When I first got started working with freight brokers in 2011, I was averaging more than 200 nights away from home each year. My primary strategy at that time was to go from one hot market to another hot market, chasing the highest-paying loads. At the beginning of 2015, the spot market demand for trucks slowed down and I needed to change how I use the load board.
As a result, this year will be my fourth in a row where I’ve averaged fewer than 30 nights away from home.
Below are four strategies I use to get more home time.
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1. Focus less on miles
I recently wrote a blog post about how much it costs to run my motor carrier business. My average mileage was only 67,000 miles per year, which got a lot of attention. This does not necessarily mean that my profits are any less.
The reason my mileage is lower is because I usually focus on finding loads within a 200-mile radius of my home (Lexington, KY), so that I can make it back home before I run out of drive time. It’s also much easier to negotiate a decent rate on shorter runs than the more sought-after longer runs. On good days, I can get a load picked up, delivered, and another load picked up that will take me back home for next-day delivery.
There are no set rules on how to price short runs, but because my goal is to get back home, I want to make sure that my rate justifies all deadhead miles, as well as the loaded miles, for every round trip. Two tools that I use to help stay within the normal range with my pricing are the DAT Trendlines weekly report and the 15-day rate average that is available in DAT TruckersEdge Professional.
2. Become diversified
I have my own dry van trailer, but I get a lot of power-only loads as well. Power only is when you pull other companies' loaded trailers. This is the easiest and cheapest way to diversify. Having a second trailer option like a flatbed and a dry van would be another great way to get more local runs.
3. Build relationships
The DAT Power load board has a tool called LaneMakers that will show you the carriers and brokers that post most often on a particular lane. One of my favorites is Lexington to Nashville, TN, and back. I’ve posted in this lane so many times that now I get calls about loads on that lane that sometimes never get posted to the load board.
Remember, for this to work, you have to include the origin and destination on your truck post, so don't just post to "anywhere."
4. Be flexible
Be willing to work when most others are not. That means weekends are just another day of the week. Rearrange your personal schedule, and you'll be rewarded with more time at home on the weekdays.
For more tips on how to get more home time, see "How to Develop Local Dumbbell."
Chad Boblett is the owner and driver at Boblett Brothers Trucking of Lexington, KY. Chad also founded the Rate Per Mile Masters group on Facebook, a communications hub for more than 23,000 members, including owner-operators, truck drivers, and other transportation and logistics pros.