In today’s challenging freight market, you need to do more than check the load boards to find hauls that pay well enough for your fleet to make money.
Low fuel prices and plenty of capacity have created a shipper’s market in trucking. As of May 2016, spending on freight was down 10% from last year, according to the Cass Freight Index. Succeeding today requires a strategic approach to finding loads and the discipline to pass on shipments that might not help your business.
Here are seven steps that can increase your chances of getting good loads, and working with shippers or brokers that pay well and on time:
Know Your Financials
Your first step is to know what represents a profitable load for your company. That requires an understanding of your fleet’s operating costs, available cash and revenue. Many trucking companies take on money-losing loads because they do not pay enough attention to their own financials.
To avoid that trap, you need to calculate what range of load rates will make money for your company. What represents a good rate may change depending on the time of year, how much cash you have on hand and what lanes you are running. For more information on this, read our articles, “How to Calculate Cost per Mile for Your Trucking Company,” and “How to Calculate Revenue and Profit per Mile.”
Take a pen and write a list of the most important qualities you need in a broker or a shipper. Your list may look something like this:
- Pays on time
- Good communicator
- Is direct and decisive
- Provides loads regularly
- Has a good reputation
- Is financially secure
Not every shipper or broker you work with will meet all of these specifications. However, having a list of criteria sets a standard for your company. Your list can help you focus on long-term business partners who can provide steady income.
Pick Your Lanes
A load from Chicago to Houston paying $2.00 a mile may sound good, but does it make sense for your business? If your trailer is going to be empty on the way back from Texas, was the job really worth it?
When selecting loads, make sure they are in trucking lanes that work for your business. Keep in mind the expense of hauling through the Rockies and other rugged parts of the country. Also, plan ahead by choosing shipments that allow you to make money on the way back home. To learn more about this, read our article, “The Benefits of Backhauls and Re-Loads.”
The first place most truckers look for new loads is a load board. There is nothing wrong with that, but it is also a good idea to use other methods for finding shippers. For example, local, state or national industry associations can provide access to companies that ship. So does your local chamber of commerce.
When you join these organizations, they often provide a list of all of their member companies, including emails, phone numbers and people to contact. Let’s say you have a flatbed fleet and you decide to join the regional homebuilder’s association. Not only do you get to interact with potential clients at association events, you also get a prospect list you can use to market your services.
Work the Phones
Once you have a list of prospects, you need to call them. Try to reach an organization’s transportation manager or whoever else is in charge of shipping. If you cannot speak with the right decision-maker, follow up with an email.
Cold-calling prospects can be a draining experience. The advantage, however, is that very few fleets are willing to do some selling to generate business. While most other truckers are flooding the load boards in search of new hauls, you can develop a source of new business with very little direct competition.
Check Credit Scores
Knowing the credit ratings and days-to-pay information on a broker or shipper improves your chances of making the right business decisions and getting paid on time. Our affiliate, RTS Credit, has information on more than 50,000 brokers and shippers, and can be accessed for free by RTS Financial and RTS Carrier Services customers.
Take a Strategic Approach to Load Boards
There are hundreds of load boards on the internet and most of them charge a monthly subscription. The most popular boards include DAT, TruckStop.com and GetLoaded.com. Do some research and look for load boards that offer good rates in the lanes you want to serve. Signing up on a handful of reliable boards increases your chances of getting the best loads. You will also want to post a profile about your company on each load board so that shippers have a way of finding you.