The Time Of Your Life

Take note of predictable freight cycles that can be used to your benefit.

No one has figured out how to harness star-gazing to make more money in trucking. However, there is something to be gained from watching the calendar, though it has nothing to do with your astrological sign.

Take note of predictable freight cycles that can be used to your benefit, says Richard DeForest, a vice president with Colorado-based American Truck Business Services, which serves thousands of owner-operators. Of course, there are exceptions, but if you pay attention to the general cycles, as well as anything particular to your operation, you can make the calendar work for you. DeForest notes these typical patterns:

WEEKLY. Friday is the busiest day, followed by Monday. Where you can spare the weekend, plan to be under load Friday at least through Monday.

MONTHLY. The first week is slowest, followed by two moderate weeks. The final week is the busiest.

QUARTERLY. Each quarter’s activity increases from the first through the third month.

YEARLY. Expect a slow first quarter, then moderate demand for two quarters and finally a busy year-end.

These patterns tend to get overlooked, DeForest says. “No one talks to the driver about it,” he says. “Consequently, he finds himself out of sync with the freight cycles.”
Many dry van and reefer customers fall into the annual pattern, DeForest says. In one recent year, “One of the top 10 truckload carriers mentioned to me they couldn’t possibly cover all the freight they had to haul before and after Christmas,” he says. “There were too many people off duty and so much freight available.” Other types of hauling, such as construction materials or household goods, will experience peaks before the fourth quarter.

As for the monthly pattern, “It would be unusual to find industries not in that cycle,” DeForest says, because of the pressure “to book sales before the end of the month.”

Be aware of seasonal cycles, too. In some cases, a shipper might be willing to pay a premium to move shrubbery in the spring or Christmas trees in November.

If you’re leased to a fleet and are unsure about its freight cycles, ask someone in management. Use that information not only to ensure that you are available at the peak periods and get the best choice of hauls, but also to plan your year. Schedule regular time off, vacations and downtime for planned maintenance during the slowest periods. Find the best use for each day and you’ll be better off for it.


ANOTHER AREA TO CONTROL

Working in tandem with freight cycles is one key way to control your time. To be even more profitable, take more control over your finances:

  • Every month, pay all bills, including credit card balances in full, and balance your checkbook.
  • If you don’t know why your money evaporates so quickly, keep a record of expenditures for six months and use it to work out a budget.
  • Refuse any non-essential credit purchase if you can’t pay it off on the next statement.
  • Devise a system with your accountant for filing all paperwork that works for both of you.
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