Trucking is a tough job. It's not for the weak at heart, but it can also be one of the most...
7 Trucking Mistakes That Reduce Profits
Truck drivers have one of the most difficult jobs in the world. A life constantly on the road, facing tough weather and traffic conditions. Most truckers will tell you that while owning a truck is an amazing way to make a living, it's also quite stressful. With the stress and challenges of the job, mistakes are bound to happen.
Whether you are a rookie or experienced driver, there are a few common pitfalls which can prevent any trucker from reaching their full potential. Knowing which errors to avoid is key in making the most of your trucking venture. Here’s the rundown of common mistakes most truck drivers can avoid making, in order to maximize earnings and efficiency:
Not Preparing Ahead of Time
Following the speed limits and ensuring you are driving according to weather conditions is a common sense part of the job. It keeps you and others on the road safe. However, there is more to being a good truck driver than just safety and following road rules. Whether you are trucking cross-border or domestic, it is essential to know where you are headed and make sure all your paperwork is done, before heading out. Being disorganized is one of the most common mistakes a truck driver can make, which can cost them both time and money.
One of the most common reasons for delays at the border is due to incorrectly completed paperwork or missing documents, an error that can be avoided with a little pre-trip checklist.
To avoid making this mistake, take a little time to plan out your trips. Make sure you include the general route you may take to where you're heading, a checklist of documents and personal necessities you will need, as well as any potential pit stops or places you will be taking a break at. Look into weather conditions in the areas you are heading into, so that you know how to safely maneuver. You also want to load and secure your cargo safely, before heading out.
Failing To Factor In Deadhead Miles
The goal on the road for any driver is to minimize deadhead miles, and make sure you are making a profit for your effort. Without planning, it can be difficult to keep your deadhead miles down, which means that it is important to consider your return trip, especially if you are driving within the country. Make sure you have a load you can pickup on the way back, so that you are making some profit on the trip.
However, it is not always possible to find loads on the way back, depending on where you are heading from. In this scenario, look at the rate you are getting from the brokers, and make sure it reflects more of a profit for you. Remember that if you are picking up a load out of the way from where you are, you can use this distance to also negotiate rates for your truck. This usually works best in established relationships, if you have worked with a broker long enough or you have driven the same types of loads often. Peak season, between September and January, is also a good time to negotiate, as there is a greater need for trucks this time of year.
Remember that one single load is not all that you have to focus on, rather your return trip back is also significant. You should consider basing your rate off the next few loads you may end up taking, as opposed to one single load you are focused on, as a way to consistently make profit. This may require scheduling loads ahead of time, and negotiating the best price. Lack of planning may have you parked for a while waiting for the next load or deadheading it back too often.
You should always be aware of your operational costs, so that you know your budget and how much you need to earn. Calculate your target per mile rate frequently, to ensure you are making the most of each load you take.
Avoiding Regular Maintenance
While it can be a chore to continually maintain your truck and take care of little issues, it is an essential part of keeping your trucking business running. You will run the risk of breaking down, losing time on the road (due to fixing issues), and spending a lot more on your truck, if you do not regularly maintain your vehicle.
A way to avoid dealing with costly repairs is to take good care of your truck whenever possible. Regularly check the oil, tire pressure and fluids. Do your pre-trip and post-trip inspections in detail, so that you can recognize and fix any issues which may come up. A good way to plan ahead is to set a budget each year to put money towards regular maintenance, so that you do not end up spending too much each year. Thinking ahead will save you a ton in the long run.
Disregarding Your Health
In order for your trucking business to succeed, you have to be in a healthy state to operate and drive for long hours, or days at a time. Exhaustion leads to safety risks as well as health risks. Truck drivers have a difficult life on the road, with long hours spent behind the wheel. However, there are small changes which can be made to ensure you stay in good shape and healthy while traveling.
The key is to know your limits and develop a routine that works for you. Bring healthier snacks, or invest in a mini fridge to keep your healthy foods in tact, find time to walk around when possible and get enough sleep. Exhaustion can lead to accidents and mistakes, so make sure you are pacing yourself. You also want to ensure you are not taking others poor driving personally, as stress can take a toll on your health.
Underestimating The Benefits of Remaining Friendly and Calm
While it can get frustrating to deal with shippers, dispatchers, receivers or brokers; it is important to remain friendly and balanced in your dealings with these groups of individuals. It is possible to lose a job or potential contract if you end up having issues with either of these parties. No matter how tired or frustrated you are, consider the big picture and your long term goals, and know that sometimes cordial business relationships can lead to more opportunity.
The more friendly or calm you are, the more likely you are to end up with better loads down the line. People tend to remember those who were easy to work with, so even if you are tired, keep the big picture in mind. Often, brokers or shippers will work with carriers they know and trust, so staying friendly with these individuals can help you get more business for your trucking company. As hard as it can be, patience can reward you at the end of the day.
Lack of a Backup Plan
Life on the road is unpredictable, so it is important to prepare for many scenarios. In case of emergency or things not working out, you should have a backup plan should you be stranded or delayed. Keep spare tools or emergency supplies always with you, and know the general numbers or names of towing companies or repair shops in the area. Remember to bring extra batteries or a charger in the case your phone runs out. For the sake of safety, you should never skip a truck inspection, as this can help identify any issues before they become a serious problem. Taking safety practices seriously is essential in keeping yourself and your trucking business running smoothly, for longer.
Not Asking For Help
One of the key ways truck drivers can make a mistake is in not asking for help when needed. The trucking community is large, and there are always drivers of all experience levels willing to share their knowledge. No matter what you are dealing with, there are other drivers who can help and guide you along. Make sure you utilize resources like online groups on social media, or your local network or drivers in the area, to ask any questions you need help with. Trucking is a very stressful and demanding job, so the many years of experience veteran drivers have is beneficial. Trust your instincts first, but don’t be afraid to ask if you are curious, as it can help you out in the long run.
It's easy to get caught up in the daily grind of trucking, but a few common mistakes can keep you from enjoying everything it has to offer. Avoiding some of these common trucking pitfalls can save you time, money, and headaches. If you're in the trucking industry, it's important to stay on top of the latest regulations and understand how small mistakes can affect your bottom line. A little extra time preparing can make all the difference, so keep the big picture in mind.