Nearly every small and micro-trucking company owner has asked this question several times. The smaller your operation, the more difficult it is to find the answer. So, many of us relegate ourselves to hauling wholesale (broker and load board) freight and leave the direct shipper freight to the bigger carriers. After all, the fewer trucks you own, the less you have to offer a shipper, right?
Well, maybe not. It depends on how you approach those shippers. One good thing, with fewer trucks you don’t need 20 or 30 shippers to fill your trailers. Just a few shippers, or maybe even one or two is all you need to add that retail freight revenue to your cash flow.
So honestly, finding those two or three shippers isn’t as big a task as you might think. It’s all about how you approach the process.
It’s not about selling your services to the highest bidder; it’s more about making your services available, so shippers know your trucks are running in the lanes and areas where their freight needs to be hauled. To sell your hauling services, you have to convince a shipper to purchase that service. But what if all that’s required is for you to locate the companies needing freight hauled, and then be available to provide them with freight rates upon request? Not near as involved as cold calling or knocking on doors just to be told ‘they’re not buying freight services today.’ You need to stop selling your freight hauling services and start freight prospecting.
To explain: freight prospecting is a lot like panning for gold. You start with a pan full of rocks, sand and water, and shake it back and forth allowing the lighter rocks and sand to spill over the edge while the heaver gold falls to the bottom of the pan. Freight prospecting is very similar in that you begin with a large list of shippers. Narrow the list down to specific areas and lanes in which you need your trucks operating. Then start the shaking to find the shippers worth their weight in gold.
The gold shippers are the ones with freight that works with your regular brokered and load board freight, going the direction you need your trucks to travel, to create the greatest amount of revenue over the shortest time and distance. Once you’ve narrowed the list down to these shippers, the plan is to contact them and become an Approved Carrier for them.
What’s an Approved Carrier? This is a trucking company they’ll contact every time they have a load that fits the criteria you’ve established with them. When they have a load that’s a match, they will email or fax you an RFP (Request for Proposal). All you have to do is write the best rate for which you’re willing to haul the load on the RFP and return it to them. If the rate is in line with the range they’re willing to pay, bingo! the load is yours. Do this enough times for regularly-scheduled shipments and you can then request the load be placed on your trucks every time it becomes available.
This is how you build a carrier customer relationship with a direct shipper:
1. Become an approved carrier in their data base
2. Provide rates that work with their needs
3. Be on time and on schedule with all the loads you haul for them
4. No damage and no unexpected events with their loads
And the next thing you know, you’re hauling good, retail paying freight.
The trick is to have a large enough database of potential shippers from which to pan for gold and spend one to two hours per week working down the list of qualified shippers. It’s a numbers game that, when played correctly, has a really nice pay back.
For information on where to find such a shipper database, please fell free to contact me.
Timothy Brady © 2014
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