Adaptation is a Good Thing…

As I’ve gotten further into my hot shot adventures I’ve learned a couple of interesting tidbits which I’ll be happy to share with you.  They really are small seeming things, but in reality have made a huge difference in the business, and both required me to reassess and to make adaptations.

Now, my personal motto is “Adapt or Die,” and I was irritated beyond belief to hear this coming out of, oh, I think it was Brad Pitt’s mouth on some movie trailer on TV just the other day.  I’ve been carrying that motto for decades, and now this pretty boy makes it sound well, trite.  And that’s not how I mean it.  I really do mean it.  If you get my drift.  Anyway, I’m getting off the point here, which is, if you can’t adapt to unexpected circumstances you’re only hurting yourself.  And I mean this in the business sense of things.

Now, the things I’ve learned recently… For one thing, a bigger trailer does not necessarily mean a bigger settlement check.

Another thing I’ve learned along the way is that, although having a lot of extra fuel on the truck is a great thing, if your auxiliary tank springs a leak you’re in a bit of trouble.

Imagine my horror at finding diesel fuel all over my truck bed when I stopped for the night on a run back east!  All I could do was run as much fuel as would fit down to the main tank and hold my breath, hoping I got it drained down past the leak.  The worst part was that until the tank was off the truck we couldn’t even find the leaky spot.  Luckily, I lost only a minimal amount of fuel, but learned a little lesson about aluminum welds.

Based on the info above, I recently sold my 40′ trailer and got a 20′ to replace it.

I also took the big 100 gallon aux tank off of the truck.  I’m replacing it with a more modest 38 gallon tank.  A good solid steel tank this time.  No more aluminum for moi.  I still have the flexibility with the smaller aux tank to load up on cheaper fuel, but don’t have a) the excess extra weight, b) the lost bed space the big tank used up, or c) the worry that the aluminum tank will spring another leak.  So I’m happy with the smaller tank as a compromise.

But back to the trailer situation… That 40′ trailer was like a cheap load magnet for me.  Maybe this isn’t the case for other hot shots, but I have no idea since hot shots seem to be the most closed-mouthed people in the trucking industry.  So I just have to go with what I know and trust my own instincts.

At any rate, the people wanting to book the 40′ wanted it loaded down as much as possible, and didn’t want to pay diddly squat once their freight was on board.  Why this is, I can’t tell you.  I can only guess that the 40′ is as close to a big truck flatbed as you can get without actually hiring one, and the people booking it want something a lot cheaper than a full flatbed price.  What they don’t want is to pay actual hot shot rates.  Most of these loads were ok paying, but just ok.  Not a lot of margin for profit in most of them.

Now, the 20′ makes me a lot more per mile as it’s a whole heck of a lot lighter and cheaper to pull.  People booking it actually see it as a hot shot rig, and are willing to pay hot shot rates to get it.  It must be some sort of mental image thing, I don’t know, but I figure that 20′ will earn me a lot more profit than the poor old overworked 40′ ever would.

As a matter of fact, my biggest check yet came from a wimpy looking one-pallet load that fit on the back of my truck, but that I carted way up north, dropped off, then two days later picked up again and carted way south.  No trailer needed.  And the worst paying load I have hauled to date completely loaded my 40′ trailer to capacity and went less than 100 miles.  Go figure!

Which brings me to another thing I had to learn the hard way… day truck rates.  In my own defense, it did only take me one crummy short run to figure out that you have to have a set day rate on the truck for trips under 100 miles, and stick to it.  Otherwise you don’t make enough to turn over the engine.  So now I do, and haven’t hauled any freight near or far on the cheap for quite a while.

Which is really the point of adaptation in the first place, isn’t it.  Taking what we learn, assessing how it’s working or failing, and making decisions to correct problems before they get out of hand.  Therefore, I say adaptation is a good thing.  And I’m sticking to it.


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