DAT Solutions: Go where the loads are

Special to Land Line | 3/30/2016

In trucking, you don’t always know where the work will take you. That’s part of the appeal.

But staying in business requires knowing (and going) where the freight is. Here are a few basic rules to help you build more profitable routes, plus some real-world routing strategies using the MembersEdge load board from the week ending Saturday, March 26.


Plan every trip as a roundup
If you’re starting from a place with above-average outbound rates, you can turn a so-so roundtrip into a really good one. For example, let’s compare loads out of Memphis going to Chicago and Columbus.

The load to Columbus pays 12 cents more per mile and has about 50 more loaded miles. But Chicago has more loads available coming back to Memphis, and the average rate is 30 cents higher on the return trip.

The roundtrip average for Memphis-Chicago-Memphis is $1.60 per mile while Columbus pays $1.51. But Memphis-Columbus-Memphis gives you 100 more loaded miles and $70 more for the two-day trip.

Both roundtrips are good, but Chicago is better. You make almost the same money in two days, there are more loads to choose from, and you’ll save about $35 in fuel and put 100 fewer miles on your truck.

Super-size it
Why settle for a roundtrip when you can add a third profitable leg on the route?

If you’re based in Columbus, you might decide to go to Memphis because you know the return trip is good. Or you could take a load to Chicago first, and then take another load from Chicago to Memphis. That’s a tri-haul.

You can go home the same way: one load from Memphis to Chicago, and a second load from Chicago to Columbus.

Instead of leaving Columbus for a 1,200-mile roundtrip with two loads, now you have a 1,800-mile trip with four loads. That adds about 50 percent more loaded miles, and the rate per mile is higher: You average $1.88 instead of $1.51.

You’ll add a day or a day and a half to your trip, but it’s worth it if the schedule works. After that detour to Chicago, you’ll come away with almost $3,300 instead of $1,800. That could be a good week.


Go where the loads are going to be
You can get valuable clues about where the competition is – and isn’t – by looking at DAT’s free online Trendlines. You’ll see Hot State Maps showing the relative number of loads posted versus trucks by equipment type, and a separate set of regional maps showing the going rates in the region’s major cities. A ratio of 3 posted loads or more to every posted truck usually indicates a competitive advantage for truckers.  

Look for the latest load availability and rate information at OOIDA’s MyMembersEdge.com. And tune in to Land Line Now this week, where Terry Scruton talks with DAT’s Ralph Galantine for more details on spot truckload rates.

(Editor’s note: The analysis above is provided to Land Line as a reader service from DAT Solutions. Rates and trends reported are reflected in the DAT Solutions network of load boards.)

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