The spot market will likely be the same as it is every year around this time: From January to about the end of March, it will most likely be slow. There won't be the volatility that we saw at the beginning of 2018, because that was a result of the ELD mandate. Don't expect to see as many loads as we did in early 2018.
Just because there are fewer loads doesn't mean the world is coming to an end, though. It's just that time of year.
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Photo by Chad Boblett
Here are my 6 rules for making money in the slow season:
1. Accept a lower rate, as long as it's fair. During the slow season, I want to be more efficient with my time instead of holding out for a high rate per mile. The demand for trucks is low, so there's no point in wasting too much time haggling over rates. Determine what is fair and try to turn your rate into a win-win for the freight broker and for yourself.
2. Make the best use of your time. With lower rates, I look for easy, convenient loads. I recently took a load for $240 less than another shipment that was almost the same, just because the cheaper load was delivering that same day. That meant I had time to pick up another load before I ran out of hours.
3. Position yourself for the next load. The load that always matters the most is the next load you get. When working with a broker who needs to move a load to a place that you might think is hard to get out of, always ask if the broker has any loads in that area. If the answer is yes, you'll get better use of your time.
4. Build new relationships. If you're successful at getting a second load from that broker, you can use that opportunity to start building a new relationship. Handling two consecutive loads is usually enough to establish yourself with a new customer.
5. Avoid bad weather. The best part about running the spot market in the winter is being able to avoid snow and ice storms. I hate driving in bad weather. When I was a company driver, I had to go where the dispatcher sent me, no matter how bad the road conditions were. Now I choose my own loads, and I choose not to take any unnecessary risks with my equipment. During the winter months, I try to stay closer to home and do more local work. That way, it's easier to shut down when the weather turns bad.
6. Be patient — spring is coming. The other nice part about winter is that it doesn't last too long. Every year at the end of March, loads will start to pick back up again.
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.