When we left Nicky Hammerlane last time, Duke Duggon, owner of Double D Trucking, a single-pony trucking company, had asked Nicky to help him find a way to take his excessive deadhead miles and turn them into hauling profitable tonnage. Both truckers were held up at a small Oregon truck stop on the east side of Deadman’s Pass waiting for an accident on Cabbage Hill on I-84 to be cleared. Nicky gave Duke a homework assignment: Develop a list of freight brokers with freight he could haul within a 100-mile radius of St. Paul, his outbound freight destination.
This week, we join Nicky after he's gotten over Cabbage and made his delivery in Troutdale, Oregon. He's headed to a nearby truck stop just off I-84 to meet up with Duke. They’re planning on figuring out a solution to monetizing Duke’s excessive deadhead miles.
As he turned on to the access road to the truck stop, Nicky's cell phone chirped the Grateful Dead's “Truckin'.” He tapped his Bluetooth earpiece.
“Duke Duggon on this end. I'm headed towards the Troutdale area. I've got a load headed back to St Paul. Are you near there or do we need to reschedule? Dang customer had this hot load that just couldn’t wait. I’ve only got a couple of hours, but then I've got to boogie.”
“Well, I'm just turning in to the Old Burns’ Brothers in Troutdale. I just unloaded and need to contact my grandson for my next load. From all indications, I'll be here for my 10 hours, as it's too late to get anything else loaded today. When can you be here?” I asked.
“In about twenty minutes,” Duke answered. “I'm on the 205 headed south now. What's the parking look like?”
“Not too bad,” I responded, “Give me a couple of seconds as I'm just turning past the shop and I'll tell you what the back lot looks like............ Oh, we’re good, looks like only about twenty trucks back here. It shouldn't start filling up until around 4 or so.”
“Can you go secure a table in the restaurant and I’ll meet you there?” Duke asked.
“42, see you in a few,” I responded.
With few trucks in the back lot, I found a simple pull-through to park. I grabbed my paperwork, logbook, and laptop, climbed from my old International, and headed past the Subway sandwich shop, through the car parking to the back entrance of the truck stop. Finding a table in the back was as easy as the parking had been. I got my laptop booted up, ordered a cup of joe from the waitress, and started getting my paperwork together for my TripPak® back to N. Hammer and Son Trucking.
It’s a little odd sometimes when I think about it, how the roles are reversed. Now I'm the contractor and not the owner, but the family's doing a good job. If I'm busy, I know the other 10 drivers are busy 'cause Grandpa doesn’t work unless there's an overflow of freight to be hauled.
About 25 later, Duke ambled his way through the tables and chairs, making a beeline for my black Stetson.
“Nicky, if you ever lose that hat, nobody’ll be able to find you.”
“Funny you should say that. My grandsons have both told me, “Grandpa, we wouldn't recognize you without your cowboy hat.” I guess it's an extension of me. I can't ever remember not having one. My wife gave me my first one when we were dating in high school, said she went weak in the knees around a man in a black Stetson. So I figured if we were going to stay together, I'd better always have one.”
Duke looked at the hat and said, “If that's all it took to keep her happy, you are one lucky trucker.”
I nodded. “Well, let's get to work as you're pressed for time. What have you got?"
Duke began, “Well, I found nine on the broker list that passed muster with my factoring company. I had them do the credit checks, being as how they'd need to approve them anyway. I've contacted five of the brokers and they have freight coming out of St. Cloud, Albert Lea, and Minneapolis, but most of it’s LTL with a couple of truck loads. Found one that has truckloads out of Eau Claire, Wisconsin - cheese and dairy products - that go to Seattle every other week. Frankly, I was a little shocked that there were that many loads available.”
“You've actually completed several additional steps, more than I’d mentioned in your assignment, which is great. Did you sign up with a load board?”
Duke nodded. “I took your lead and registered with Getloaded. I actually spent a fair amount of time on the phone with one of their customer reps. I was really surprised she didn't try and sell me more than I thought I needed. After I watched the tutorial on how to use Getloaded, she showed me how to use the lane building app. Actually, that's where I found the St. Cloud to Seattle loads.”
“So I guess you don’t need me after all?” I inquired.
“I wouldn’t say that, Nicky. Yeah, I picked up a lot of information from your homework that I guess I knew, but needed a good kick from someone to get me to do it. But you said something about hauling partials and LTL freight that intrigued me. I sure would like more information on how to do LTL - you know, pricing, and planning and so on,” Duke said, adding more sugar to his coffee.
“First,” I began, “could you arrange any loads from your calls to these brokers?”
“Yeah, I have. I’ve sent paperwork to the broker for both the Eau Claire and St. Cloud loads, and should be getting confirmations on my return from Eau Claire any time now. Called him as soon as I was loaded, and gave him an ETA. He set an appointment that gives me about a five hour window if I run into any delays. I’ve got a tentative load set up out of St. Cloud for my next run, but it's only half a truck. I need to see about putting something in the hole in the back that I can pick up and deliver between St. Cloud and Seattle.”
“What about one of those loads you delivered to Rapid City? You said those were only partials?” I asked.
“I thought of that too, Nicky. It may work at times, but the week I pick up in St. Cloud, the other broker only has full loads going.”
“Well, from the looks of it, you've got a good start on developing your strategy to haul partials or LTL as the need appears. One thing about LTL is, the farther out you have to plan and find shipments to fill your truck, the more likely you will. And because you've got the better part of a week and a half to fill that hole, there’s plenty of time to plan. You just need to fill in a few details to get you on your way.”
Just then Duke’s phone sounded like a news bulletin on an old radio. Duke excused himself and looked at the screen. “Oh, man, there’s a winter weather advisory for that damnable Cabbage again. Nicky, I've gotta go. I really appreciate all your help. I’d sure like to work through those other details with you, but I've got a tight window this time to pull off the loads I've got already.”
“Duke, I’ve been there and done that a lot of times. We've got each other’s numbers, so let's stay in contact and I'll see if my grandson can put loads together so we meet back here in a week or two. Actually, that’s not a bad plan, as I'm sure you'll have more questions as you put your plan into action.”
With that we stood shook hands and Duke was quick-steppin' back to his truck to beat the weather. I went back to finishing the load paperwork and getting my log book caught up. When my phone started playing “On the Road Again,” I knew my grandson had another load for me...
Join Nicky next time for the final installment of The Case of the Empty Space. Will Duke be able to plug those freight holes and reduce his deadhead miles? And when will they conclude their conversation on how to utilize LTL freight?
Timothy D. Brady is a speaker, business coach, and trucking industry guru. He provides training and educational presentations for small to large trucking companies, logistics organizations, and community groups. Learn more about Tim at http://www.timothybrady.com/