So, we arrived in Chattanooga on Friday afternoon with a recurring problem on the truck. It kept going into “Regen” mode and was now smoking badly. We were going to try to run over the weekend and put the truck into the shop on Monday or Tuesday but we were now getting computer warnings so it was time to shut it down. The dealer told us they would get the truck into the shop to identify the problem on Friday but nope, I went by on Saturday afternoon and it had not moved.
At Farm2Fleet, we book our own loads using web based load boards and through relationships we develop with brokers. On Friday afternoon we received an email from Aaron, another driver at F2F with a forwarded message from a broker he works with. It said.
Let me know if you have a team available for this adventure! Your truck will need to be at the shipping point on July 21st.
Bar Harbor, ME to Wynnewood, OK. 2020 miles $$ open to rates $$
LIVE TIGERS, that will be sedated.
CALL FOR DETAILS
Well, an email firestorm began at F2F with everybody chipping in. When Jess responded “Sounds like a job for team Leonard :)” We knew we had to give it a shot. With the truck in the shop I was hesitant to commit to anything but we had a week to get to Maine so I called the broker on Saturday morning and left a message that if the load was available we would love to discuss. This was a “Power Only” Load which means just the tractor. Since we were in Chattanooga, I could leave our trailer there and, even though it was a long shot to get the load, I started looking for “power only” loads to Maine.
We had an awesome weekend with the kids and grandkids and spent a great afternoon on the boat with Bill and Lauren (owners of Farm2Fleet) To say that the pressure from them and everyone else in the F2F family to get this tiger load was intense would be an understatement. I try to call the broker again on Monday and get voice mail. I again leave a message but he does not respond all day. I tell Bill and Lauren that night that I am sure the Tiger load was gone or he would have returned my call.
Cue Tuesday….life gets a bit exciting
about 10 Am I get a call from the broker. He says they have the load covered…kinda….and he is looking for a backup plan. It seems they had been talking to the reality TV show “Shipping Wars” and they wanted to do it but it was looking like the deal was going sideways and may not happen. He would call me back in a few hours either way. He gave a little background on the load that this was a mixed load of exotic animals including tigers, wolves, lynx and more and that they needed to be rescued or they were going to be destroyed. I asked what they were offering to pay and he quoted me a price and said it was from donations and if I needed more he could probably get it. I told him that even though the rate was a bit low we would do it for that as we believed in what they were doing. I also found out that it was a round trip since the trailer we needed was in Oklahoma so we needed to get there by Thursday so we could haul it to Maine by Sunday. I tell Bill and Lauren that the deal may happen and the excitement level rises. A few hours later the phone rings and the broker says “Are you ready for an adventure?” Heck Yeah!
The office receives the confirmation and we sign it and send it back. The truck will be fixed by Wednesday morning so I find a load to Oklahoma on Wednesday and book it. We can drop our trailer at the zoo when we pick up theirs. I start doing my research on the project. It is being run by the United States Zoological Association and I found this video.
Just as the excitement to be doing this hit a fever pitch I got a call from the broker. His story was that it seems the Shipping Wars people had approached the zoo directly and cut the broker out of the deal so that cut us out also. I was depressed and a bit pissed about the whole thing but there was nothing I could do. I sat at the computer and went to the Zoo’s website and clicked on the “Contact Us” button and sent a message. I do not remember exactly what I said but it was pretty direct. I know I said I was dismayed that they would trust these animals to the people on Shipping Wars and asked if they had ever seen the show (lol) I said we were very disappointed that we were not involved and I told them I would be praying that everything worked out for the animals. As I was typing Anne said “Are you sure you want to do this?” I told her something was screwy and I was not comfortable that the broker was telling the truth. (A broker lie??? crazy)
Five minutes later I got an email from the zoo. “Craig, we need you to do this, call me ###-###-####”
I called Joe and I am still confused on exactly what happened and what the whole story was but everyone had been jacking them around and he just needed these animals rescued. He would have the donor pay us directly. I told him it would be best if we just went through the broker but he said he had received a text message from the broker that said his boss was pulling the plug on the deal. I told him we would do the load for the amount I had agreed to with the broker and that would save them the commission costs. I put Joe in touch with Farm2Fleet management and they did the paperwork. A little plug for our company here. When we met Bill and Lauren for dinner that night, they told us that they were donating Farm2Fleet’s portion of the revenue back to the zoo to help the animals (and doing it in the companies and our name) and they were going to start rounding up supporters for this cause. We LOVE these people.
The next morning we got our truck, grabbed our load to Oklahoma and made the delivery Thursday afternoon. We headed to the zoo and dropped our trailer. We then got a private tour of the park. Wow! Not only very cool but these animals are loved. I forgot to mention that since all the shenanigans with the tv people, the airfare rates had more than doubled in a week to get the rescue team to Maine, so Joe asked us if the zookeeper who would be riding back with us to care with the animals could also ride with us up to Maine. All I asked is that he be clean and Joe said he would hose him off. Actually to be truthful I asked if he had a gorgeous female zookeeper instead. It probably worked out for the best anyway. We met Danny who would be riding with us and he took us to meet the baby tigers. A once in a lifetime (maybe twice since we are going back to the zoo this week) event. We hooked to their trailer and loaded up and we were off to Maine.
We are now sitting here near Bar Harbor Maine in a Walmart parking lot. This is the very glamorous side of trucking. Danny has been great and we got to take him for his first ever lobster dinner last night. The rest of the team flies in today and we will be loading up the animals this afternoon. Still not sure exactly what kind and how many of each but I think we are prepared for anything. Here are some more pictures.