The spot market for the trucking industry is where shippers go to move freight that is not specifically contracted with a carrier to move. It can be an overage, a random shipment or a situation where a contracted carrier can't provide capacity. The spot market is extremely volatile as most players who participate in it are aware. The driving factor for this instability is the volume of freight shipping at any given time. I've been in the spot market for 8 years and have never had contracts to rely on.
Here are 6 Ways to Thrive in the Spot Freight Market
- Increase fuel mileage: The lower the cost to operate, the more money you can make.
- Go where others don't want to go: certain regions of the country offer better rates than others. There's a good reason for that; it could be weather, lack of return freight or other market conditions. Find the most profitable lanes and stay in them. Data from DAT and Truckstop.com can help identify the hot spots and dead zones.
- Be patient: Just last week, I turned down a lot of load offers that required me to load 48,000# and to tarp. I resisted and finally a load popped up that was only 15,000# and required no tarp and even paid more than the others!
- Differentiate yourself from others: I have ramps, tarps and all the tools available to secure just about any shipment. I also have the ability to transport over dimensional freight which gives me a market advantage. Many times I've gotten good loads out of Florida, which is a terrible place for flatbeds, because I was able to haul what most couldn't. I don't have a TWIC card, but that would help me even more.
- Post your Truck: I have gotten a lot of loads that never hit the load board because I posted my truck on my load board as empty in whatever city I would unload in and what time/date. I've also gotten LTL loads en route. I'll post my truck in a city that I will drive through and indicate I have room for a partial shipment. That's gotten me an extra $800-$1000 on more than one occasion.
- Develop Relationships: I stay in close contact with brokers and agents and keep them informed of where I'm going and where I'm looking to go for the next load. I've even sent some of them gift certificates to their favorite restaurant on occasion when they've gone above and beyond to help me.