Getting in the Groove


It’s been three full weeks since I got linked up with my current broker/boss, and things are finally settling down to a somewhat predictable pattern.  Not that the job is predictable, but I’ve been getting steady runs and getting home on weekends.  Nothing to complain about there!

It’s also been a learning experience, as everything in this business has been so far.  I’m finally getting in a groove, figuring out ways to save time, money, and fuel, and getting all of my loads where they need to be in the absolute minimum time frame, and doing it all legally, within the constraints the DOT imposes on drivers.

The second trick involved was figuring out how to do this and maximize profits.  I’m still chipping away at that one and learning a little more every day I drive.  I’ve never been a real nit-picky record keeper… but that is changing.  I log everything now and really pay attention to what I’m spending, minimize unnecessary stops and don’t buy anything I don’t absolutely have to buy.  It seems to be helping a lot.

Not that there haven’t been some problems along the way… as usual things happen that are unforeseen and that cut into the bottom line.

Like my auxiliary fuel tank pump going out last week.  So my trip to Ohio and Kentucky took a bit longer than it might have otherwise since I had to really watch the fuel gauge and make multiple additional fuel stops.  Which hurt a little as prices were extremely variable in different states on the route.  I had to pay $4.19 at the highest, in Ohio, and got the best price in Missouri at $3.87.

But BB got a new pump on for me yesterday and added a gauge for the aux tank so I’ll actually have a better idea of when that tank is getting low.  Before that gauge was installed I had to do a little game of counting seconds the pump was running, try to figure out how much fuel had been sent to the main tank, and try to keep track of what was left in the aux.  Now I can monitor it a whole lot more accurately and stop playing guessing games.  And the replacement pump was free, we got it exchanged.  All good.

And then I had a strap break on a mountain road in Kentucky in a construction zone, and had to pull over and replace it as soon as I got out of the one-lane cone zone.  That was fun.  Not!  When I got back one of the things we had to do was go strap shopping, and BB generously bought me 4 new straps.  I thought that was pretty darned nice of him considering I had the money to do it, but he wanted to do it for me.

And then things happen that are just plain scary.  I had one of these with my load shifting on a hard bump.  Not enough to be super dangerous, but it freaked me out and had me watching the load the rest of the trip.  I re-routed and got to the receiver who was getting the stack that shifted first just to get it off my trailer and out of my mind.  I was extremely happy to see that stack go!

But it also made me think about routing, getting the big part of the load off first on multiple drop runs.  It just made sense to lighten up the load as soon as possible which also helped tremendously on my bottom line, and probably added a couple of hundred in profit not hauling the whole load an extra hundred miles.  Things you learn as you go along….

I’m getting a better feel for trip planning and fuel consumption with a load on.  It helps a lot that these loads are fairly standard on most trips, and there is a definite maximum number of beds that they can put on my trailer.  The biggest variables now are terrain and wind.  On a good, still day, I can get upwards of 8 mpg with a full load.  If the wind is a headwind, I can just about plan on getting around 6 mpg.  With a good tailwind, I can squeak 9 mpg out of the deal.  Steep hills will take it down to 5mpg, but fortunately most places I go have fairly moderate terrain.

I’m still working on figuring out the best running speed with a load on.  I’ve been running between 60 and 65 mostly, not slow enough to tick off other traffic, but not so fast as to waste fuel.  There’s got to be a sweet spot there somewhere to maximize my fuel mileage, and I’m determined to find it.  Having the gauge on the aux tank will help a lot with that.

The other thing about the aux tank is I can load up on cheaper fuel and bypass those high priced truck stops.  It works to my advantage most of the time.  The only thing there is that sometimes I fill up with the cheapest available fuel, then, 100 miles down the road I see it a lot cheaper.  That’s sort of aggravating, but then again, if I want to make the most miles I can in the time I have, I cant’ spend all day driving around waiting for a cheap deal on diesel.

One of my biggest problems out on the road has been finding motels with actual parking for trucks.  It’s a real trick fitting that 40′ trailer into most motel parking lots, and most are simply too small to even try getting it in there.  So I am learning to figure how far I can run, then check the internet for motels that have truck parking, then I look at them on google maps or mapquest and make sure that their idea of truck parking is actually a space big enough to get my rig into safely.  And with room to get out of it once it’s in there!

When I’m out there and haven’t known where I was going to stop, I call BB and he does the looking on the internet and gives me addresses for good motels wherever I end up at.  Sometimes that’s just the ticket to finding a good place to stop.

On the down side, a lot of the motels that have good truck parking have less than stellar rooms.  A couple of places have been downright nasty-dirty, but I guess that’s just part of the game.  I got a whole lot less particular about motel rooms once truck parking became the number 1 priority.  On the up side, a lot of these motels are pretty cheap comparatively.  So it’s all about trade-offs.  And when the bottom line is trying to maximize profit, I guess I can put up with a few icky rooms.  But I do look real hard to make sure there aren’t any bugs… don’t need bedbugs following me home!  Gaaaakkkk!

At any rate, I’m starting to get comfortable with the cargo I’m hauling, but not to the point of being lazy about tying it down good, checking and re-checking straps, and keeping an eye on that trailer constantly while hauling it.  It’s not quite as stressful as it was hauling the big, heavy, oil field stuff, and the places I’m going are a lot less hilly than where the old carrier was sending me.

So overall, I’m still learning, but it’s getting down to practical, useful knowledge that’s really helping my bottom line.  And it’s great to have steady loads and predictable days off.  I’m really liking this a lot, little problems aside, and if things keep going like they have been, I foresee a pretty good first year in this business.

That’s what I’m aiming for, anyway!  I’m finding out a lot more of this business is about planning and minimizing expenses, and maximizing time.  I’m learning at any rate, and that’s a good thing.  As it stands today, I’m averaging about $900 per week after expenses, and before taxes.  So I think it’s going pretty well.   Whether it will continue remains to be seen, but I’m optimistic that it will.

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