I would know my costs and question anything that pays less than $1.50/mile plus fuel surcharge. That’s roughly 2 times the “operating costs” for a aerodynamic tractor/trailer combination that gets 7 MPG on flat ground in ideal conditions. I would also minimize deadhead, and track my fuel mileage to the HUNDREDTH of a mile on pen and paper (or using an app such as Kevin Rutherford’s Gauges for Android).
Staying in a good lane helps maximize the profit and minimize the deadhead. Agricultural hauls (Cattle, Corn, Beans, and related products), oversize hauls and some HAZMAT hauls pay quite well, but costs to run a truck during such a haul may be a little higher, than let’s say, someone who is pulling a dry box.
If you pull a dry box or reefer, a light load is always better than a heavy load, provided the pay is the same, because it takes less fuel to move a light load than it does to move a heavier one.
Never take cheap freight UNLESS it’ll get you to an area where there is better selection of better paying freight.
Keeping an eye on the downtime (how much you sit, how much you IDLE, where you take downtime at) can have a HUGE impact on how much you make in a year. Getting down to the destination early also helps- if you have a 1,000 mile load that picks up Friday Morning and drops Monday, getting near your destination on Sunday will help you deliver on time AND offer opportunities for more loads in many areas.
Good load selection is critical to success. It’s up to the owner/operator to be selective, know his or her costs, and be willing to negotiate to get a better rate.