Nicky Hammerlane here, comin' at you from the Bordentown, N.J. truck stop and life’s good as I catch up on the news - not from a trucking tabloid, but an honest-to-God New York Times.
I'm waiting for a call from my grandson, our dispatcher at Hammerlane & Son trucking, who’s looking for a load to get me and the old International home for a bit of R&R.
So I’m in the middle of the travel section wondering if I’d ever make that trip to Ireland I’ve always dreamt of since boyhood when I hear, “Excuse me. Are you Nicky Hammerlane?”
I looked over the top of my Times into the eyes of a young man who I thought at first was a teenager, not a day over 16 or 17.
“Yes, that would be me. What can I do for you?”
The young man said, “I've been looking all over for you for about three weeks. When I saw your black cowboy hat, I figured I’d take a chance. Ah…I was told you help truckers facing financial or business problems?"
“I’ve been known to do that from time to time,” I answered.
“Mr. Hammerlane, do you think you might be able to help me?” he asked.
“Well, son, that depends on what the problem is.”
“Here’s the problem. Every time I walk into a shipper to try and land a hauling contract I’m shut down before I even get the proposal laid out. The usual response is, 'Why don’t you send an adult in here. We can’t work with anyone under 21.'
"But I’m 26," he continued. "I started driving when I was 21. I took money I inherited from my grandpa, bought a truck and trailer, got my authority, and started my own trucking company when I was 25. I can’t help I look so young. Sure, I’ll think more positive about it when I’m 60 and look 40. But right now it shuts the door before I can even show them I know what I’m talking about. Mr. Hammerlane, how do I help my potential customers look at me in a different light?”
“Here, take a seat," I offered. "Let’s see what we can figure out. What did you say your name is? And how about coffee or something to eat?“
“Jason Black. Sweet tea would be good. Thank you, Mr. Hammerlane.”
I folded the newspaper and gestured to the waitress, who quickly took the order.
“Now, Jason, tell me a bit about your operation. What are you hauling? What region are you running in? Who are the shippers you’re calling on? And call me Nicky, since we’re just a couple of truckers having a conversation.”
Jason answered, “I’ve got a refrigerated trailer so I can haul both dry and refrigerated freight. I also chose a fairly light tractor so I could haul up to 46,000 pounds in the trailer and still axle out and not be over gross. I run mainly up and down the east coast from Massachusetts to Florida, occasionally to the Midwest, you know Ohio, Indiana, and Chicago. As far as customers, right now I’m working with brokers and a couple of load boards.”
I then asked, “So which customers have you called that closed the door on your foot?” Jason quickly named several large distribution center warehouses and five or six Fortune 500 companies.
“These would be a challenge even for a larger carrier and a near impossibility for a one-truck operation, Jason. It’s like you’re trying to buy the whole cow when you can only eat a single steak. I think this is easily resolved with a bit of training and a different approach on selecting not just the shippers but all the freight you go after.”
“What do I need to do?” Jason asked.
“Put a list together of the shippers you’ve contacted, along with a written script of what you said and the responses you received,” I said.
Just then, a text message from my grandson came through on my cell:
No R&R Pops - Load Princeton NJ to Atlanta, GA, load in morning, Deliver Atl following day 3pm. Distance 819 miles. Have return back to Atlantic City, NJ from Athens, GA following day; must deliver by Friday (hurricane relief supplies).
I quickly typed "OK, send confirmation and contacts."
"The life of a trucker. So much for a break.” The ‘kid’ grinned sympathetically at me.
“Jason, can you have this information by Saturday? We can meet here again.”
“I can do that. What time?”
“9 a.m. We’ll get you on the right road to building your carrier,” I said.
Jason sat for a moment, and then quietly asked, “Mr. Hammerlane…I mean, Nicky, what’s your fee for doing this?”
“If you have to ask, you probably can’t afford my fee. But, under the circumstances, let’s say if I’m successful in helping you, write a check for whatever you think my services are worth and make a donation to the American Red Cross as a donation to hurricane relief here in New Jersey. Here’s my cell number in case you have any questions in the next few days. I’ll see you on Saturday.”
With that, I handed him a business card and waved for my check. Jason grabbed his sweet tea and finished it in a single gulp.
“Thanks, Mr. – Nicky. See you Saturday.”
Can Hammerlane help Jason land some direct shippers and improve his negotiation skills? Join Nicky next time for the conclusion of the Case of the Failed Negotiations!
Timothy D. Brady is a speaker, business coach, and trucking industry guru. He provides training and educational presentations for small to large trucking companies, logistics organizations, and community groups. Learn more about Tim at http://www.timothybrady.com/