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Expedited freight
Joe Roman, Lawrence McCord, Jeff Jensen, and Mike and Gail Swiger own and operate their own trucks, but they don't drive the typical over-the-road 18-wheelers. These trucking entrepreneurs usually drive medium-duty trucks and specialize in hauling expedited freight, a.k.a. emergency or just-in-time freight.

by Rene Tankersley
Special to Land Line

"Time sensitivity, that's the key right there," says Jensen, an OOIDA member from Cincinnati and senior field editor for Expediters Online. "Usually, in my experience, it's pick it up and go now. You've got to be there. I can't tell you how many times I've taken a load and had a forklift waiting there when I arrived. It's typical for anybody that's been in expediting."

He says a good example is the automotive industry. The line shuts down because of that one part they need. "They're paying people to stand around and look at a shutdown line," says Jensen, who now works full time for On Time Media and leases his truck to FedEx Custom Critical.

McCord, founder of On Time Media's Expediters Online web sites, lives in Florence, KY. He agrees that for truckers, time is critical. "Because of the time sensitive nature of the freight, every minute counts," McCord says. "It costs $16,000 for every minute that the plant is shut down waiting for those parts. It's mind boggling, especially to a driver hauling a box of widgets."

The evolution of expedited freight

The expedited freight industry started by hauling assembly line parts to automobile manufacturing plants, but has grown to hauling just about anything that will fit into a truck. If you need it now, they haul it. OOIDA members Mike and Gail Swiger say shippers and receivers have realized the value they're getting from expediters. As a result, the Swigers say expediters are hauling for a diverse cross-section of customers.

This Milwaukee husband and wife team hauled the first commercial satellite and a doctor's lifetime of cancer research, which had to be kept at a certain temperature so the experiments would not be ruined. Loads like these require the "white glove" treatment. 

Mike and Gail regularly haul nuclear fuel rods for Westinghouse and General Electric. These nuclear projects keep them away from home for two or three months at a time. Admittedly, they are not on the road every day. Some days they spend in motels waiting for their next load.

Besides loads requiring special handling, expediters haul loads of all sizes and shapes. Jensen has hauled loads as small as an envelope or a computer chip to a ton of frozen egg whites in three-pound cans in a one-ton unrefrigerated van.

"I once hauled 10,000 softballs to a game just in time to be signed," says Jensen. He recalls a load of those rubber ducks so popular in river country for fundraisers. "I hauled 20,000 of those rubber ducks from Cincinnati to Louisville for a festival," Jensen tells. "They were loose and had to be shoveled in and out of the truck."

OOIDA member Joe Roman of Drummonds, TN, has also hauled some out-of-the-ordinary loads. During the Gulf War, he carried gloves from one military base warehouse to another for shipment to the Gulf. "Once I hauled three gallons of paint thinner that weighed 24 pounds," Roman says. "It was still a hazardous load because it was flammable."

Joe recalls another time he carried a bag of three bearings. "The bag weighed 1.5 pounds and I hauled it from Memphis, TN, to Batesville, AR. It was delivered to the maintenance department."

According to McCord, because expedited freight usually doesn't fill a semi trailer, expediters often drive Class 7 medium-duty trucks, six-wheelers and straight trucks.

"As the industry changes, drivers are investing more money in their trucks," he says. "You see them at truck shows with show-quality trucks."

McCord says he has noticed that truck manufacturers, including Western Star, Freightliner and Kenworth, are starting to show more interest in the production of medium-duty trucks.

"This industry has become a viable market for specialty trucks for expediting," McCord adds. "Major truck manufacturers are interested in what's going on in this business."

How they got into this industry

Unlike other trucking industry specialties, many expediters come from non-trucking-related careers into the expedited freight industry, according to McCord.

Joe Roman says he worked his way up from driving taxicabs to limousines, then courier vans, and finally expedited freight trucks. He went from hauling rocks stars, teen idols and international royalty to hauling parts for automobile manufacturing plants.

Roman began driving taxicabs and limousines in his hometown of Chicago to supplement his work as a freelance photographer for the Chicago Tribune and other area newspapers. Some of his more famous limo passengers included REO Speedwagon, Bruce Springsteen, celebrity photographer Toni Diorio, teen idol Shawn Cassidy, and the prince of Morocco. In addition to his photography, Roman owned a small music store and published the Chicago Musicians Journal for 10 months. Since he began hauling expedited freight in December 1993, Roman has contracted with the same company, Tri-State.

"Before [1993], I had never heard of expediting. I was driving a Pony Express Courier Corp. company van in Memphis," Roman says. "During a coffee break, I met a Tri-State driver that asked me if I was making any money. He showed me his settlement statement. I knew if he could do it, so could I."

Roman stayed with Pony Express until he accumulated everything he needed - a van, his CDL, a cell phone, pager and funds to start operating.

"Within my first six months in expediting, I developed my checking account to almost $11,000," Roman recalls. "I did it by accepting over 99 percent of my load offers."

The Swigers have been involved in the expedited freight hauling business for 11 years. They drive their Peterbilt 372 cabover truck for FedEx Custom Critical, which previously was Roberts White Glove.

Both Mike and Gail have spent 20 years in the trucking industry. Before they became expediters, the Swigers hauled hay on a flatbed truck in Wisconsin; produce to Kroger and Big Bear markets; merchandise for Sears; and show equipment for the Toro Co.

The business of expediting

One of the most talked about advantages of expediting is the pay. Lawrence McCord points out that a cargo van can make more money than an 18-wheeler, or about $1.25 a mile. The Swigers use their Auto Map mapping program on their laptop computer to verify the mileage of a proposed load. They divide the money by the number of miles, and if it comes up to $1.10 per mile they take the load.

Joe Roman takes a different approach to deciding whether to take a load or not. He says refusing a load is not something you can do on every load offer.

"If you've had two or three load offers with good mileage and close to your pickup, you can afford to take a lower paying load," Roman explains. "Consider what you've done for that month or year-to-date. If you bundle the loads together, everything averages out at the end of the year."

"Some people expect to make a ton of money in this industry because you get good rates per mile," Roman adds. "Some people expect to make $120,000 or more gross per year. Maybe one or two will."

"Some expect to make $2,000-$2,500 a week. That happens often. Some people expect $3,000."

Joe says that happens once or twice, maybe three times a year. "$1,500-$2,000 a week happens a lot, but most times it's $1,000-$1,500 week," he says, "and some weeks you only make $400-$800."

Roman has tracked his average length of haul at 367.49 miles. His statistics show he ran 40,057 loaded miles. His business, which includes a second driver, has combined gross earnings of $45,306.72, which averages out to $1.13 per mile. He explains that his paid miles, bonus miles and fuel surcharge are included in the gross earnings. Roman gets his statistic figures by using Quicken Deluxe 2000, which he says tells him everything he wants to know about his business.

Because expediters are owner-operators, they run their own businesses, often hiring additional drivers and building their own fleet. As a result, expediters have additional concerns about getting loads and driving. They must manage their business by keeping meticulous financial records, auditing their settlement statements and, often, processing payroll for their drivers.

Roman uses a payroll company to handle his settlement statements and pay his driver. "My settlement statement goes to them, they pay my driver, deduct driver's pay and their fee from my checking account, then I get my statement from Tri-State and the payroll company together," Roman says.

Joe says he doesn't want to be home every Thursday to get his settlement statement to figure out how much to pay his driver. "I'm not an accountant," he says.

The Swigers approach their business in much the same way. Their business is incorporated. "We receive a salary, and the company buys everything else," Gail says.

As with any business, expediting has its disadvantages. McCord explains that one disadvantage is that expediting is seasonal. "It's slow in winter months, and in July when the auto industry shuts down for retooling for the next model year," he says.

Joe Roman, on the other hand, has found a way to make use of this slow time. "When General Motors shuts down in July, lots of expediters take advantage of that time for truck repair, but that's the time when I find my non-automotive customers."

 

Advice for wannabes and newbies

"The length of haul runs from 250-400 miles, then you might wait a few hours or a few days for another load. You never know until the last minute because they don't know that the plant is going to break down."

-Lawrence McCord, founder of Expediters Online

"Whether you're trying to get into expediting or become an owner-operator, go into it with a used truck. It's not going to make you anymore money. Drive a used truck for two or three years, so you're not stuck with a $2,200 or $2,500 payment. Go into it smart. Don't front load yourself with those big charges. Take care of a 'good ole truck until you get your feet wet. Don't jump into it and think you'll get rich over night."

-Mike and Gail Swiger, FedEx Custom Critical

"The only guarantees in this industry are that the truck payment and the insurance premiums are due every month. No guarantees on how much you'll make, the types of loads, weight of the load, whether the load is hazardous materials or not, the direction it's going, and no guaranteed load offers toward home for the weekend.

"This industry will not tolerate a personal agenda. You cannot operate according to your own agenda. If you're close to home and get a load offer in the opposite direction with good mileage and pay, you can't just refuse it because you want to get home. The carrier's customer sets the flow of the freight.

"When you place yourself in service, you need to be ready to run with your logbook up-to-date and your pre-trip done.

"People can do well in this industry, but it's not a bed of roses."

-Joe Roman, founder of the "Expediter Forum"

"This forum (Joe Roman's "Expediter Forum") is one of the best sources of expediting info around because there are quite a few veterans of this business posting here, and they can offer valuable advice for the newbie. Over at ExpeditersOnline.com, I'm in the process of assembling a mini-guide for newbies."

-Jeff Jensen, field editor for Expediters Online

 

Expediters create solutions for information exchange

by Rene Tankersley
Special to Land Line

When company drivers take a coffee break in a truckstop, it's not unusual to run across another driver from the same company. They might even start up a conversation about a recent company event, or change in company benefits, or give each other tips on how to handle certain dispatchers or delivery sites.

Even two owner-operators contracted with the same company might have lunch together. But for expediters, there's often no such thing as a co-worker. You work for whatever company needs your services the most at any given time, and you rarely see another expediter in a truckstop.

With all the trucking industry publications in print, expediters have historically been challenged when it comes to finding information specific to their industry. In fact, some expediters have turned their information frustrations into online businesses.

Joe Roman receives credit from his peers for creating the first web site specifically for expediters. He admits his Expediter's Forum is a copy of TruckNet's Professional Drivers Round Table found at www.truck.net.

"With the support and encouragement from Monty Rhodes, the Round Table's administrator, to 'go for it,' I started www.jroman.com with its only feature being the Expediter Forum. I didn't want to fill this site with links that were not of specific interest to expediters, and I didn't want to duplicate the links that were already at Truck Net and Truck'n Tom's web sites."

After Roman wrote his original files, he asked Pat Bonanno at trucksonly.com to clean up his files and add a bulletin board. Since Bonanno didn't have a bulletin board program that included e-mail links for posted messages, Roman contacted Rhodes again.

"Monty introduced me to Rick Thompson at Oznet, which, up until recently was Truck Net's web host," Roman said. "He already had all the necessary directories and files in place because the original round table ran under www.board, created by Matt Wright."

Lawrence McCord has spent 12 years in the expedite industry. His truck is still leased to FedEx Custom Critical. He started ExpeditersOnline (www.expeditersonline.com) 18 months ago out of frustration with the lack of information in print for owner-operators in the expedite freight business.

McCord explains that he and his partners at On Time Media have created several expediter web sites and will be in print soon. On Time Media already e-mails a newsletter, "The Hot Shot," to expediters.

Expediters' Online field editor Jeff Jensen writes from his experience as an 11-year veteran expediter. He has seen the industry go from the basic title of 'just-in-time' freight to expedited freight.

"It's definitely a niche market," Jensen says. "You can take any segment of trucking, and each one totals many more than expediting as a whole."

He says the print media has not yet covered the industry. "You'll find very little, if anything at all, that is expediter specific," he says. "They just don't address the expediter's situation."

Jensen is quick to praise McCord for his accomplishments with Expediters Online.

"Lawrence McCord is a dynamo. He has taken the ball and run with it," Jensen says. "The financial backing is from On Time Media, but the concepts are his." 

  • Expediters Online (www.expeditersonline.com) is listed as "The Expediter Freight Information Center." This site provides valuable information and links for expediters.
  • Expedite Now (www.expeditenow.com) is listed as "The Internet Magazine for the Expedited Freight Industry." This site includes news and feature articles about expediters and the industry.
  •  Expedite Source (www.expeditesource.com) is listed as the directory for the expediting transportation industry. On this site, expediters find associations, communications, equipment, government resources, road and weather conditions, truck components, web sites, business information, carriers, freight services, health resources, news, software and truckstops.

  • Expedite Loads (www.expediteloads.com) provides load matching for the expedited freight industry.

  •  Expedite Mail (www.expeditemail.net) offers expediters a free e-mail account.

  • Expediters Online Net (www.expeditersonline.net) is an Internet Service Provider for expediters.

Other good web sites for expediters 

Express Trucking (www.expresstrucking.com) calls itself an information resource center for expediters. This site connects businesses and entrepreneurs in the industry, provides directors of truck manufacturers, equipment dealers and leasing companies, and offers business strategies and tricks of the trade.

Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (www.ooida.com) is important to expediters because they are owner-operators and many are OOIDA members. This site gives owner-operators updates on legislation, industry issues and news that affect them as owner-operators and drivers. Additionally, OOIDA's web site links to numerous web resources including: Land Line Magazine, the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, Interstate Highway Conditions, Road Watch America, The Federal Highway Administration, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, PBS Tax and Bookkeeping Service, Drivers Daily Log Program freeware, Truck Net, Layover's web page, The Trucker's Helper Software, and Harvard Business Services, to name a few.

When the Swigers found little information for expediters, they looked for basic practical information from Land Line, Road Star and Owner-Operator magazines, and especially The Maintenance Council. Gail Swiger serves as the only owner-operator on The Maintenance Council along with engineers, freight executives, maintenance workers and supplier representatives. The Maintenance Council discusses and researches maintenance issues related to the trucking industry. Gail is the first vice chairman of the council's cabin control study group. Her study group looks at things that affect cab comfort like heating, air-conditioning and interior lighting.

All these expediters have proven that if you want information, you will find it. These professional expediters have gone one step further by getting involved in sharing their newfound information with other expediters through web sites, forums and trucking associations.

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