A happier new year

Brad Holthaus, Publisher

Less than a decade ago, you could buy a gallon of diesel for less than a dollar. Now, as we go to press, the national average price has jumped to a new record – $3.43.

You know better than I that fuel isn’t your only rising cost. Some major tire makers have announced price increases. The 2007 engine technology boosted truck prices by $6,000 to $10,000. Chances are you haven’t bought one of those new trucks, but many of you will do so to beat the next round of new, and more expensive, technology in 2010. Total owner-operator costs jumped 8 cents, to 99 cents per mile, from the first to the third quarter this year for clients of ATBS. That 8.8 percent increase in half a year is far more than creeping inflation.

How to respond? You can gripe, but that won’t help your bottom line. You can play the victim, but no one will rescue you.

Or you can face the reality that market forces are at work beyond your control. Then, assuming the costs you can control are as low as they should be, see whether your business is due for a holiday gift.

If you’re independent, you may need to increase rates, including your fuel surcharge, to keep pace with rising costs. This can be tough when trucks outnumber available freight, so be prepared to sell your superior service.

If you’re leased, make sure you receive fair market pay and a reasonable fuel surcharge. Otherwise you might need to find another fleet that will treat you more like a valued business partner.

It’s difficult to step back from the daily grind of the road and see whether you need to make changes to keep up with a market that’s passing you by. But when that’s the case, making the right change will be, as the old expression says, the gift that keeps on giving.

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