Rates, lanes on Labor Day weekend and beyond: A new resource

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Updated Sep 2, 2014

I’m putting together a feature on some of the tools and tactics out there for owner-operators with their own authority to capitalize on the rate dynamic we’ve seen over the last year or so. The load-to-truck metric in any given geographical area, available from most load-board services provided you’re a member, is a fairly good indicator of where you stand in terms of negotiating power, if you’re using brokers. Few trucks in an area + an overabundance of available loads = $.

That’s oversimplifying it, but you get the drift.

Line-haul averages for your segment are a good rate marker as well. But as Kentucky-based owner-operator and sometime independent O-O dispatcher Chad Boblett this week reminded the listeners of Rico Muhammad’s “Rates and Lanes” podcast, part of Kevin Rutherford Let’s Truck/AudioRoad Blog Talk Radio network, if you’re not doing any direct freight but are relying solely on the spot freight market and brokers, when you look at the per-mile averages in your particular segment (van, flat, reefer), you ought to be getting a fair amount more than the spot average if you want to truly thrive.

Figured into those averages are strategic “back hauls,” or moves that have functioned solely to get a carrier back to home base for his/her bread-and-butter direct-shipper run, often moving for a rate significantly lower than what should otherwise be possible, bringing down the average.

Here’s where spot linehaul rates (including fuel surcharge — early versions of the story stated the following rates didn’t reflect FSC; apologies for the error) stood earlier in the week, from DAT’s weekly Trendlines release, a snapshot of metrics from freight booked via its network (you can sign up to receive the company’s rate updates via email newsletter yourself at this link):

DAT 8-23-14 line haul ratesIn the Rates and Lanes podcast (embedded at bottom), owner-operator Boblett, filling in for Muhammad (with whom Boblett occasionally cohosts), also talked a little about rate and volume dynamics over long weekends — such as the one we’re in right now. His strategy’s always been to get himself home for such slow-freight periods, but all the same, for those who didn’t have such a luxury, he offered some states up for van, reefer and flat haulers where the volume of outgoing loads was a good deal higher than the incoming loads, another good marker of rate-negotiating power. “Wherever you deliver Friday will be critical on how the next four days play out for you,” Boblett said. “If I had the option and there’s a holiday coming up, I want to be home … But if you’re in a state that doesn’t have a good ratio — the amount of loads coming in is higher than that amount of loads going out — a lot of people will just be going home early.”

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Thursday or Friday, Boblett said, these states were good places to be for negotiating power to take you through the weekend, he said: 

Van: Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. HONORABLE MENTIONS: Pennsylvania and (“believe it or not,” Boblett said) New York (“maybe not on a Friday”). 

Reefer: Arkansas, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Washington and Wisconsin. 

Flat: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Virginia.

I spoke Thursday with Boblett, also the proprietor/moderator at the quite active Rate Per Mile Masters Facebook group. His essential strategy on loads he calls, essentially and simply, working the high-demand areas. I’ll get more into it, ultimately, but you surely get the idea. To run as he does, and I know many of you do, first you’ve got to be willing to vary your lanes, not be tied to a particular area, for better or worse. True irregular-route trucking, working with brokers, is what it is. And the states he ran down above, he said, were showing a lot more outgoing loads in those segments this week than they were incoming (the latter would be your competition there, of course). In today’s capacity environment, there’s money to be had for those who know how to work the system.

Boblett noted his loaded-mile rate average with a van trailer over the first six months of this year was $3.40 per mile. “There’s an interest in getting a better rate per mile out there,” he says. “The money is there, you just have to ask for it, know where to look for it and know how to set yourself up for it.” 

My question for you today is — were you in any of the states listed above loading prior to the weekend? If so, was Boblett right? Let me know in the comments, and feel free to share any tips on the load boards you use for analysis of areas. Boblett’s determining incoming/outgoing ratios with just a basic subscription to DAT’s TruckersEdge service, fyi. What are you using? 

Those interested can listen to the conversation on last Wednesday’s Rates and Lanes broadcast via the embed below. 

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