By Chad Boblett
Like it or not, ELDs are coming. The good news? Rates are going to go up. Here’s why.
You can’t drive as many miles in a day when you’re running with an ELD. This is especially true when you have strict appointment times, when you’re detained for any reason, and when you need extra time to find parking.
If you’ve been using paper logs all along, you know that there are times when it’s really hard to make everything work without a little “editing” of the logs.
To be successful as an owner-operator, you need to cover your expenses. That includes driver pay, even when you’re the driver. There are two ways to do that: run more miles, or charge a higher rate per mile. The paper logs can provide flexibility, up to a point, to gain just enough time to run those extra miles, but ELDs are not flexible. After December 18, the only solution will be to get higher rates.
Luckily there will be a lot of freight available, and there will be less competition. Trucks will run fewer miles per day every time a driver cuts his day short to find parking before the clock runs out, or a truck gets held overnight because the driver ran out of hours while waiting at the dock. It will happen thousands of times a day, all over the country, costing an hour here and there.
Brokers are going to need you more than ever, and they’re going to have more of certain types of jobs that you may not have handled before: power-only and team loads.
The large mega-fleets have been preparing for the ELD mandate for years, by building trailer inventory at their big shipper customers. These are the same shippers that give loads to the brokers. Big carriers save a lot of time and effort when the shipper pre-loads the trailers and the driver just bobtails in for a drop and hook. If a broker calls you with one of these power-only loads, and you’re able to leave your trailer at home, it could be an opportunity to learn about this side of the business. I’m going to write a separate blog post with some tips on power-only hauls. Last year was the first year I pulled more of other companies’ trailers than I did my own. I made good money, and I didn’t waste valuable time loading and unloading.
My prediction: Team loads are going to be much more popular on hauls of 500 miles or more, especially if the shipper wants next-day service. A single driver may not be able to make that happen with ELDs. One traffic snarl or a poorly timed break could derail the whole operation, no matter what the speed limit might be. Team drivers can deliver next day. If you want to pursue team loads as an owner-operator, you’ll need to hire a driver, and that’s a big commitment. The advantage is that your team could specialize in long hauls and expedited runs.
When everyone is on the clock, and there’s no wiggle room, truckers are going to start charging more for anything that makes it harder to manage their time. Loads with strict appointment times will cost more. Brokers will pay a premium to secure a truck that can meet the shipper’s obligation. If the shipper detains your truck, you’re going to charge more for that, too. Ditto when your truck is ordered but not used (TONU). Get all the details written into the rate agreement. This will be a learning experience.
How to Win With ELDs
1) Reward shippers and brokers for flexibility in loading and unloading. Otherwise, charge extra when appointment times are strict or detention is excessive.
2) Plan in advance for breaks, fuel stops, and parking. When you run out of hours, you’re out. No more flexibility.
3) Most important: Start now to build relationships with professional, knowledgeable brokers. They’re going to need access to reliable carriers, and if they like working with you, they’ll call you first.
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