Avoiding cheap freight

March 1, 2009
When you think of load planning, what's the first thought that comes to mind? For most, it's a concept of having loads planned in advance so you never have to accept a load for the sake of accepting a load. As a concept, that's great. In reality, however, it's one of the biggest challenges a trucking load planner faces. As available freight dwindles, it is time to hone your skills in the art of load

When you think of load planning, what's the first thought that comes to mind? For most, it's a concept of having loads planned in advance so you never have to accept a load for the sake of accepting a load. As a concept, that's great. In reality, however, it's one of the biggest challenges a trucking load planner faces. As available freight dwindles, it is time to hone your skills in the art of load planning.

If an operation has been running on the day-to-day plan, the planner starts looking for freight only after a truck has delivered its current load. This puts a small motor carrier in constant emergency mode. If this is happening with regularity, it puts the trucking company at the mercy of loads posted at the last moment, limiting it to fewer loads and most likely the lowest revenue loads.

So, what is the plan of attack in breaking this cycle? The No. 1 solution is concentrating on developing specific lanes of operations for each of your trucks. Look for that unfilled niche of freight from several shippers going in a specific direction. This is described as diversification. The next step is to look at the final destination of this freight and find customers with freight headed back in the general direction of your home location.

For example, in the trucking area I specialized in, we hauled loads from the San Jose area to New Mexico, Texas, and the East Coast in New Jersey and Massachusetts. We had backup areas in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Austin and Connecticut. We would build our loads based on running this corridor. We delivered product from San Jose to Texas, then picked up loads in Texas en route to New Jersey or Boston before filling up there for the return to San Jose.

Your load planning begins with the shipper and broker base you establish. This not only applies to both ends of your corridor, but also must include multiple locations for pickups or deliveries in the middle of your freight lanes. Don't limit your options to two or three pickup and delivery locations within your lane.

It's very important for small motor carriers to develop their load planning area based on their fleet size. In the example above, we had 11 shipping customers (with multiple locations) and 15 trucks. Scale your freight corridor to your number of trucks. The fewer the trucks, the smaller the range of travel you need to establish.

This type of setup lets you maximize the space on your trailers. This part of the plan is called asset utilization. If the load in your trailer has not met its maximum gross weight and has floor space available, there is usually a partial load that could be placed in the gap in the trailer. Most partials pay a higher rate per 100 lbs. of cubic space than the standard truckload rate, and the money it adds to the overall revenue can increase your bottom line significantly.

Keeping your trucks loaded with reasonable paying freight is the name of the game. Honing your load planning skills, maintaining a good freight lane, and maximizing asset utilization is what will keep the words “cheap freight” out of your vocabulary.

Contact Tim Brady at 731-749-8567 or at www.timothybrady.com

About the Author

Timothy Brady

Timothy Brady is an author, columnist, speaker and business coach who provides information, training and educational presentations for small to large trucking companies, logistics organizations and community groups. He’s the business editor for American Trucker Magazine, the “Answer Guy” for trucking education website TruckersU.com, an author and business editor for Write Up The Road Publishing & Media and freelance journalist. An expert in crafting solutions to industry challenges after 25 years in trucking, Brady’s held positions from company driver to owner-operator to small trucking business owner. Along with sales and business management, he has a well-rounded wealth of experience and knowledge.

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