Partners in Business: Managing your time

“Time is money,” Benjamin Franklin wrote. These tips can help you make the equation.

THIS ARTICLE IS FROM the 2006 edition of the Overdrive Partners in Business manual, co-written by American Truck Business Services, presenter of the Partners in Business seminars. The program is sponsored by Freightliner Trucks and Castrol. The next seminar will be Aug. 25, during the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas. To order a manual, call (800) 633-5953, Ext. 1135. Visit this site for further excerpts and program information.

The owner-operator has to look at time off differently from the company driver. If a company driver takes a day off, he loses only the opportunity to boost his paycheck. If an owner-operator takes a day off, he not only loses that opportunity to earn money but can’t escape the $100 per day fixed costs of truck payments, insurance premiums and other items.

To minimize the effects of time off, look for loads that take you “through” home rather than “to” home. The latter can interrupt your revenue stream and require additional time to get back up to full speed again. Here are some other tips:

  • Take vacation time or plan major work on your tractor during the first week or two of the quarter (early January, April, July and October). Never take time off during the last two weeks of the quarter (or the last week of the month), when freight is most abundant.
  • Schedule personal business on weekends when possible. It is too expensive to reduce your available work hours on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, when you are more likely to have good miles to run. Taking time off in the middle of the week interrupts your revenue stream, and getting back up to speed takes additional time.
  • After taking time off, plan your return to work as soon as possible and early in the day. Be ready to pick up a load by the busiest time of the week – Friday morning – and let your dispatcher know ahead of time when you will be available.
  • Make the most of your waiting time. You can check your tires and lights, clean your windows and review maintenance records. You also can use waiting time for personal business, such as taking a walk, answering mail or organizing clutter.

PLAN TRIPS MORE EFFICIENTLY

  • Deliver on time. If you deliver late, the consignee may assign your dock door to another driver and put you last on the list. Delivering 15 minutes late can cost a whole day or even an entire weekend.
  • Deliver as early in the day as possible so that you have a cushion of time to get dispatched onto your next load. On appointment loads, deliver 30 minutes early. An empty trailer gives you plenty of options, but a load sitting on your trailer gives you only one option: waiting.
  • Get the most possible miles in over a weekend to make the most of your time. Match your miles with the time you have available to drive. Plan Friday morning what you will do for the next three days.
  • You have to manage the cost of fuel and fuel taxes, as well as the cost of time to fuel, which is usually about 45 minutes per stop. The typical owner-operator carries 200 gallons of fuel or more, but buys only 100 gallons at a time. Often it saves time to put 175 gallons in the tanks instead of continually topping off with 100 gallons or less.

THE SUCCESSFUL OWNER-OPERATOR’S DAY PLANNER
For a good chance of success in making every week profitable, look at the unique advantages and disadvantages of every day of the week. Your specific plan will vary depending on the weekly cycle of your region, typical length of haul, personal requirements and other factors. The needs of customers and dispatch, too, have to be considered.

SUNDAY. It’s like getting in an extra day if you can pick up or deliver on Sunday, since this typically isn’t a day for either task. Being able to make the most of Sunday gives you a good head start on the week and can reduce the time pressure you may encounter later.

MONDAY. Profitable owner-operators deliver on Monday. Why? Because delivering the first load of the week on Monday lets you start your week with miles already generated and leaves time to be profitable during the rest of the week. There are more load opportunities on Monday than on Tuesday. Merely leaving home on Monday, rather than delivering your first load, means you are, in a sense, a day late in your drive to be profitable.

TUESDAY. Unless it’s a 2,000-mile trip, delivering the first load of the week on Tuesday means the week usually won’t be profitable. Tuesday is the day to take a hard look at how many miles you have and how many more you need to have a profitable week.

WEDNESDAY. About half of your gross revenue for the week should already be earned. The other half of your gross revenue should be generated by Saturday.

THURSDAY. This can be the make-or-break day of the week. A load picked up on Thursday should either be short enough (less than 600 miles) to deliver on Friday, or it should provide enough miles (at least 1,600) to carry you through the weekend. Ideally, try to average around 550 to 600 miles per day for the trip, although on Thursday it’s almost always better to take a 350-mile trip and deliver it on Friday. Turning down a short run just because it would mean laying over until Friday is an expensive mistake. A 350-mile load may be the one that can make the whole week profitable.

FRIDAY. This is usually the best day for freight. Being under a load with the longest possible miles over the weekend will make the best use of your time. Make the next week profitable by delivering Monday (unless the trip is short enough to deliver on Saturday or Sunday, or long enough to deliver on Tuesday).

SATURDAY. The week is over, and your work and planning should have resulted in a profitable operation. But like Sunday, Saturday is a bonus day if you can pick up or deliver a load.

A weekly plan is not easy and does not always work out. However, over time it will contribute to your success.

The Business Manual for Owner-Operators
Overdrive editors and ATBS present the industry’s best manual for prospective and committed owner-operators. You’ll find exceptional depth on many issues in the 2021 edition of Partners in Business.
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