Logistical Improbabilities – “What you need to know before you call your Supplier/Vendor”

Logistical Improbabilities, or What you need to know before you call your Supplier/Vendor

Ok, so I am a dispatcher for a fuel company so I deal with gas stations, fuel Coops and Bulk plants. I also have the unfortunate task of keeping tabs on the oil and gas futures markets.  This means I field a lot of, “What is the market doing today?” phone calls. We have a saying, “You live by the price, you die by the price.” It is mind boggling to me how someone who owns a gas station can run themselves out of fuel. I don’t know about the rest of you out there, but it only takes once or twice that a station is out of gas when I try to fill up that I am not coming back. I don’t care how good the coffee or donuts are. Having no fuel at a gas station is like a grocery store with no food. It just makes no sense.

I think, before you can be licensed to own/operate a gas station; that you should have to take a logistics course, with a heavy emphasis on truck routes and map reading. There seems to always be those people who have no idea what it takes to safely deliver them fuel, especially in inclement weather. If your location is 45 miles from the loading facility, you can reasonably expect an hour of transit with a big truck. This is especially true if you are not on a major highway. To expect a load after a market swing (Typically 6pm) to be delivered by 7pm, is just plain crazy talk. We aren’t driving DeLoreans with flux capacitors here. It is essentially 80,000 pounds of flammable liquid cruising down the highway with a bunch of little 4 wheelers who think they own the road. The lack of respect passenger vehicles give to big trucks is a whole other post however so I won’t delve into that much here. Just understand that to operate one of those trucks safely requires a lot of training, attention to detail, and a sharp mind in order to account for all the motoring public around you.

Another pet peeve revolves around the unloading area at gas stations. Whether you own the place or just shopping there, be aware of the giant manhole covers in the lot. Do not park on them and then wander off into the sunset. Though unlikely, a driver just trying to do his/her job may arrive and need to get the truck over there in order to safely drop some fuel. If you see a truck delivering at a gas station, be aware that a person is there just trying to do their job. Don’t run over the caution cones or through the delivery area just because it is more convenient for you. Yelling at the driver to hurry up does no good. Typically the equipment can only dispense the fuel so quickly; similar to the pump you just used only pumps so fast. When it comes to driving through the area with the giant manhole covers, just remember, it is only a thin ring of metal/concrete holding that cover up. If it cracks/breaks and you drive over it, expect some damage to your vehicle. I, and most anyone else, would also laugh at you.

Typically, the driver has no control over how fuel performs in the winter time. This is especially true for all you diesel drivers. Diesel, more than gas, will gel at low temperatures. Get low enough, and you are not going anywhere. As a station owner/fuel orderer, it is on you to make sure that you are either supplying additive, or purchasing winterized DSL. If you fail to do both, and end up with vehicles broke down in your lot (yes it can happen that quickly), then good luck to you. As a consumer, make sure before you push that button or swipe that card, that you are getting what you should for your vehicle. If you do not, expect some internal damage to your vehicle’s fuel/engine system. I, and most anyone else, will also laugh at you. Educate yourself about what your vehicle and fuel needs are and shop appropriately.

It is recommended to not wait till you are out of something before you call your vendor for a delivery. What would happen if you called your soda delivery company at the last minute and said, Oh, I am out of X Brand cola, I need a delivery now. More than likely they will do their best to assist you, but you could be out for a while because they are typically working into the future on their orders and now have to backtrack and push someone else off (who ordered before you) in order to remedy your emergency. Vendors are not like a pizza place, it isn’t a 30 minutes or it is free situation.  We will make a good faith effort to adjust to your lack of planning, but ultimately the responsibility for your station is yours.

If you own/operate a gas station, talk to your vendors. (Calmly and rationally please, we typically do not respond well to threats, insults, or general asshattery.) You might be surprised what you can learn from us when it comes to making things easier for you to do business.  This goes whether it is your fuel, soda, beer, or candy. We know our business, and the better communication there is; the smoother things will go.

Oh, and BUY A MAP, or take one from the shelf, and learn where your products come from so you can understand the time involved in bringing you the items necessary for your business.