In the world of freight logistics, there are two distinctively different types of trucking operations.
One is the very large behemoth of a trucking machine that seemingly eats every load that’s in its path. Though it’s slow to adjust to changes in the trucking environment, it's very efficient in moving large volumes of freight all at once.
The other type is the much smaller trucking operation. It can change directions at a moment’s notice and adjust to new conditions without losing a step. But when it comes to volume, it can only handle so much at any one time.
So, which one are you?
If you are a small carrier with ten or less trucks, to succeed, you need to be nimble and quick—responding to any event or opportunity that falls in your path. By its nature, a large carrier is unable to do that—so you already have the advantage. In other words, don’t be something you’re not.
To become more nimble, stand prepared to act at a moment’s notice on any unexpected situations a shipper tosses in your direction. You also need to provide a much higher level of customer service. Every little bit of extra effort shows your shippers, receivers, and brokers that you value their products and time. Your extra efforts, no matter how small, add up very quickly and won't go unnoticed. Your customers will quickly view your carrier as a more valuable asset for their hauling needs—and that equates to more money in your pocket.
Besides making yourself more flexible, you can give your small trucking company more value by becoming an expert in a particular niche that your customers need and/or desire.
The best way to discover what this niche consists of is actually very easy. Just ask. On your next call with a customer, ask them, "What services do you wish your current carriers would perform that they’re currently not offering?"
Or more candidly: "What can I do for your company that I'm not already doing?"
Then, take the answers they provide and develop a means to perform that level of service. Sometimes this can be done without charging the shipper or brokers a higher price; other times it may be necessary to increase your fees.
But here’s a word of advice: Before offering them a service that’s going to increase their rate, do everything possible to figure out the following:
1. Can you cut a cost somewhere else in your operation that covers the amount of the projected increase to the customer?
2. If not, can you find a way to reduce one of your customer’s other costs, so the extra fee you'll charge is offset by that reduction?
And if at all possible, do both! That will give overall savings to your shipping customer and increased profit to you.
When it comes to customer service, this is where a smaller, nimbler carrier can really shine. You can establish strong, lasting relationships with brokers and shippers for which you provide hauling services that equal consistent and profitable long-term revenue.
Remember: Being small doesn’t mean you don’t possess the ability to do big things.
Drive long and prosper.