When demand for trucks slows down, like it does every year during this time, the trend among many owner-operators is to pre-book loads to stay employed until the really good stuff comes out in later in the year. If it's a broker's market, then I try to spend less time getting a really great one-time rate and more time finding value in multiple loads.
This is also when you're playing the long game. During the busy seasons, the critical freight that pays the best rate almost always goes to a carrier that the broker has worked with before and knows is reliable. Now is the time to prove that you're a reliable business partner, so that they'll come to you with those critical loads when spot market demand is high again.
That's what I like to call getting "pre-booked." Below are the five steps I use to get pre-booked.
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How to get pre-booked
1. Find at least three cities that you would like go to, even if you had to wait an extra day to get the load that will get you to these three cities.
2. Post your truck for these destinations for the day of and the day after.
3. Use the TriHaul routing tool in DAT TruckersEdge Pro. I mostly use this when I want to get home. The way it works is it shows you other routes through markets with higher demand and better rates than the one you're in. So instead of hauling one load back home, you'd take two shorter trips on the way back for higher rates.
For this example, you'd search for loads heading to the three cities in step 1. See what routes the Trihaul tool suggests, and if those cities work, then add them to your list and post your truck to there as well.
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4. Be fast and confident. Remember, it's a broker's market, so a second phone call might mean that the load is gone, or it'll give the broker even more of an upper hand in negotiating. Make a list of questions you need to ask to determine if you want the load or not.
5. Know what your rate needs to be. Start with looking up what the 15-day lane rates are for the three cities you want to get to, and write it down. I have found that more than 80% of the time I can book a load quoting the 15-day rate average.
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More than half of my time negotiating with brokers is less about the rate and more about determining if this is someone I want to work with. Even if negotiations are in the broker's favor, if they're someone you want to keep working with, then shoot for more loads with that same broker. It only takes three consecutive loads to create a relationship, and you can prove yourself to be a reliable business partner.
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.