7 Things you can (should) do to grow your trucking business during a crisis

28 May 2024

The trucking industry is experiencing a challenging market, and businesses need to explore new strategies to increase profits. The industry faces several issues such as high fuel costs, rising labor costs, and increasing competition. To improve profitability, trucking businesses need to adopt innovative and proactive measures. In this article, we’ll discuss ways to increase trucking business profits in the current market.

1. Invest in Technology:

Investing in technology can help reduce costs, optimize operations, and improve efficiency. For instance, fleet management software can streamline operations by optimizing routes, reducing fuel consumption, and minimizing idle time. A study by Frost & Sullivan found that fleet management systems can reduce fuel expenses by up to 15%, which can translate to significant savings, especially during a crisis.

Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) are another essential investment. They ensure compliance with hours of service regulations, thereby helping to avoid costly penalties. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), ELDs can save approximately $705 per driver annually by reducing the amount of time spent on paperwork and increasing compliance.

Telematics is also crucial for tracking vehicle performance and fuel consumption. By using telematics, companies can monitor driving behaviors, such as harsh braking or rapid acceleration, which can lead to excessive fuel use and increased maintenance costs. The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) reports that telematics can improve fuel efficiency by up to 25%, further enhancing profitability.

Moreover, integrating these technologies can provide valuable data insights, enabling better decision-making and long-term strategic planning. During a crisis, having a robust technological infrastructure can make your business more resilient, adaptable, and competitive in the market.

2. Optimize Load Planning:

Load planning is a critical factor that directly impacts profitability in the trucking industry. Efficient load planning can significantly reduce the number of empty miles—those unproductive miles driven with an empty truck—thereby improving fuel efficiency and overall operational efficiency. According to the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), empty miles can account for up to 20% of total miles driven by trucks. Reducing these empty miles can lead to substantial savings in fuel costs and wear and tear on vehicles.

To optimize load planning, businesses can leverage advanced load optimization tools and software. These tools use algorithms to determine the most efficient route and load configuration, taking into account factors such as delivery schedules, truck capacities, and route constraints. By using these tools, businesses can ensure that each truck is fully utilized and operating on the most efficient route possible.

For example, companies using load optimization software have reported a reduction in empty miles by up to 10-15%, according to industry studies. This not only helps in cutting down fuel expenses but also increases the number of loads a truck can handle in a given period, thereby boosting revenue.

Additionally, collaborating with freight brokers and utilizing digital freight matching platforms can help in finding backhauls more efficiently. These platforms connect shippers with carriers who have available capacity, thereby reducing empty miles and improving load efficiency.

Implementing a dynamic load planning strategy that adapts to real-time conditions, such as traffic, weather, and load availability, can further enhance efficiency. By continuously monitoring and adjusting routes and loads, businesses can ensure optimal performance and profitability even during challenging times.

3. Control Fuel Costs:

It’s important for trucking businesses to control fuel costs, which can be a significant expense. Fuel-efficient driving, reducing idle time, and choosing cost-effective fuel options are some measures businesses can take. However, one effective strategy to manage fuel costs is by using fuel cards. Fuel cards like TSS Fuel Cards provide businesses with the ability to manage fleet fuel costs and offer some of the best discounts on the market. With TSS Fuel Cards, businesses can access real-time fuel pricing, track fuel purchases, and monitor fuel consumption, all in one place. Additionally, TSS Fuel Cards offer fuel discounts at over 20,000 fueling locations nationwide, providing businesses with significant savings on fuel costs. By partnering with fuel card providers and negotiating fuel prices, trucking businesses can reduce costs, improve profitability, and stay competitive in the market.

4. Focus on Customer Satisfaction:

In the trucking industry, customer satisfaction is a pivotal factor that can determine the success and growth of your business. By prioritizing excellent service, companies can attract and retain customers, which directly translates to increased profits and business stability, especially during challenging times.

One of the most effective ways to enhance customer satisfaction is by building strong relationships with your clients. This can be achieved through consistent communication, reliability, and by going above and beyond to meet their needs. For instance, keeping customers informed about their shipment status through real-time tracking and proactive notifications can significantly enhance their experience. Studies have shown that companies that excel in customer service can increase their revenue by 4-8% above their market average.

Additionally, focusing on timely deliveries and minimizing delays can build trust and reliability. The American Trucking Associations (ATA) highlights that on-time delivery is one of the top criteria shippers consider when choosing a carrier. By consistently meeting delivery deadlines, businesses can secure repeat business and generate positive word-of-mouth referrals.

Exploring new ways to add value to your services can also set your business apart from competitors. For example, offering expedited delivery options for time-sensitive shipments can cater to clients who require fast turnaround times. Special handling services for fragile or high-value goods can also attract niche markets that need extra care for their cargo. According to Logistics Management, customers are willing to pay a premium for services that add value and meet specific needs, which can lead to higher profit margins.

5. Diversify Your Services:

Diversification is a strategic approach that can help trucking businesses mitigate risk and tap into new revenue streams. By expanding your service offerings beyond traditional trucking, you can reduce dependence on a single source of income and create a more resilient business model.

One effective way to diversify is by entering the warehousing sector. Providing warehousing services can help you offer end-to-end logistics solutions to your clients. This can be particularly attractive to customers who are looking for a one-stop-shop for their supply chain needs. According to the Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC), the warehousing industry has seen consistent growth, driven by the rise in e-commerce and the need for more sophisticated supply chain solutions. By offering warehousing services, you can capitalize on this growth and provide value-added services such as inventory management, cross-docking, and order fulfillment.

Another avenue for diversification is to expand into logistics and supply chain management services. By offering comprehensive logistics solutions, you can help your clients streamline their supply chains, reduce costs, and improve efficiency. This can include services such as freight forwarding, customs brokerage, and distribution management. The global logistics market is projected to reach $12.68 trillion by 2023, highlighting the immense potential for growth in this sector.

Brokerage services are another area where trucking businesses can diversify. By acting as an intermediary between shippers and carriers, you can leverage your industry expertise and network to match loads with available capacity. This not only creates a new revenue stream but also enhances your service offering, making you a more valuable partner to your clients. The freight brokerage market in the United States alone is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.5% from 2020 to 2025, presenting significant opportunities for growth.

6.Reduce Overhead Costs:

Reducing overhead costs is a crucial strategy for improving profitability in the trucking industry. Overhead costs include various fixed and variable expenses such as office rent, utilities, insurance, and payroll. By carefully analyzing and managing these costs, businesses can enhance their financial performance without compromising on quality or service.

Implement Energy-Efficient Practices: One effective way to reduce overhead costs is by implementing energy-efficient practices. For example, switching to LED lighting in your offices and warehouses can significantly lower electricity bills. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, LED lights use at least 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent lighting. Additionally, installing programmable thermostats can optimize heating and cooling systems, reducing energy consumption and costs.

Negotiate Better Insurance Rates: Insurance is a significant expense for trucking companies. By regularly reviewing and negotiating insurance policies, businesses can potentially secure better rates. It’s beneficial to work with an insurance broker who understands the trucking industry and can shop around for the best coverage at the most competitive prices. Moreover, implementing safety programs and training can reduce claims and help lower insurance premiums over time.

Outsource Non-Core Activities: Outsourcing non-core activities can also lead to substantial savings. Functions such as accounting, IT support, and human resources can be outsourced to specialized firms, allowing your business to focus on core operations. Outsourcing can reduce the need for full-time staff, office space, and equipment, leading to lower overhead costs. According to Deloitte, companies that outsource non-core activities can reduce operational costs by 15-20%.

Regular Financial Audits: Conducting regular financial audits can help identify areas where costs can be cut. Audits can uncover inefficiencies and highlight unnecessary expenses that can be eliminated or reduced. By continuously monitoring your financial health, you can make informed decisions that keep overhead costs in check.

7. Evaluate Pricing Strategy:

Evaluating and optimizing your pricing strategy is crucial for maintaining profitability and competitiveness in the trucking industry. A well-thought-out pricing strategy ensures that you cover your costs, offer value to your customers, and remain competitive in the market.

Conduct a Cost Analysis: The first step in evaluating your pricing strategy is to understand your costs thoroughly. This includes both fixed and variable costs such as fuel, maintenance, driver wages, insurance, and administrative expenses. By having a clear picture of your cost structure, you can set prices that cover these costs and generate a profit. It’s essential to regularly update this analysis to account for fluctuating costs, such as fuel prices.

Analyze the Competitive Landscape: Understanding the pricing strategies of your competitors is critical. Conduct market research to see what other trucking companies charge for similar services. This can help you identify the average market rate and understand where your pricing stands relative to your competitors. If your prices are significantly higher or lower, consider the reasons why and adjust accordingly to remain competitive.

Assess Market Demand: Market demand plays a significant role in pricing. During high-demand periods, such as peak shipping seasons, you may have the flexibility to increase prices. Conversely, in periods of low demand, competitive pricing or discounts might be necessary to attract customers. Understanding the demand cycles in your industry can help you adjust your pricing strategy dynamically.

The trucking industry faces several challenges in the current market, but there are ways to increase profitability. By investing in technology, optimizing load planning, controlling fuel costs, focusing on customer satisfaction, diversifying services, reducing overhead costs, and evaluating pricing strategy, businesses can improve profitability and remain competitive. It’s crucial to stay proactive and flexible in the face of changing market conditions to succeed in the trucking industry.