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10:27 pm EDT        67°F (19°C) in Dothan, AL

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I sure have been doing a lot of sitting lately. This past week has seen me run less than 1,200 miles (1,931 km), which is about half of what a decent week should be. As long as history does not repeat itself, I should be fine except for a hit on next week’s paycheck.

Last night, though, I did again get to experience one of the nice fringe benefits of driving a truck for a refrigerated carrier. Since the company runs reefers, that means we tend to haul a lot of food and/or associated products, and the load I ran yesterday was no different. It came out of a Hershey Foods warehouse in Kennesaw, GA, a bit northwest of Atlanta, and consisted largely of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups — which I must add are my personal favorite candy product. Upon the delivery, which occurred about 15 miles (25 km) south of here, almost literally on the Alabama-Florida state line just off U.S. Route 231, some 1,592 cases of product were received without incident. However, the receiver did refuse four cases of Peanut Butter Cups that were damaged.

When there is product that is damaged and refused, or there is an overage (too much product shipped), my company’s claims department must contact the shipper of the load to ask what they want done with the freight that remains in my trailer. (It is, after all, still considered the shipper’s property.) In this case, I was told to “dump” these four cases, which basically means they are mine and I can do as I please with them — either throw them away, donate them to some charity, keep them for myself and friends and family, etc.. That said, I’m going to do some combination of all three of those — I really don’t have room in the cab to keep hauling all four cases around, but I will keep a few bags’ worth to eat myself, and I will be able to spare my parents their yearly shopping for Halloween candy to give out to all the neighborhood kiddlies. Hell, for that matter, I’m sure they’ll end up with enough to give a crapload to their church or something like that.

In case you’re wondering about load security, thinking, “hey, Larry probably pulled some kind of monkey business just because he liked the freight,” that’s not nearly as easy as it sounds. Shippers almost universally apply a uniquely-numbered seal to each trailer’s doors before loads leave their property, and these seals are often checked upon arrival at receivers. Loads with broken or mismatched seals are usually rejected out of hand, and unless there’s a damn good valid explanation (e.g., an Arizona D.O.T. officer required the driver to break the seal for one of their fire-ant inspections), the driver will be in a heap of trouble — certainly fired, if not even arrested for theft at his/her company’s insistence. It’s not like I could have entered the trailer to do this, unless I wanted to spend 10-to-15 in the pokey. The seal on my trailer last night was intact, meaning these cases were damaged either in loading (by a careless forklift operator at the shipper) or in transit (by getting bounced around by all the bumps, dips, cracks, and potholes in the road).

Also, in case you’re wondering about what “damage” entails, it’s rarely anything that actually renders a product inedible or unusable. In this case, the individual Peanut Butter Cups are first wrapped in individual wrappers, then bagged in plastic bags, roughly 30 to a bag. These plastic bags are then placed into cardboard cases, in this instance 12 bags to a case, and the cases are then stacked on pallets for transportation. The damage was to the outer cardboard cases, which are at least the third layer of packaging out from the actual candies. Generally speaking, any “damage” is usually cosmetic at worst, although I definitely have had to deal with things like exploded restaurant-size jugs of salad dressing before. That one was really fun, what with the slimy mix of ranch, Thousand Island, blue cheese, and Italian all over the floor of the trailer.

This isn’t the first time I’ve gotten what amounts to free food through a receiver’s refusal of product and the shipper’s refusal to take it back. This past spring, I ended up giving my parents several cases of Clementine oranges imported from Spain, after a Wal-Mart grocery warehouse refused them. A couple years ago, in separate deliveries, the same warehouse in Wisconsin refused one case of 8-oz. (237 mL) Hawaiian Punch juice boxes and two cases of Uncle Ben’s white rice; I kept a few of the juice boxes for myself, but gave almost all of those to my folks as well. Occasionally, shippers do want the product returned to them, but most of the time, it’s just not worth the cost to the shipper to have only a few cases returned, so they allow the driver to dispose of it as he/she sees fit.

Since that delivery, though, I have yet to be assigned another load. I’m hoping that I’ll be offered something tomorrow, and I’ll go from there. Until then, it’s off to go grab some real food (not a 100% candy diet), and then to sleep.