Contributing author Joey Slaughter is the owner of Blue Ridge Transport, LLC. A Ringgold, VA based carrier. Joey started his company in 2010 after serving time as an unhappy employee with a local trucking company. The time spent there was not fun but, in hindsight, was a turning point that propelled Joey into the wonderful world of being an entrepreneur. Please visit JoeySlaughter.net for more insightful blogging.
The spot market for the trucking industry is where shippers go to move freight that is not specifically contracted with a carrier to move. It can be an overage, a random shipment or a situation where a contracted carrier can’t provide capacity. The spot market is extremely volatile as most players who participate in it are aware. The driving factor for this instability is the volume of freight shipping at any given time. I’ve been in the spot market for 6 years and have never had contracts to rely on.
About a year ago, the spot market was doing very well as there was more demand for non-contracted carriers to pick up the market slack. However, that demand has dwindled away as of late according to my observations and it’s requiring me to make to get tougher and pull out all the tricks in the bag.
Here are 6 Ways to Survive in the Spot Freight Market
- Increase fuel mileage: even though fuel costs are the lowest they’ve been since 2009, the rates have also dropped enough to negate any gains. The lower the cost to operate, the more money you can make.
- Go where others don’t want to go: certain regions of the country offer better rates than others. There’s a good reason for that; it could be weather, lack of return freight or other market conditions. Find the most profitable lanes and stay in them. Data from DAT and Truckstop.com can help identify the hot spots and dead zones.
- Be patient: Just last week, I turned down a lot of load offers that required me to load 48,000# and to tarp. I resisted and finally a load popped up that was only 15,000# and required no tarp and even paid more than the others!
- Differentiate yourself from others: I have ramps, tarps and all the tools available to secure just about any shipment. I also have the ability to transport over dimensional freight which gives me a market advantage. Many times I’ve gotten good loads out of Florida, which is a terrible place for flatbeds, because I was able to haul what most couldn’t. I don’t have a TWIC card, but that would help me even more.
- Post your Truck: I have gotten a lot of loads that never hit the load board because I posted my truck on my load board as empty in whatever city I would unload in and what time/date. I’ve also gotten LTL loads en route. I’ll post my truck in a city that I will drive through and indicate I have room for a partial shipment. That’s gotten me an extra $800-$1000 on more than one occasion.
- Develop Relationships: I stay in close contact with brokers and agents and keep them informed of where I’m going and where I’m looking to go for the next load. I’ve even sent some of them gift certificates to their favorite restaurant on occasion when they’ve gone above and beyond to help me.