Author Earl Nightingale once said that to get rich, you just have to find a need and fill it. In the eight years I’ve been an independent owner-operator, that's how I've tried to run my business. My company has never been awarded contract freight, so all of my loads have come from hundreds of freight brokers. Pinpointing a specific need and filling it is key to running the spot market .
Other than being able to drive a truck, that’s been my best skill when operating my business. Yes, there is the clerical and administrative work that needs to be done to run a trucking company, but in the beginning, I outsourced all of those needs until my wife started doing most of it. Anyone can fill the need of doing contract freight, too. And since the need for that role is not as high, the rates can be lower.
What’s the broker and shipper’s needs in a slow market?
Yes, there is always a need for trucks during good and bad times. Bad times just means you need to get more creative and do things you have not done before.
The number one tool I use consistently to find the "need" I am looking for in any market is DAT's LaneMakers. In a nutshell, this tool gives insight into what every broker is posting and looking for. Essentially, DAT Lanemakers tells the carrier what the broker needs are.
EXAMPLE 1: My friend recently bought a liftgate trailer to service her one customer that occasionally needs this kind of trailer. She does get loads from other brokers when she can find them, and they often pay more than regular dry van loads. What I discovered with LaneMakers for the market my friend works in is that often brokers don't post van liftgate (“VG” in DAT Load Boards) as much as they do searches for VG trucks.
My advice to my friend is to spend some time making sales calls to these same brokers that are always searching for van liftgate trailers and get set up with them. This will lead to finding a need and filling it with better rates.
EXAMPLE 2: A vented van trailer (VV) is only needed during produce season -- or is it? I found a broker on LaneMakers that looks for vented van trailers throughout the year near my house. I called the broker to find out that the product is some kind of insulation that needs to be put in a vented trailer. To this day, neither me nor the broker understand why that load needs to be in a vented trailer, but for $250, I turned my trailer into a vented van. Now I get calls from this broker every time they have these light loads that pay good money. I found a need, and I fill it every time they call me.
I like to call LaneMakers DAT's hidden load board because sometimes brokers would instead search for the need they are looking for rather than advertise that need by posting it onto the load board. Have you ever been told the best loads never get posted? Sometimes that's true because they are looking for the right company that can do the best job.
Other trailer codes for DAT load boards:
(VA) Van air ride - Used to transport fragile and delicate equipment, commodities that often pay well.
(VL) Van logistics - This is often a broker that wants the driver to have lots of straps. E-track straps are cheap, so these loads are well worth calling on.