The most important skill a trucker must possess when it comes to finding and ultimately selecting a load is communication: the art of asking questions.
The biggest mistake many truckers make when doing load research is asking the wrong questions to brokers, shippers. Here is a list of incorrect questions:
How much does the load pay? The first reason for not asking this question is, you must know other information before determining what your revenue needs to be on a load. The second reason is, you’re passing total control of your revenue to someone who has no idea of what your break-even point is. The third reason is, it’s easy to lower a hauling rate; next to impossible to increase one.
What’s the fuel surcharge? Again, this allows someone else to determine your revenue. First figure out what your fuel requirements will be. In order to know this, there are other questions to which you’ll need answers.
How many paid miles on this load? This should always be calculated by the driver, based on actual hub miles required; not PC miles, not HHG miles. What matters are the total miles from where you dropped your last load to the location you’ll be delivering this load. You must calculate both miles and time from destination to destination. (Note: It’s more important to look at total miles and total days from destination to destination, than the paid miles from origin to destination.)
About now you’re saying, “Wait a minute. In order for me to make a decision on this load, I need the answers to these questions.” And you’re correct, but answers will come from asking the correct questions of brokers or shippers. Then, by having the right data, and knowing your break-even point (the point where your expenses are covered and making a profit begins), when you calculate your revenue and subtract your break-even point, you’ll know whether you’re making money or not.
To become an accomplished load planner, a trucker must have the answers to the following questions from the shipper or broker:
- What is the origin of the load being considered?
- Where’s the final destination of the current load being considered?
- What are your actual miles from destination to destination? (Calculate actual miles.)
- What’s the commodity?
- How much does the shipment weigh?
- How many cubic feet does it take up?
- How many linear feet are required?
- How is it to be loaded? Forklift? By hand? Or?
- Who’s loading the shipment?
- Any labor required? Who pays for it?
- Will the trailer be sealed?
- Are there other duties expected of the driver?
- Any special services?
- Who’s responsible for the item count?
- When do I pick up?
- When does it deliver?
- Do you know of loads I can pick up at destination, or someone there who would have load info?
Once you have the answers to those questions, you need to complete your load research with answers to these questions:
Once the current load is completed, are new loads available at destination? You’ll know what to expect at destination. If no loads are available or assignable with verification, you’ll need additional revenue to get you where your follow-up load is located. Example: If you unload in Miami, Florida, and there aren’t any reloads, you may have to run empty to Atlanta, Georgia. This would mean you’d need to charge the Miami load for the extra miles to Atlanta to be in position for your next load.
Can you maximize your revenue for time and distance required when loads are combined as outbound and inbound? If not, you recalculate your total needed revenue by rechecking your break-even point against all your revenue.
Are these ‘destination’ loads returning to your home terminal, or going to areas that again have tonnage you can haul profitably? If not, refer back to the example in Question One.
Will the revenue create a positive cash flow (exceed your break-even point) when all miles and total days are calculated from destination to destination, including all loads in the round trip?
Can the loads be picked up and delivered within Hours of Service regulations?
In order to find your ‘Groove’ in the trucking game it’s imperative to answer these questions; plus know your daily and weekly break-even points. Not knowing puts you at an extreme disadvantage. Any time you allow other people to set your hauling rates, you’re putting control of your entire trucking business in their hands. Yet they don’t have a clue what your costs are and where your break-even point is. It is up to you to know this information, regardless of whether you are paid by the mile, paid a percentage, or quote your own rates. In cases where the broker or shipper is quoting the rate to you, you’ll be armed with the correct information to make a ‘load or no load’ decision. Remember, if you were in the shoes of these brokers or shippers, what price would you quote first—the highest, the fairest, or the lowest you could get away with? And that’s something to think about.
Good loads and safe roads, everyone.