You don’t have to be an economic expert to know that things are going well right now for trucking.
Increased shipping demand, plus a lingering shortage of commercial truck drivers, have combined to form a carrier-friendly freight market. The new federal mandate on electronic logging devices—which cracks down on drivers’ hours of service and limits their availability—has also contributed to escalating freight rates. For example, the average per-mile spot rate for a flatbed load today is $2.50, about 25% more than a year ago. The flatbed load-to-truck ratio was an incredible 90.8-to-1 as recently as March. Other trucking modes, like dry van and reefer, have seen similar bumps in rates and shipper demand.
Hopefully, your trucking company is already capitalizing on this market trend. To make sure you are booking the most profitable, well-paying loads for your business, here are a few friendly tips:
Know Your Numbers
To find the most profitable loads for your company, you need to know your trucking company’s operating costs, available cash and revenue. Many owner-operators and small fleets actually lose money on some loads because they are not familiar enough with their financials.
You can avoid that trap by calculating the per-mile freight rates that will make money for your company. While rates are up right now, how do they measure against your expenses, cash flow and other rates in the regions where you operate? To learn how to make calculations that determine a load’s profitability, check out our articles, “How to Calculate Cost per Mile for Your Trucking Company,” and “How to Calculate Revenue and Profit per Mile.”
Tighten Your Customer Criteria
A strong trucking market should allow you to be more particular about the companies you serve. If you haven’t already, make a list of the qualities you look for in a good customer. Your list may look something like this:
- Pays quickly or on time
- Good communicator
- Has short wait times at pick-up and delivery
- Provides loads regularly
- Has a good reputation
- Is financially secure
Having a list of criteria sets a standard for your trucking company and can help you focus on finding long-term business partners. Finding better brokers and shippers to work with now can also help your trucking company endure times when rates are lower and quality loads are less plentiful.
Always Check Credit Scores
Knowing the credit ratings and days-to-pay information on a broker or shipper improves your chances of making the best possible business decisions and getting paid in a timely manner. At a time when the freight market is booming, there is really no reason you need to accept a load from a shipper with a poor credit or payment history. Our exclusive CarrierPro web browser and mobile application has credit information on over 50,000 brokers and shippers, and can be accessed for free by RTS Financial and RTS Carrier Services customers.
Eliminate Deadhead Miles
More available loads mean there should be more opportunities to make money on return trips back to or near your home base. In some cases, you may be able to use the same shipping customer for an outbound “re-load.” At other times, you may be an able to perform a backhaul for a different shipper than you did for the outbound freight.
These kinds of hauls reduce the number of miles your trailers run empty. A few years ago, fleets would regularly run 100 or more “deadhead” miles to get to the next load. That average is now less than 50 miles, industry experts say. In other words, carriers are getting smarter about maximizing their time on the road. Today’s trucking market, with its skyrocketing load-to-truck ratios, should make it easier than ever to eliminate deadheading from your balance sheet.
Be More Selective with Brokers
Federal regulations have helped push out some bad freight brokers in recent years. However, many brokers seem to care a great deal more about their shipping customers than for the carriers who move freight for them. At a time when all freight brokers are looking to build more trucking capacity to meet shipping demands, you do not need to settle for a broker that gives you less-profitable loads and then takes weeks to pay. Seek out brokers with decades of experience, a good reputation in the industry and payment terms of 10 days or less.
Take Advantage of the Load Boards
There are hundreds of online load boards out there. The most popular ones include DAT, Truckstop.com and GetLoaded.com. Which load board provides you with the best hauls in the lanes you want your trucks to run? Instead of committing to one or two boards for most of your loads, take some time to sign up with other boards that offer exclusive hauls. You will also want to post a profile about your company on each board you use, so that shippers have an easy way of finding you.