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Putting your reputation in the hands of a hay hauler

Peter Delman Published on 14 August 2013
Stacking hay

Congratulations! You’ve done all the hard work. You’ve harvested your hay, cured it in the sun, raked it, compressed it into bales or packaged it, moved it to a safe, dry place and staged it to ship.

Now all you have to do is get your product to your customers in a safe, reliable, cost-effective manner. Easy, right? Well, easier said than done.

Growers, dealers and brokers seem to agree that providing competitive pricing and reliable service is what they look for in a carrier. But that’s not all, not even close.

Growers, dealers and brokers frequently admit they have customers they’ve never met face to face. Therefore, the carrier they choose and the driver hauling the load is an extension of the business and serves as an ambassador for the company.

Repeat business and referral business from that customer is much more likely to happen when the transportation goes smoothly.

There are hundreds of national and regional carriers that have trucks, and are accustomed to hauling general commodities, but who have no knowledge whatsoever of the forage industry or of agricultural products.

They don’t fully understand how quickly nutritional value can be lost. They commonly do not understand that these forage loads aren’t widgets, scrap or sundry goods that can be delayed a day or two and just arrive “whenever,” and all will be “just fine.”

Whether the product is designated to arrive at a port to ship overseas or whether the product is for domestic consumption, many of these loads are time-sensitive and require a degree of urgency along with some specialized handling.

Flatbed loads need to be tarped properly and with care. The tarp should leave no gaps for moisture exposure. Don’t let the driver leave without performing an inspection of his trailer after he tarps the load. And don’t worry about offending him. Let him know you’re just trying to save him from exposure to a claim.

Dry-van loads require clean trailers. Inspect the vans before loading and look for metal shavings, splinters from pallets, glass shards and a tight seal on the doors. Walk inside the van during the daylight and close the doors – if you see light coming through, you’ll know it’s not sealed, or there are holes in the trailer.

Additionally, look at the floor of either the flatbed or the dry-van trailer. If there’s moisture on the floor, it can sometimes mean there’s a crack in the floor, and the spray coming up from the road can penetrate these cracks and affect your forage.

Ranchers often don’t have a shipping and receiving department or a warehouse manager to coordinate receiving their loads. Most are located in rural areas with no cell phone reception or GPS coordinates at the stack site, and many of the roads leading off the main highway to these locations are unmarked on a GPS system.

To avoid confusion, make sure your hay hauler will contact the ranch long before the load arrives to receive directions. No GPS system in the world will find “the tracks that take off to the right just beyond the old oak tree,” and it could be that the GPS directions would take the hauler over a bridge with a low load limit anyway.

Have the hauler contact the customer and ask the customer to meet at a major crossroads or landmark, preferably where cell phone reception is adequate.

Keeping communication high when handling these loads and working with a carrier who knows the “little things” that go along with hauling hay can make the difference between keeping a customer, achieving repeat business or resulting in “one and done.”

Make sure when choosing a carrier that their expertise is what guides your decision.  FG

You’ve harvested your hay, cured it in the sun, raked it, compressed it into bales or packaged it, moved it to a safe, dry place and staged it to ship. Photo by Lynn Jaynes.


Peter Delman

National Operations Manager
Command Transportation