Back in 1988, I was much younger, full of vigor, and racing stock cars. I learned many things from racing that helped me as an independent owner-operator. Just the other day, I came across my old racing notebook. In this notebook were checklists, notes on how the car performed in various track conditions, and many other details. The long and short of it is, that this notebook helped me prepare the car properly in order to win the race. The more I followed my notes, the easier it became to win. In fact, this led to a championship in the year 1988 where my team won 10 out of 20 races, 19 top 3 finishes, and one where we were leading until a tire disintegrated on the last lap and we finished 13th.
The season prior to this championship was when I started that notebook. During this time, we started keeping track of how long the components lasted until they failed, how different setups performed under different track conditions, tire temperatures, tire pressures, and much, much more.
When we discovered how long different components lasted before they failed, replacements of these components were scheduled halfway before that time. In some cases, we were able to sell (at a reduced cost) our used, but still working, parts to competitors who couldn't afford new components, while at the same time improving our own reliability with the new equipment.
Fast forward to starting my independent owner-operator trucking career. I used this same methodology of keeping notes on items such as customers, key contact people, particular likes or dislikes of said customers, fuel mileage and what it took to attain it, oil analysis, tire wear, performance from different types of tires, and even notes on how different axle configurations performed. For example, comparing notes on the operating costs on my spread axle trailer vs. a closed tandem air ride slider axle trailer helped me to determine that between tire wear maintenance and fuel mileage, the air ride slider axle configuration reduced my operating costs enough to almost make it a free trailer over a spread axle trailer in a five year period. Without notes, none of this would've been possible. I also credit my notes on maintenance for the fact that since 1996, I only ever needed a tow truck once.
A wise person once told me, “Anything that is worth changing, first needs to be able to be measured”. Keeping notes is most important in the area of increased fuel efficiency. In my notes regarding fuel efficiency, the weight of the load, traffic conditions, weather conditions along with driving style are recorded. Having these notes on fuel mileage enables me to figure out what’s helping, along with items that are detrimental to maximum efficiency.
Revenue during a weekly period is also important to track because there are times when increasing your speed to generate more revenue-producing miles can outweigh the savings generated by driving slower, with increased fuel efficiency. This is an area that needs to be tracked very carefully. In most situations, the fuel efficiency gained by driving slower will generally outweigh any revenue increase generated by higher speeds.
In closing, keeping notes has been one of the keys to a long and profitable career. Some people keep notes on spreadsheets, while others do it in handwritten form. In my case, there are items that I track with spreadsheets while other items are kept in writing. I guess it's my age, but somehow, writing a note down by hand registers with me better. It’s up to each person to keep notes however best seems to fit for them.