Being an owner-operator is tough. You need all the tools possible to stay profitable. Back when I was leased-on with a carrier, the only way for me to make more money was to become an expert on cutting costs. Now that I operate under my own MC number, I focus on more than just my expenses.
Here are three strategies I use to squeeze more profit out of every load I haul.
1. Know the current lane rates
After I got my own operating authority, I started out with the Enhanced version of the DAT TruckerEdge load board. It included 90-day lane rate averages. I soon realized I was leaving money on the table by not knowing the 15-day average, so I upgraded to the Pro version. It has helped me get above-average rates.
The first time I told a broker I was looking at the 15-day average on DAT, his whole demeanor changed. He could tell I knew more about lane rates than someone who isn’t serious about their business.
2. Research which freight markets are hot
I’ve learned over the years that freight is like a living organism — forever changing, moving, and growing. A market that is hot this week may not be next week, and vice versa. You have to keep up with the changes weekly, even daily, and stick to strong markets with plenty of freight.
Before I’ll ever call a broker, I’ll go into TruckersEdge and do some lane searches to see what lanes are paying the best. Then I'll check the load counts in the market I’m in and get a load-to-truck ratio. If there are way more loads than trucks, I know my trailer is a hot commodity and it will take more money for me to jump on a load.
On the other hand, I'll take less than the average rate if I know it's going to take me into a strong market. That's why it’s crucial to stay up to date on both the market you’re in and the market you're headed to.
3. Always look ahead to your next load
After I get on a load and know where I’m going, I’ll look into the market I’m headed into and get an idea of where I need to go next. I try my best to stay a load and a day ahead at all times.
I'll try to secure another load at my destination before I get there. If I’m delivering a load at 8 a.m. tomorrow, and I can get another load with an open pickup window at or above the average rate, I'm all for it. Very seldom do I pull a load for less than average, but sometimes the cards just aren’t in my favor.
But I keep in mind that time equals money: Rolling at $1.50 per mile today is more profitable than $2.00 per mile tomorrow. Pre-booking my next load helps me cut down on wasted time, and time management is very important in this business. With good planning during my week, I find that I can make room for an additional load by week's end.
On my YouTube channel, MakeCents Trucker, I tell people all the time: I’m not the smartest in the industry. I’m learning as I go, and this is what I do. In an industry where most fail as an owner-operator or independent carrier, I’ve been able to keep the lights on.
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