The trucking industry is flying (…or is it driving?) high right now and drivers across the country are finding phenomenal success. Rates are high and times are busy as the trucking industry helps push the country out of the final stages of a global pandemic.
We’re in good days right now, but what should truck drivers do to prepare for the next dip in the market? What should they do to prepare for leaner times? Start preparing now.
“I think of stories of the ants saving up for a dry season and hoarding their harvest undergroud so that they can eat long term. We’re no different,” ATBS President and CEO Todd Amen told us on the Successful Driver Podcast. “It’s a good time, but don’t and buy new toys like a Harley or bass boat, or a bunch of chrome for your truck. Save that money, because tough times will come and you’re going to need it to get through tough times. It’s nice to make money, it’s nice to have nice things but make sure you’re building your savings for when a tough time comes.”
People respond differently to the adversity that will inevitably hit when more difficult times for truck drivers come to fruition. Sometimes drivers make big decisions about equipment when times are tough. “People react differently,” said Amen. “A lot of times people freak out because what’s been going for a year or two isn’t there anymore. So they change segments of the market. Maybe going from dry van to flatbed, or flat bed to reefer. And that’s expensive. It’s hard to change.”
Amen says that will changing market segments isn’t always a bad thing, coming up with a long term plan for your business is essential. “You can change over time but when you change it costs money. You have to learn a whole new segment, learn new routes.”
Identifying a segment and become an expert driver in that space can go a long way toward short and long term success, and help you survive market dips. “Be consistent in what you’re doing. Pick something to be successful at,” said Amen. “Know it. Understand it. And ride out the storms, because the market will get good again. But we will have dips, there’s no doubt.”
Watch the full conversation with Amen here: https://youtu.be/bPvy56mb5W8
When you’re looking to sign on with a fleet, one of the first things to be considered when making such a decision must be safety. There are clearly a lot of valuable factors that play into your choice of who to work with, but it’s a red flag if the priority of the fleet isn’t on the safety and well being of a driver and those out on the road with them.
“Safety is our highest calling. There’s nothing more important than safety in our company,” Wilson Logistics President Darrel Wilson told us. “Everyone knows that we have to operate safe. If our drivers are out on the road and they tell us something is unsafe, it’s unsafe.”
Being able to be part of a culture that invites concerns on the road to be communicated is a valuable piece of a driver-fleet relationship that goes beyond simply the safety aspect. It’s a reflection of the entirety of the culture of the company if you are able to raise concerns.
Safety is baked into becoming a successful driver in so many ways. Be it equipment selection, equipment knowledge, driver health, compliance, so many elements of driver success have safety at the root of it.
We spoke with Wilson Logistics about safety and more in the latest episode of the Successful Drive Podcast.
Technological advancements have drastically changed society as a whole. The trucking industry is no different and it manifests itself in a variety of ways.
With trucks themselves, there has been a learning curve with emissions technology throughout the last twenty years – for everyone. Some manufacturers have experienced growing pains trying to perfect the technology required to help the trucking industry do their part in promoting a cleaner environment. Safety and aerodynamics have seen major strides in the last decade. Fleets, suppliers, leasing companies and drivers have had to constantly learn the nuances of trucks with emerging technology. The byproduct of all these changes and learning across the board has brought the quality of units to newer heights.
The trucking industry is a well educated industry – livelihood depends on knowing the ins and outs of your unit. The rise of social media has helped keep truck drivers connected to each other – and allowed for wisdom to be imparted on newer generations of truck drivers. Media specific to educating the truck market is available with video accessibility made easy on the likes of Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, and more. There are several options to help you gain knowledge and understanding of the hot button issues on the road.
The way trucks are advertised, bought and sold has changed significantly as well. Gone are the days where salesman would have to mail photos of a unit to a customer. Print media has changed significantly – with every major publication also having a digital wing to get maximum exposure. Information on trucks is now more accessible than it has ever been. Between the information available online from an education standpoint, truck data is more prominently displayed to help potential buyers enter a negotiation on a unit with confidence.
Though it hasn’t always been perfect, the resiliency of the trucking industry has shown itself in how it has adapted and grown over the last few decades. It will be ready for whatever significant technological disruptors come next.
On the second episode of the Successful Driver podcast we talked with Nick Lombardo of Arrow’s purchasing and wholesale team. We asked him based on all the interactions he’s had with successful drivers, what he thought led to their business success?
He spoke about a flatbed trailer driver and how he approached his business.
“I’ll never forget Sammy Silvers. He came rolling in a 1980-something Kenworth K-100 cabover. He owned the truck, had it paid off, had his own flatbed trailer. Sammy was always looking not for the next load, but the load after that. He looked at it from a business standpoint. In the flatbed business he figured out that he could haul steel into Kansas City – and when he came into town he could put wooden spools from the electric company, put them on the steel and drop them off on the way to his next load. Drivers that think like that – looking to maximize their load and earning potential. The drivers looking to reduce their cost – the ones that know how much their truck was making them or the company – were finding success. I thought before I got in a truck industry the decision making behind buying a commercial truck would be more about business practices.”
Lombardo says sometimes there is more preference in the truck than there is about the business side of owning.
“When I got in I was surprised there was a lot more personal preference. You’re going to live in that truck a week at a time. There has to be some personal preferences met. Your main focus has to be on the business side or else you’re not going to make it. Those guys that taught me about how they were successful – approaching their business from a mindset. I think everyone in the business works hard – you can’t drive a truck without working hard. Especially some aspects of the industry – flatbed drivers. They’re climbing up and down, they’re strapping and tarping. The ones that could still approach it with a business mindset were the ones that found success. What they know, what they’re willing to learn, but already know enough business-wise to set themselves up in the right direction.”
Being creative and mindful of ways to maximize your load is certainly a pattern followed by successful drivers – not just in the flatbed aspect of the industry but in every element.
The last twelve months has been different for everyone. Our lives have changed drastically – including in the trucking industry.
Whether it was helping re-stock shelves across the country with toilet paper or supplying COVID-19 vaccines, the efforts of the most thankless job in America are being properly recognized. In difficult economic times, the trucking industry has actually helped keep some businesses afloat. Without truckers, times could be even more drastic. As long as there’s truck drivers on the road – we have a fighting chance as a country.
With every negative that happens there’s a positive. In the trucking industry, we’ve seen a group of hard working people get more recognition than they’ve received historically – and it’s so well deserved. Truck drivers have been an essential part of our country since trucks were invented – and now their efforts have been more appropriately brought to light.
In the midst of a devastating crisis in our country – opportunity arose for truckers to step up across America. They more than delivered. We relied on the trucking industry before the pandemic – we rely on it even more now. The efforts even earned presidential praise in early April 2020 at the start of the pandemic. Truck drivers been a critical pieces of our response to crisis – and the value of the men and women working hard to keep America moving are getting their recognition.