You can’t be successful in the trucking business if you don’t get jobs. This of course leads to the question: how do I get them? And that leads to the art and science of bidding for loads. New drivers often approach this topic with a mix of fear and confusion, but in truth, it’s nothing to be afraid of. Let’s look at the process step-by-step.
Before You Bid
- Before knowing how much to bid, you have to know your expenses. This includes fixed expenses like maintenance, truck and trailer payments and insurance. Then the other variable expenses for the trip such as fuel, lumpers, and tolls. But that’s not all you have to consider because if all you count are your expenses, you’ll never make enough money to live on. How much do you think you should earn hourly? Trucking software that tracks expenses helps you to total these costs easily.
- Figure in a premium for a “hassle fee.” For example, hauling flowers from Kansas City to Dallas in June will cause a lot less wear and tear on your rig (not to mention your body) than transporting heavy machine equipment over the Rockies in November. Also, if taking the load means navigating your way through New York City or some other heavily congested urban area, consider raising your bid as compensation for the aggravation you’ll be dealing with. Keeping in mind the impact on your equipment is a valid reason to ignore a high-paying load.
- Remember that you have to get back home from the destination where the load is delivered. You might make great money during a run from Atlanta to L.A. but once the freight is dropped off, you will either have to hightail it back to GA or pick up another job nearby. All those deadhead miles can cut deeply into your profit margins, so they should be figured into your bid calculations. With the smartphone apps for load boards, you may find out what loads are coming out of your destination and what they’re paying. That may help you determine what you’ll have to choose from after your delivery.
- Know your worth. What other truckers are willing to accept for a load doesn’t oblige you to do the same. There may be times to pick up a load that’s barely going to make you money, particularly if you’re delivering an area with a bad reputation for trips out, like Florida or New England. Average your trip miles to the delivery and back: is what they want to pay enough to make you profitable? Don’t haul anyone’s load at a loss!
Now that you know the basics of bidding on loads, let’s look at how to find them. Thanks to the Internet, finding work is easier than ever.
- The most popular loadboard apps are not free, so you’re making an investment from the start. Independent owner-operators may have three or four of these apps on their smartphones to increase the number of loads they can pick from. (Websites like getloaded.com aren’t load boards anymore. They’re the sales pages for the apps.) There are a few free load boards out there, but remember – you get what you pay for.
- Use any personal contacts you may have. For example, if you have relatives or friends who work in distribution centers, you might have a direct line to the manager who assigns freight carriers. If you have connections through a civic group, church, or some other organization, you could inquire among those as well. Networking in your local Chamber of Commerce – especially if there are big companies in or around your community that needs trucking service – will introduce you to people who want to use local citizens.
- Consider niche jobs in the trucking industry where demand is very high. Hauling over-sized loads, for example. Build up a skill in a lucrative shipping field and you’ll find plenty of work. One of these is “hot shot” trucking, in which drivers haul partial loads that are time-sensitive. For example, a high-end food store in Chicago may need a load of organic produce from San Antonio delivered ASAP. Jobs like these can be stressful, but the pay can be excellent, and you can stay as busy as you want to be.
- Build a good relationship with broker – or two. Your history as a good, reliable trucker only goes so far if no one knows you. Building a positive relationship with a broker starts by staying in touch with them when there’s trouble with the delivery, but should also include the more pleasant communications, like when you’ve exceeded expectations with an early delivery. Don’t take it out on the broker when the delivery information is wrong – work with them. Everyone remembers the “Karen” who throws the fits because something isn’t perfect. Instead, be proactive and friendly. They’ll call you back.
Your Trucking Business Needs to Make Money
You’re in business to make money. You want to support your family and your future. When you move into the transportation field as an owner-operator, your life depends on making the right load decisions. It’s not always about the biggest dollar signs per mile. Sometimes, when you look at the bigger picture, taking smaller, local loads are better than the long-distance, cross-country loads.
You may need to sit down with a calculator and a trucker’s expense report to determine what’s best for you. Instead of looking per load, you might want to consider averaging your week. Using a company overview report, you’ll be able to find what weeks were your most profitable. Analyse them – what did you do that week that made so much money? Can you do it again?
Figuring out your expenses
Figuring out your expenses can be as complicated as throwing receipts into an envelope or a shoebox and trying to remember what they were for when you get home a week (or a month) later. Or, you might try entering everything into an expenses app or a spreadsheet. Easier, yes, in the short term.
What’s the smartest use of your time for tracking your expenses? Using a trucking software that can use those numbers to create your IFTA report to tell you to the penny how much you have to pay? Or entering them into an accounting program that will immediately track them against your income – but will that accounting program break those numbers down to how much it costs you per mile to haul a load? (Probably not.)
Accounting programs like QuickBooks can’t figure out your IFTA payments. They’re not programmed to. So look for a software that helps you grow your trucking business, maximizes the use of your time by starting with the dispatch and ending with the paid invoice – and takes care of everything between.
TruckingOffice is what you’re looking for, if you’re getting started in the trucking industry.
Sign up today with no cost to you for a free trial to build your business up from your very first load.