Monday, February 25, 2013

Finding Loads


How we find loads:

The carrier we are leased to has a simple system.  For the purpose of this post I will be calling brokers and load planners agents.  The agents go knocking on doors and acquiring customers then the customers call the agents with loads and the agents dole the loads out to the drivers who will take them.  We have our own load board, but there are similar load boards out there which work the same way.  Most of the solo freight that the agents give the drivers is done on a relationship basis.  As an agent who wants to make the customer happy, the loads need to be delivered on time and without damage.  A new driver will have to earn the respect of the agent or the trucking company.  This can take a year or so, but usually 6 months is enough time and then there are still other drivers who are in the running for the same freight so sometimes seniority comes into play.
Supply and demand is very evident here as the customers need things moved on a time table and the type of equipment that is needed is not really up for negotiation.  When the customer needs a double drop trailer and you have one, then you get the load.  The more specialized your equipment, the less people you have to compete with, but the more time you might have to wait in between loads and the more empty miles you might have to drive.  Since there are many types of trailers, you have to find what works for you.  There is also being too specialized where you might only haul one or two loads a year with your equipment if at all.  There is a balance that you have to find.

A typical load will look like this:

P/U          FROM:                                       TO:                                          MILES:   TRAILER:

2/10
EAST CHICAGO, IN
VALLEY CITY, OH
309
Full
Flatbed
2/10
EAST CHICAGO, IN
PERRYSBURG, OH
214
Full
Flatbed
2/10
EAST CHICAGO, IN
BELLEVUE, OH
261
Full
Flatbed
2/11
EAST CHICAGO, IN
KENTON, OH
243
Full
Flatbed
2/10
EAST CHICAGO, IN
COLUMBUS, OH
334
Full
Flatbed
2/10
CHICAGO HEIGHTS, IL
MIDDLEFIELD, OH
370
Full
Flatbed, Step Deck

 

The many load boards out there demonstrate how simple it is to find freight.  It IS very easy.  Finding it is quick, but competing to win it is a little more difficult and in many cases simply being in the right place at the right time is half of it.  Once you have narrowed down who has the freight, the next time you don’t have to get it online.  You can just call the agent and negotiate a rate.  After you have a done a few loads and proven yourself, you can ask for a better rate.  We have gone through a transition lately where the entire old school phone to driver networking that was done has been replaced with the internet and sites like U-Ship.com and Getloaded.com.  The relationships are important and I take my job as seriously as a good doctor does his or her practice. 
Delivering the freight on time and damage free is priority number one.  If you can accomplish this on a timely basis week after week, you are one step closer to having a successful trucking operation.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Exercise And Staying Out Of The Hospital

Sitting for long periods of time is BAD for you.  The human body needs to be put through its paces or it starts to become a lump of blubber.  The muscles start breaking down.  The heart starts pumping clogged blood.  The brain even suffers for the lack of activity.  Even though writers sit for a long time and produce great works, if they stayed in good shape, they would write even better material.

Today we are faced with even more and more reasons to stay off of our feet.  From computers, to cell phones, to jobs which can be accomplished from a recliner, there are numerous reasons to not get off of our tails.  Use it or lose it.  Writing this blog helps me stay active mentally.  Walking 30 minutes a day is enough to stave off the dying process.

SENS is an organization that is working at discovering why we age the way we do.  They are trying to find the real fountain of youth.  Worms may hold the key to living longer.  Between the ages of 27 and 35 the human body stops reproducing its cells and the ones you have begin to die permanently.  At this point you just start dying slowly until all of the cells are dead.  Of course there is more to it than that, but this is why it is so hard to stay in shape as you get older.  It takes longer to recuperate.  When you were 19, you could run, jump, skip, and get hurt only to bounce right back a day later.  Meanwhile the average 35 year old takes a few days to bounce back from strenuous activity. 

This is why the military can only operate by seeking to fill its ranks with 18 year olds.  They physically bounce back and keep right on marching.  This is also why most pro sports players are retired by the time they are 30 years old.  Until modern technology makes some more leaps and bounds the average age at the time of death will continue to be in the late 70's.  We are preprogrammed to age at a certain pace.  We can slow the reality of death down with diet and exercise, but only if used in moderation. 

The marathon runner is an extreme.  I love to run and exercise and I also keep it in moderation.  For 2/3rds of my life I exercised like a fiend.  I ran several miles a day, rode bicycles for up to 50 miles a day, lifted weights, did aerobics, and could break into a 10 mile run with 80 lbs. on my back without breaking a sweat.  Basically I was the guy that could physically break down any barrier, get knocked down, jump right up, and do it again.

Then I became a trucker.  After a couple of years of putting on weight and losing my ability to break down barriers and leap tall buildings in a single bound, I started dieting, lifting weights, running, and doing aerobics.  My diet consisted of albacore white tuna fish, soup, fig newtons, chips, and water.  Lots of water.  My exercises lasted for an hour or two a day and involved alternating muscle groups so that each one had time to heal.  I was able to get back to running 5 miles, lifting my body weight, and doing aerobics for 45 minutes.  Swimming was impractical, but I was able to find time to go windsurfing every two weeks for 10 hours a day for 3 days at a time. 

The goal is to find something that you like to do that keeps you active both physically and mentally and do it often.  This way your cells will not die as fast as someone who just sits around and does nothing.  The more activity you get, the younger you will stay for a longer period of time.  Just don't overdo it because then you will find yourself in pain or even injured and that defeats the purpose.  This will keep you from getting sick, it will boost your immune system, and it will help you avoid work related injuries from not being physically in shape. 

    

     

Monday, February 4, 2013

I Was Gonna Buy One Of Those



Just about every driver I meet has the same observation about the truck I drive. The first question is: "How much does your truck weigh?" followed by "I bet you can't haul much weight", and then "Can I see inside your sleeper?". Then the kicker statement is "I was going to buy a truck like that". I love the drivers who look at the truck out of curiosity and then a little envy only to then say that they are going to build one in the next week. I am fairly certain that they are not going to build a truck at any time in the future, but are dreaming about it.

The truck and trailer can scale as much as 47,000 lbs. of freight on the deck of the flatbed trailer that we pull, but we have a full line of supplies to go with the trailer that includes straps, chains, binders, tarps, coil racks, snow chains, and wooden dunnage which adds to the overall weight and this drops our capacity down to 46,000 lbs. during the summer and 45,000 lbs. in the winter. Since most drivers pull van trailers they don't believe that a truck the size of ours can carry so much weight. A van trailer is heavier than a flatbed and most can only carry 42,000 lbs. of freight with a standard size truck.


I want to believe that the drivers are going to buy a new big sleeper truck in the next week or so, but even the sales person who sold me this truck said that he gets numerous inquiries from people who dream of a truck like ours only to never return his calls or come around again. The fact is that most people are afraid and for good reason. Unless you are cash heavy and can buy one of these in one payment, you need to be concerned about the economy, the freight availability, and the future. Perhaps your loads will require a lighter truck? Perhaps you will need to go to Canada as you cannot with the extended wheelbase that this truck has. Perhaps you will have to hook to a longer trailer and this will make your overall length too long to get in and out of a customer's facility?

It has taken me over 15 years to get to where I am in this business and Salena has been there for over half of those. As a team we are able to manage less work for more money. A solo can do well but only with specialized equipment and steady loads. Otherwise most freight will let you maintain a modest income. Teams do better on average but there is a point of diminishing returns when you work too hard. The point is that when a person considers to buy a truck, they must take many things into consideration and a large sleeper truck is seemingly more restrictive and requires a little more certainty.

The other comment I hear is from other teams who say "We should be driving a truck like that". I don't pay too much attention anymore. After driving this truck for over 4 years now, I am used to the standard questions. They are always the same and I don't mind selling the truck. The company who built the sleeper has exceeded our expectations from sales to service so I don't mind doing a little show and tell to curious colleagues while showing off the amenities, but I don't always have time. Many times we are on a tight time schedule so I have to cut the conversation short. Many of the drivers who have this same type of sleeper that I have met will just ignore the people who ask questions.

I figure that they have been driving a large sleeper truck for many more years than I have and they have given up on answering the same questions over and over again at every fuel stop and at every loading dock. I will just keep on answering the questions and I like to talk to people who are interested however with today’s technology just about everything is available online. Otherwise these large sleeper trucks are the subject of scrutiny by the DOT and the FMCSA and there have been efforts to make them obsolete. All of this makes the prospect of owning one of these large sleeper trucks a far off goal for most drivers.

I will say that it isn't as hard to drive as you might think. In fact the turning radius is actually better than a standard truck and the ride is better because of the longer frame length. The weight isn't really an issue as most loads are not that heavy on average. The truck is only a few feet longer than most trucks and that has not restricted us from going to NYC or San Francisco. We can get around anywhere that a standard truck can. So maybe instead of dreaming, if you are considering a larger truck, you can go ahead and take the plunge!