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Pick a Niche


August 11, 2014

Even if you already have your small trucking company up and rolling (pun intended), it’s not too late to further refine your business. One refinement you might consider is choosing a niche. You’ll often see that recommended in business articles for any industry, but it seems particularly necessary in trucking.

Why choose a niche?

There’s always plenty of truckload freight to go around, and you can easily run two or more trucks as far and as fast as you can to keep up with demand. But there’s just one problem – usually truckload freight is the lowest-paying segment of our industry. And you didn’t go through all the struggle, blood and sweat to get your small carrier going just to make piggy bank wages. So let’s look at choosing a niche.

Choosing a Niche

A niche in trucking can be a geographic area, a specific commodity, a particular service or a specialized market.

For a niche within a geographic area, start literally in your own backyard. Find a commodity that’s constantly hauled out of your area, and look for the closest towns, cities or factories to which it’s consistently delivered. Keeping your delivery area tight means you save money on fuel, simply because your trucks always run close to their origin and destination points. (If deadheading ever becomes necessary, the expense isn’t overwhelming.)

Next on the list to think about: produce or specialty foods (oysters, shrimp, flaming hot chiles); handmade furniture, or maybe your area of the country manufactures more widgets than any other region. Secure a contract to haul those widgets and then to haul back the components of said widgets, and you’ve got yourself an excellent niche.

Do you have a hobby or special interest that you know quite a bit about? Have you ever taken your perfectly-restored ’57 Chevy BelAir to a car show? There are other restorers and collectors who pay big bucks to have their cars (or motorcycles) carefully and gently transported to shows and museum exhibitions across the nation. Or maybe you know how paintings and fine art should be crated and cared for while in transit. The same special care and service in shipping applies here, and these niches pay particularly well.

You might find a group of shippers who need dedicated trucks to take similar products to a major market on a regular basis. Surfboards and skis? Hand-blown glass or hand-thrown ceramics? Stained glass windows or solar panels? Hand-built surreys or hand-carved carousel horses? If the products need individual crates built on-site to keep them from harm, controlled temperature or no shocks in shipping, your small carrier could supply what the mega-trucking companies cannot: personal service that understands the stresses those creations undergo while underway.

Niche hauling can be not only your bread-and-butter but the determining factor in just how long your small motor carrier continues in business. Think about turning over the office keys to your grandkids someday, while you go and vacation somewhere warm and tropical. It could happen. Make it so.