CRAZY RATES

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.

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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.

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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!!!

Jackson Square

Scarlett with a beignets from Cafe du Monde

Scarlett’s First Parade

Chris Owens Easter Parade

Camellia Grill

Pat O’Briens Hurricanes are awesome.

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Ahhh NYC….. You Kill Me

So, we were home and I was working on a new project (more about that in another post) and a load popped up on the board offering $5 a mile to Queens New York. We hate driving in New York and the tolls are crazy expensive but it turns out that for five dollars a mile we will go just about anywhere. It helps that I was shameless and got an additional $300 when I negotiated the load. So that extra would pay the tolls. It was, of course, a team load and they needed the product the next morning at 10am. We crossed the George Washington bridge and dropped down into Queens. About 4 1/2 miles on surface streets to get to the location. I park in the middle of the street and go to the store entrance……LOCKED! There is a sign on the door.

“Closed in observance of Good Friday”

Ok, but Good Friday was last week.

Call the broker and he says he would figure out what we should do and call back. Cut to four hours later. We have been parked in the middle of the street the whole time. Broker, who has obviously never driven a truck OR been to NYC says “just go find someplace to park” HAHAHAHA.

WE have a load picking up before 6pm 100 miles away. At first we thought we had all kinds of time but we are now we are panicking. Sitting in a New Jersey truck stop all weekend is not in the plan. The broker asks how much we would charge to sit and make the delivery on Monday and I tell him. $5000. That is what I am losing if I can’t take my load to Phoenix. It turns out it is Greek Orthodox Good Friday so that mystery is explained. At just before 3pm, we get a message to deliver the load in New Jersey. Back across the GW bridge. Only 25 miles but it takes about 2 hours. Get there and this place does not have a loading dock and the 2700 pound pallets of expensive tile we are carrying are on custom made pallets that a pallet jack cannot lift. They have to get a long chain and drag each one to the back of the trailer.

If you can do basic math you can see we are not making our 6pm pickup. Anne is constantly talking to the next broker and he is talking to the shipper. They agree to stay late on a Friday to get us loaded. We finally get to the next load at 7:15pm and they quickly load us and we are off to Phoenix.

Just outside of Flagstaff the dreaded Stop Engine light goes off. We are losing coolant but can’t find a leak. We top it off And pretty much coast the 180 miles downhill to Phoenix. We made it. I thought I knew what was broken but I was wrong. It was a stupid little custom built, Volvo only hose. If we had found the leak it would have saved us a bunch of time and money later.

We then took a couple of days off to pay with friends and a new baby.

The broken part was this.

A $25 part that we could only get at Volvo. We finally broke down in New Mexico and got towed to El Paso. It took me less than 45 seconds to replace it.

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Crazy Lucky

We had decided not to commit to a dedicated run for Christmas this year because the normal spot market rates had jumped through the roof and the contract rates had not gone up enough.   

That plan lasted a whole week. 

We had made a delivery in Auburn WA and had booked a good paying load from Portland OR to Los Angeles and then a great paying load from LA to Dallas.  We drove 160 miles empty to Portland and got loaded about 1 PM.  When they brought the BOL, they brought TWO BOL’s.  I asked what the extra bill was for and they said “For the second stop”.  Uhhhh nope.  They had loaded the wrong load on us.   They then unloaded the trailer and then said our load would not be ready for at least 5 or 6 hours.   That did not work, we would not be able to make our pick up to Dallas which would ruin our whole weekend.   Anne jumped on the computer to try to find us a replacement load to LA.  She called on a load to Santa Barbara and it turned out to be a contract mail run for Christmas.  It was also a large broker we have worked for a lot and they were excited Anne had called.   The load did not pick up until 3 AM so Anne said “no, that would not help us and you are not paying enough”  This is a very condensed version of how the 20 minute conversation went.

Broker: “what if I paid you $3 a mile” 

Anne: “then I would be stuck in SB”

B: “what if I made it round trip”

A: “then we would be stuck in Portland”

B: “what if I just kept you going round trip”

A: “now we are interested”

The problem is that we were quite a ways above the contact market rate and so they were looking to replace us and we knew it.   We made three runs and they did not have us on a fourth and said they were looking for a load for us.  A couple of hours later with no response other than that they would understand if we found something else, we started calling on other loads.  We found another broker with mail loads from Portland to Anaheim.  The rate was not quite as good but still great and very steady.  1004 miles each way picking up at 4AM and delivering at 3AM with no break and no dead head.  The only downside was a trip a day over Siskiyou Pass on the Oregon-California border.  The weather can get very nasty over that pass.  

This is where the “crazy lucky” part happened.  We have made 16 trips over the pass with clear weather for the most part and a little rain a couple of nights.  Here is a picture from a couple of nights ago. 

This morning in the warm sunshine, on our last trip South before we head home for Christmas, we get this notice….

We deliver in Anaheim tonight and pick up a mail run to Cincinnati and then home by noon on the 21st.  I have tickets to see the new Star Wars movie that afternoon at 4.  Then a hot buttered rum and Christmas music while we decorate the tree and play with the grandkids.  Looking forward to lots of family and 5 weeks off.

Merry Christmas everyone. 

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The Grind

Holy crap are we tired.   We are running Christmas loads for the postal service. Round trip from Portland OR to Anaheim CA. and it is getting old.  On our last round trip before we head East from Los Angeles to go home for Christmas and a month off.  Kinda funny because we are not actually working any harder than we did as company drivers back in the day but we are not used to it anymore.  We keep looking at each other saying “screw it, let’s just go home” but the money is just too good to pass up.   

We will be home on the 21st about noon and I have tickets to see Star Wars that afternoon at 4pm.  We did take a day off last week to drive up to Snohomish Washington to see my parents.  Awesome visit but we took 24 hours off and had to drive for 7 hours of it.  

Thanks to Amazon, all the Christmas shopping is done and we put up the Christmas decorations before we left.  Just going to put on some Christmas music, make a couple of hot buttered rums and trim the tree.   

Oh, and hang out with all the grandkids.   Life is pretty wonderful.   

Speaking of “It’s a Wonderful Life” I also need to watch “Die Hard” because it is not Christmas until Hans Gruber falls off Nakatomi Plaza.

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