“It’s high-paced and hard work, but I get paid very well for it,” he says. In addition to his rig, Lohmeier’s Strollin’ West business leases seven other contractors working in LTL.
He’s usually required to load and unload boxes of plants and individual plants in packing sleeves. On a typical run back to the Midwest, he’ll make between 10 and 15 stops.
“I have what I have because of the service I give,” Lohmeier says. “Most people try to get work on price, and that’s a problem with this industry.”
Part of his service is meeting deadlines. He runs a 2009 Volvo and 2008 reefer to help ensure he’s on time. “I keep newer equipment, because when you have specialized stuff, breakdowns are unacceptable,” he says. “Everything I do is time-sensitive. If you don’t deliver freight on time or have some specialty, you’re just another [trucker] out here.” n
For these opportunities: Go West
Joe Rajkovacz of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association notes two potentially lucrative niches, but they’re clearly not for everyone.
OVERWEIGHT EXCEPTIONS. Operators used to hauling overweight loads might be able to tap into a niche in Great Plains and Rocky Mountain states. Many of these states are grandfathered in under federal size and weight rules, according to the Federal Highway Administration. For example, operators pulling a spread axle trailer can legally carry more than the 80,000-pound limit on interstate highways and other specified highways.
“If you’re pulling a spread axle trailer, say from Fargo, N.D., to Seattle, and you add an extra tag axle to your trailer, you can legally pull 92,000 pounds,” Rajkovacz says. “A lot of states you can run up and down the [road] with 86,000 pounds.”
PORT PAYOFF. A budding niche is permit loads bound for West Coast ports, such as Los Angeles and Long Beach. These loads often consist of heavy equipment for export or, more likely, for port use.
Haulers of these loads must meet stringent regulations imposed by the clean air-conscious California ports, including emissions restrictions. Rajkovacz recalls one operator who called to ask if his 1997 Kenworth truck was legal to enter the Port of Long Beach because he wanted to take on a permit load paying $12,000 that was posted on a load board. “I had to tell him he couldn’t go into the port [because of the age of his truck]. The permits would have cost about $1,800.”
Rajkovacz says the restrictions will create shortages of trucks that can serve those markets. He says rates are rising for loads designated for the ports because of a small pool of trucks that can qualify for the permits.
“You can’t simply drop the load and have it repowered the last five miles,” Rajkovacz says. “The permit covers going the entire distance to the port property with a specific truck and trailer pulling it.”