Flatbedder still ‘running the miles’ to beat rates, repackages debt via coronavirus relief

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In recent months, Overdrive has talked with dozens of owner-operators and small-fleet owners about their experiences through the COVID-19 economic downturn. We’re checking back with many of them to see how they’re faring as the economy slowly begins climbing back.

Andrew Brooks, his wife Sara and their 7-year-old daughter at the Mall of America earlier this year. The trio has been on the road since April trying to run as many miles as possible to make up for the rates downturn. He’s seen rates come back some in recent weeks, and he was able to take advantage of a Small Business Administration loan under the coronavirus relief package from Washington to consolidate his business debt.Andrew Brooks, his wife Sara and their 7-year-old daughter at the Mall of America earlier this year. The trio has been on the road since April trying to run as many miles as possible to make up for the rates downturn. He’s seen rates come back some in recent weeks, and he was able to take advantage of a Small Business Administration loan under the coronavirus relief package from Washington to consolidate his business debt.

“The whole family’s still on the road, running the miles, jumping from state to state.”

That’s independent flatbedder Andrew Brooks, who in April loaded up his wife and 7-year-old daughter into their 2014 Volvo VNL and since has been trying to run as many miles as possible to make up for the sluggish rates environment of recent months.

Since we last spoke in May, “rates have definitely improved,” said Brooks. “But we don’t want to get too comfortable. We thought about slowing down a few weeks ago,” he said, but decided to continue pressing to keep revenue flowing while they could, should states “suddenly go back into pandemic mode and shut everything down again.”

Brooks’ 2014 Volvo VNL and 2019 Utility flatbed. He owns and operates Raies Transportation with his wife Sara. “It’s a family business,” he said in May.Brooks’ 2014 Volvo VNL and 2019 Utility flatbed. He owns and operates Raies Transportation with his wife Sara. “It’s a family business,” he said in May.

The family does have a vacation of sorts planned in the coming weeks — a stop at the Grand Canyon and a trip to the Hoover Dam. And they were able to sneak in a week off recently to enjoy the summer, he said.

And like the five-truck reefer fleet CLM Express highlighted last week, Brooks was able to capitalize on the cheap, long-term loans being offered by the Small Business Administration as part of the CARES Act coronavirus relief package. SBA was providing 30-year loans to businesses at a 3.75% interest rate. Brooks took advantage of the loan offering and used it to consolidate all of his monthly debts — including the payment on his 2014 Volvo and his 2019 Utility flatbed, as well as some other loans at much higher rates.

The low monthly payment will help him stay nimble if needed, but he plans to knock the loan out in just a few years. “I could take five years to pay it back and still save $1,000 a month” from what he was paying, he says.

Comments from Andrew Brooks appeared in this story from May:

See other recent check-ins with owner-operators:

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