Where to dig for those golden opportunities
By Timothy D. Brady
Every small carrier and owner-operator with their own authority must maintain what’s called the three-legged freight stool. Each leg on the stool is equally important. Your three freight areas consist of direct shippers, freight brokers and load board freight (spot freight). It takes balanced freight from all three to grow a trucking operation.
Of these three, the most difficult for the smaller trucking operation to attain and retain is direct shippers. The reason is obvious; it requires a lot of effort and time to land a direct ship customer, something that is in short supply for the majority of owner-operators and carriers when the owner also has to drive one of the trucks.
That time is spent on multiple calls on a prospective shipper to sell a smaller trucking operation’s services. Wining and dining the principle decision-makers cuts into precious hours for a carrier owner who is driving to the next delivery. Sometimes just getting through the gatekeepers to the person who can actually give the go ahead to approve you as a carrier is a huge obstacle in itself.
What is the solution to this seemingly never-ending challenge? Freight prospecting. Switch the focus from trying to sell a customer your services to taking the necessary steps to find a customer in need.
Every company, regardless of how large or small, either ships or receives something brought by truck. But too many small carriers are panning for freight at the biggest companies, looking for a piece of the mother lode. The problem is that all the other carriers — large, medium and small — are right there too, trying to get that same business.
A different approach is to look for the vendors who provide either raw product or finished items to the larger shippers.
Think historically. A slew of companies prospected for gold in 1849. Then there’s a company that supplied the gold miners. Levi Strauss, company founder, saw a need for clothing that would withstand the abuse of mining and started producing denim jeans. Strauss didn’t dig the gold; he provided the means for the miner to stay out longer in his search for riches.
You must do the same when prospecting for freight. You don’t need that single contract with the box store distribution center or the large manufacturer. You want to figure out which vendors bring them supplies, and haul for them.
But you need to find a way to get in the door and past the gatekeepers to the decision-makers. This will involve a fair amount of cold-calling to find the transportation procurement director, and then seeing what opportunities, if any, exist.
Keep in mind you won’t be successful every time; in fact, if you can get 10 percent of the people who answer your calls to then provide the information you request, you’re doing great. Remember to always be polite and mindful of their time. If they are forthcoming with the name and contact information that you need, just say thank you, and go to your next call.
Your next step will be to call the transportation procurement person and ask to be set up as a carrier in their system. Once this is complete, you just need to provide them with a list of your available equipment and the lanes in which you operate. Then each time you’re looking for loads in that area, you call or fax them your available trucks list. And because you are already set up with them, you’ll begin getting loads offered to you. You’ve hit gold!