In parts one and two of the journey to independence, I wrote about working the spot market and developing relationships with brokers. In this blog, I want to talk about operating your business without using load boards or brokers.
I often hear owner-operators complain about just being a number or that they are being taken advantage of by brokers. To me, this is a free country, so if you don’t like the way their entities conduct business with your business, there are two choices. The first choice would be to put up with it or you can decide to do the hard work of securing your customers.
The second choice of finding my customers was the decision I made years ago. I often get asked how to secure direct customers and bypass the whole broker/ load-board scene. The first step in this process is to identify the market you would like to serve. In the trucking industry, the markets are almost limitless with how many sub-markets there are within any given market. For example, open deck freight can be anything from a standard flatbed trailer to a double drop trailer with a Conestoga roll tarp system.
The next step in the process of being independent is to identify the geographical area in which you plan to conduct your business. I have found success in this area by concentrating on a limited area, so relationships could be cultivated. In my case, I started by focusing on two cities and finding customers on either end, which had freight to be transported in both directions.
To many independent owner-operators, this type of operation would seem boring as you typically wear out a groove in the same set of roads day after day and week after week. To these people, I would say that boring has its advantages, such as knowing all of the intricacies of my customer's facilities. Thinking about this brings back memories of when I started as an open deck operator. At many of the customers, I would know exactly which tarps, straps, and the number of bungees that would be required to secure/protect the shipment. This saved me a lot of time and increased my productivity over my competition. The biggest benefit, however, was in knowing the customer's needs and preferences over my competitors.
The next question to be answered is whether there is room in the market you would like to serve? Stay tuned for part four of independence.