"Does That Include Fuel?" and Other Questions

You really need this load, but how do you know if the rate is any good? Will your driver waste hours at the load and unload points? Can you do better?

It’s important to know your costs, but that’s just the beginning. Pricing on many lanes can vary dramatically from week to week, especially on the spot market. (For some recent rate benchmarks, check out our Rate Trend of the Week.) If there are a lot of empty trucks in town when you arrive, and outbound freight is scarce, you may have trouble finding a load, and rates will probably not be ideal. (The load-to-truck ratios in DAT Hot Market Maps can help you to assess demand.)

Whether the rate is high or low, however, the broker may be able to provide additional information to help you to make a good business decision. Here are three questions to consider:

1. Does that rate include fuel? With diesel at $4.15 per gallon and probably heading up even further, it costs you $0.65 per mile to fill your tank. The fuel surcharge is designed to cover part of that cost. Most carriers negotiate a variable fuel surcharge into their long-term contracts, but when you are working with a broker on a one-time haul, your might not think to ask. (In fact, our customer support team gets a lot of questions about negotiating fuel surcharges with brokers).While you’re on the phone with the broker, you can check the latest national average line haul rate and fuel surcharge on DAT Trendlines or get lane-specific rate information from DAT Truckload Rate Index if you’re a subscriber. Regional fuel prices for the most recent week can also be found at the Department of Energy web site. (Scroll down for diesel fuel prices.)

2. How long should I expect to take loading and unloading my truck? If you spend too much time loading and unloading, it can really cut into your miles per day, with a big impact on revenue. The broker may have experience with conditions at his customer’s loading docks. Any insight can help you here, so ask the broker for any pointers that can save you time.

3. Do you have another load for me? If you have other trucks to fill, or you are heading this way again soon, it doesn’t hurt to ask about load availability. Brokers like to keep a “short list” of carriers who have available capacity in their favorite lanes. Chances are, if you have repeat business in this market, the broker does too. Another quick way to find ongoing business in a lane is to check LaneMakers in our 3sixty Power Load Boards. LaneMakers lets you look up the brokers and shippers who have posted the most loads in a given lane.