: Remain calm.
Resist the temptation to respond with anger. If you immediately go on the attack, without having your facts straight or knowing your rights, you'll lose the credibility and leverage you need to get what you deserve.
So, put yourself in a state of mind where you can think clearly. If you were mischarged a fee or did not receive full compensation on a load, your objective is to be made whole as quickly as possible. Stay focused on that goal so that you don't inadvertently do or say anything that might impede a speedy resolution.
Step #2: Get the facts.
Now, think through possible solutions, using these questions as a guide.
1. What exactly is the issue? You might write something like:
"I think I've been skimmed on my pay," or "The trailer blew a tire, but despite the leasing contract saying that the carrier is responsible for all repairs, I've been hit with a tire charge."
2. What resolution would be reasonable and fair for both parties?
If there is a mistake with your pay, stay focused on the goal: You want the carrier to pay the difference as quickly as possible. Avoid trying to stack on demands because you feel like you've been slighted. If your proposed solution seems unreasonable, you'll encounter resistance and delay resolution to the matter.
3. What are my rights? What am I entitled to in this situation?
"Look at the lease agreement. What documentation do you have to support your case? Gather as many facts as possible in terms of what you're entitled to," advises Dale Watkins, business services for Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, a trade organization that fights to protect the rights of all professional truckers.
For example, says Watkins, if you're concerned that you've been paid a percentage based on a lower gross revenue number than it actually was, you have the right to review the rated freight bills during normal business hours to verify whether or not you were paid on the correct sales amount.
This way, you can see for yourself whether you should have been paid more, which strengthens your leverage when discussing the problem with the carrier.
Step #3: Give them the benefit of the doubt.
Avoid assuming the person's motives, such as "He's a cheat. He's trying to push me out "" and he's hitting my wallet to do it." If you immediately go on the attack, that person will become defensive and shut down, no longer open to talking through the situation with you.
Instead, think in terms of, "Maybe there was a glitch in the computer system." Or, "Perhaps they made an honest mistake." Then you will approach the situation with an open mind, which will make the other party more likely to work with you.
"Don't go in there like a "˜bull in the china shop,'" says Watkins. "I know it's hard not to just get angry about it. You're busy and don't want to be dealing with this stuff. But just go in there and say, "˜Hey, I'm not understanding this. Can you walk me through this? I'm trying to understand what's going on here.'"
Remember: A cornered dog tends to growl, snap and bite. So, act in a way that gives the person "space" to do the right thing and work with you to resolve the issue.
Step #4: Go through the proper channels.
"If you have an issue with a motor carrier, you need to take it up the chain of command," says Watkins. "The first level contact is usually the dispatcher, then there's the fleet manager. If you're not getting anywhere with those contacts, you would then go up to the operations manager. Depending on the size of the carrier, you could go all the way up to the owner."
Be sure to start at the bottom and work your way up the chain of command, says Watkins. "If you start at the top, a lot of times you'll make the people below mad at folks that you have to work with on a daily basis.Give the people the opportunity to fix the problem before you take it higher up."
The Bottom Line
While these four steps may not resolve every conflict, they will put you in a position to address issues with a carrier in a way that helps preserve a healthy and mutually profitable relationship.