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We are in for a bumpy ride… My October Update
Well….THAT Was A Crazy Two Years!
The Covid pandemic was just weird for trucking. The first few weeks were crazy hot, everyone scrambling to get supplies in place and then the shutdown hit. Trucking ground to a halt and rates plummeted. It was a very scary time for all of us. Some of our clients were able to get forbearance on their truck loans and we all just hunkered down. We actually advised our clients to park their trucks since most loads were paying about $1 a mile. Then over the next month more and more freight started hitting the market. PPP was released and it saved a number of our clients (and us) Anne and I could have survived but the employees would have been gone. That toilet paper everyone was out of had to come from somewhere and slowly the markets began to pick up. Rates started to recover and we got our clients moving again. By summer rates climbed to record highs and those rates were sticky for the next 18 months. Then March 2022 hit and rates started to plummet again. All the free money had dried up, inflation was rampant and fuel prices were killing everyone, both consumers and truckers. A curious side note. Rates today are very similar to 2019 and actually a bit better than they were pre-pandemic, they just seem low because we we all got used to actually making money and today, expenses in trucking are about 50% higher than what they were just three years ago. It is a very tough time for small independent truckers.
The issues we are dealing with today are directly related to the events of the past 30 months. Because times were good, so many new trucking companies were created. Also, because there was so much freight, so many new dispatch companies were created. We never viewed these new dispatch companies as direct competition as, in general, the owners of these companies had zero experience in trucking. I have to say that after seeing their posts on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok I have reached a breaking point. What bothers me is that their trucking clients trust them with their financial security and they just do not understand the business. They mostly could get away with it when the market was red hot but I suspect times have changed. There are good dispatch companies out there, they are just few and far between. We do not do anything magical, we provide a service that any owner operator could perform on their own, we just bring a lot of knowledge and experience to the table that took years and a lot of mistakes to acquire.
I think I am going to transition this blog into something that more directly reflects the space we are in today. I hope to be able to provide insight and advice on moving truck profitably in this environment. I don’t care if you are a dispatcher, a small fleet owner or a new owner operator who has never booked your own loads before. I want this to be a place that helps. If you have questions related to living in a truck, especially teams, we will still be here for that also.
So, in 2013 we did the coolest load. We had no idea we were working with the #TigerKing. We were contracted to help rescue a load of Tigers, wolves, a lion, a bobcat and a raccoon. A very weird week awaited us. We covered the whole trip in a number of blog posts here. Seven years later one of the hottest shows on Netflix chronicling the life and times of “Joe Exotic”. Joe owned the zoo we were doing the rescue for. I think the producers of the show did a pretty fair job in presenting Joe. The guy has a ton of charisma and you just can’t help but like him. I am not going to go into a lot more detail here. Here is a video of Joe and Anne while we were tranquilizing the animals. Here is link to the beginning of the story in this blog.
I can see Ohio from my deck!
Actually what I can see is the rising Tennessee river but that is another story.
Let me share a little insider secret. When the freight markets are depressed, the mostly smart money runs to the big freight markets. Everybody runs to Atlanta GA, Harrisburg PA, Chicago IL, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and Los Angeles -Ontario CA. These are the safe zones where you can always find freight in down markets because they are the largest freight markets. The REALLY smart money hangs out in other places. Instead of Atlanta, look for loads to adjacent markets like Birmingham, Chattanooga, Charlotte or Huntsville. There are too many trucks in the major freight markets which depresses rates in those very same markets that are seen as safe havens. We work to identify secondary markets (like Columbus Ohio) where the load to truck ratio is positive. Or take loads into areas that many want avoid like Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin due to weather. It is all about having a plan. Work smarter, not harder.
This year, at this time, the West Coast is a uniquely bad place to be. Between Chinese New Year and now the Coronavirus outbreak, the West Coast ports are experiencing a huge drop in volume. According to Freightwaves, there are normally 75 trains a day out of the port of Los Angeles but that number is down to 32. Trucks in and out of the port of Los Angeles have dropped from 16,000 trips a day to 8,000 trips a day. That is at least 40,000 fewer containers coming into Los Angeles each week and those trucks not running drayage in the ports are competing for regional freight because nobody wants to park their trucks. Shippers in general are purposefully slow on the uptake in situations like this so rates into Los Angeles do not yet, and may never, compensate for the low rates out.
Spring is coming early this year. Capacity is getting tighter and until about a week ago we were very bullish on the outlook for carriers for the rest of the year. I still feel this way if we can avoid a freight meltdown due to the virus outbreak. The next two weeks will probably tell the tale.
I am always available if you have questions. Just shoot me a message at email@example.com.
Things always seem to work out.
Life has a crazy way of working out. If you had told me last year that we would start a company and sell the truck I probably would have thought “WHAT?!”. Let me back up and tell you how this happened.
Our 6th grandchild was born last year. I told Craig I was done with the truck. I wanted to be home. One of the problems with being out on the road was when there was an emergency at home, there’s nothing you can do about it. Then a friend asked if I was interested in dispatching one of their clients for them. Seemed pretty easy since that is what we did for ourselves. Next thing I know it blew up.
I began this post last year when we had started LogisticsATB and then I didn’t do anything with it. Writing a blog when you are living in a truck was what we did for 8 years. Then I am on the other side of the business running a dispatch company. It started as something for me to do to make some money. Famous last words. Then it grew. Craig quit what he was doing to come help me and it has been a wild year. I am blessed to have some amazing drivers that entrust us with their business and success. We have had drivers fail and go out of business for a multitude of reasons (like insurance costs and mechanical problems) and more that have succeeded. We take it personally and sometimes I think too personally. We know what it is like out there on the road. We know the good and the bad. The days you just want to scream and then the days you meet the coolest people. But truthfully I think that is what makes us different from other dispatch companies. We’ve been there. We know exactly what you are going through and that makes a difference. Maybe we understand is a better way of saying it. We are good at mentoring. That is the key!!!
We have been out of the truck and building this business since Oct 2018. It has been an amazing experience. We are growing and had to hire some employees to continue giving the best service we can. I never want what we do to hurt our clients. I love that we are able to help drivers with what we had learned in 8 years on the road as a team. We have a lot of knowledge that enables us to direct our clients in the right direction. It all boils back to mentoring. Knowing the business. Craig does a heck of a lot of research. I will let him post about that but its important information. You need to know where to go and more importantly where not to go. That is always changing.
Now back to me (my favorite subject) as we all know. We were blessed to have all 6 grandchildren with us this weekend and we walked up to a local italian restaurant for lunch. It is a little like herding cats but a total blast!! Here are some pictures from our walk.
I don’t miss driving!
I don’t miss driving but I know Craig does. Okay that isn’t true about me. I don’t miss the physical part of driving but I do miss the benefits. I miss seeing family and friends. I miss going to Seattle and playing cards. I miss going to baseball games. I miss meeting up with friends on the road. All the social parts of driving I do miss just not the 11 hours of driving and not being home. I think back to when we first started this journey and had no idea what we were doing. We were blessed to have a great mentoring group of people that taught us along the way. Having a great mentoring system is the difference in success or failure. We were definitely blessed in that arena.
I realize with some of our new drivers that they are in the same boat. There are so many different truths out there (due a lot to facebook and the internet) the questions I see asked and the answers make me cringe. The advice I give you is to know where you are getting your information. Know the laws for your state. Know what is legal and more important what is illegal. Find someone to mentor you so you can ask all those questions you think are silly. Some are but some are very important to know. Don’t ask a group on facebook what the truth is. You know how that goes. This is your business. This is your lively hood. You don’t want to get dinged for listening to some idiot on facebook that told you how to do it. Find someone or some people that will give you good advice and that have knowledge and you will be way ahead of the game.
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What a crazy market right now. I have been quoted ridiculous rates. $1 a mile or less per mile seems to be the average right now. I can’t believe truckers are taking these rates but understand they need revenue. I bid on a load yesterday for $1200 on 800 miles which I couldn’t believe I was doing but we had lost out on a few loads and I wanted to get a driver moving. I couldn’t believe I was underbid. They had offered $800, after my bid she told me they have moved these for $1000 but couldn’t go any higher. I just had to shake my head. I won’t accept absurd $$$. My thought was why not offer it at $1000 but we all know the answer to that. I wish truckers would stand there ground and not take absurd rates but that’s not going to happen. I am looking forward to rates getting better.
We call more brokers to get a rate that we will accept for our drivers. We know what it costs to run a truck and know what is acceptable or not. I keep hearing about these cut rate dispatch companies that are based overseas (read the tiny print and you will see some are based in Bosnia or Cayman Islands) guaranteeing $7000 weeks. Craig and I ran team and made great money but as a solo driver it is difficult to reach those numbers every week. We can drive twice as far as a solo. More miles=More money. You will hear about incredible $$$/mile. My question is how many miles is that for. There are exceptions to the rule but not many.
We have loved dispatching but it is definitely a challenge in this market. The light is at the end of the tunnel though. Produce will start running and rates will get back to where they should be.
Craig misses being in the truck way more than I do. The only thing I really do miss about the truck is being able to see family and friends all over the country. We never had to think about missing any events. We would be there. This weekend we are getting on a plane for the first time in years. The last time we were on a plane was flying to San Juan two years ago. Driving distance now has a totally different meaning.
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Always the unexpected….
(Editors Note…that means Craig)
Anne had typed this in July and never posted it. Since it spoke about our plans to get out of the truck I have decided to post even though it is six months later. So much has happened in those six months. Crazy.
Back to Anne’s post….
We have a lot of changes happening in our lives. We are looking at transitioning out of the truck, we have a new grandson being born this Oct., Our oldest son is being ordained as an Anglican priest next week. All our children have moved out of our house for the first time in forever. That part is a little bittersweet. Craig finally has his naked house back. We are heading to Seattle and Kalispell for weddings in the next two weeks before we head back to Chattanooga.
We have had an awesome week and now on the last leg of this trip what happens. YUP you guessed it. A weird noise on the truck. Luckily we were a mile from a rest area so were able to stop safely. This is a new one for us. Our leveler for the airbags broke off. Note to anyone. When you hear strange noises make sure you stop as quick as possible so you don’t do anymore damage. We luckily have a mechanic we can call for advice and he told us not to drive with our air bags deployed. There are times you can drive safely to get to service. This is not one of them so we sit here waiting for road side service now. Good part is our load has 12 extra hours to deliver.
We stopped at the Iowa 80 for coffee this morning. We were talking about how this might be the last time we are here in a truck. It is sort of like that with everything. Our last drive across “insert state name here”. Is this the last load we will book. That one is no since we have to get back to Chattanooga. But you get the gist. We have loved driving a truck. Even break downs have their own stories. When we first started driving we had a joke about Nebraska. We broke down there for a total of 3 times in a month. Those times were easier financially since we didn’t have to pay the repair bills. But still make a memory.
Making the switch to owner operator was the best move we made. We had a shaky start but it gave us so much more freedom. At this point in our lives though we want to be home more. I want to be home all the time. The things we miss out on while on the road revolve solely around family. We are blessed to have all 5 of our grandchildren local with the 6th on the way. We are blessed to have most of our children local too. It’s the little things we are missing out on. Firsts day of school, sleepovers, sunday suppers, Baseball, Soccer, Football…… The grandchildren are growing up so quickly and we feel like we are missing out on being there.
Turning Of The Page…….
It’s been an awesome run for the last 8 years but it’s time for a change.
Anne and I have wanted to be home more often. We have six children most of whom live in Chattanooga and six grandchildren that all live in Chattanooga. We are blessed to have had the opportunity via trucking to spend so much time with family. We have loved being out on the road. Seeing the places we have, visited friends, attending graduations, weddings and birthdays while also taking vacations all over the country without getting on a plane. Driving a truck has enabled us to make every wedding, birth, birthday, party, spring training….and it has been a total blast.
I started working for a friend’s brokerage back in June doing the weekend dispatch and covering emergency loads. The money was good and I would go out solo during the week to supplement our income, pay our fixed truck expenses and keep the truck in good shape. You cannot let a truck sit very long without mechanical deterioration. In September we received a call from some good friends who own a safety and compliance consultation company, ( www.vloctygroup.com ) They had a number of clients that they were offering dispatch services to and dispatch was taking them away from their core business. They asked if Anne would like to take these clients on and start dispatching their drivers. Of all the things we did well in trucking, profitably moving the truck was near the top of the list. Living in a truck and having hauled loads to and from all of the contiguous 48 States we had developed a good understanding of the markets and the seasonality of regional freight. We understand the Hours of Service regulations and how to run under electronic logs. I started doing research on this business model (since that is who I am) and found some very interesting information. Most dispatch companies had little to no actual trucking experience or had experience but were just completely unprofessional and many are actually based offshore to capitalize on cheap labor costs. Quite frankly, my favorite kind of competition.
On October 1st 2018 we started a new adventure and it has succeeded much quicker than we planned. Anne jumped in with both feet with me acting as backup. It became clear very quickly that we would no longer need to keep my security blanket…..err….I mean truck. We put the truck up for sale. We actually sold it to one of our dispatch clients. Then we had a meeting with some people who wanted to recommend us to their clients and we started the growth curve. I called my friend to tell him I would need out of the weekend dispatch gig. Fortunately he understood and I committed to continuing on with him through Thanksgiving which would allow him to hire and train my replacement.
I have to say, the first weekend of December was VERY welcome. That Saturday was my very first day off since mid-July.
Welcome to Logistics ATB! Anne picked the name since we live on the Tennessee River and one of our favorite moments driving the truck was as we came “Around The Bend” or “ATB” back into Chattanooga. Check out our website via that link I just posted. We think we look pretty cool.
Posted in CDL Team, Dispatch, Truck Driver Tagged #TeamTruckDrivers, anneandcraigleonard, CDL, CDL Blog, Chattanooga Business, Dispatch, Dispatch Service, dogs in a truck, driving blog, Exotic Animal Rescue, f2f, Farm2fleet, Husband and wife teams, inside a semi truck, Logistics, LogisticsATB, Married Team Driving, Semi Interior, team driving blog, TeamLeonard, truck driving blog 2 Comments
Nothing to do with Trucking!
This weekend we had an amazing vacation in New Orleans. Not everyone was able to go. Craig, Me, Aleena, Tyler and Scarlett were able to go. My mother was visiting her sister in New Orleans. I was thinking what a great opportunity for her to meet her Great Granddaughter. Shelby was gracious enough to let us take Scarlett which I know wasn’t easy. This was the first time she has spent any time away from her. We drove down in the middle of the night to make it easier on Scarlett. Made it a little rough on us but was worth it. Traveling in a car is so much harder than in the truck.
Let me tell you what a blast we had. Scarlett was a total doll on this trip. We stayed downtown. We got to see a lot of family. Great Grandmother, Great Great Aunt and Uncle, Great Uncle and a bunch of cousins. We ate a lot of great food. We saw a bunch of parades and have a suitcase full of beads and some amazing memories.
One of my college friends and her family were in town and we were lucky enough to spend some time together. We rode the trolley up to some old haunts of ours. Seriously some good food and good drinks.
I love the memories I have of this weekend. How special it was and how much fun we had. I love New Orleans!!!
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