Partial loads – Years ago when loads were paying good, and there were plenty of them… you could pick and choose your loads, your lanes and negotiate your rates. That changed and I can almost remember the day it all changed.
We used to book loads out of Houston, going to Denver from the same company. Some weeks they had two. Some weeks they had several. Almost without fail, they would have two loads going to the same city. They would pay full load rates and we would stack two and pick up another partial load going the same direction.
It was not unheard of to have several thousand dollars loaded on your 40 ft. deck. The broker was cool with it and everyone was making money. We would even get back load trips occasionally. Those were the days.
Then, one day my partner called me and said, the broker says they are not paying full load rates anymore and only paying partial rates from now on. We both said screw that. They pay full rates or find someone else to do those. They found plenty of others to do it. However, from that point forward, it was like all the brokers took note, got together, and conspired to start paying lower “Partial” rates.
Most of the time the loads would still be 30 ft. or more but paying the new lower norm. Overnight the trend of “partial loads” took over. The brokers realized that they could pay us whatever they wanted and we would accept it because there were so many Hotshot operators. Dispatchers just wanted to get paid and keep you running.
The saddest part is that the rates continued to drop and drivers keep taking the low rates. We have no choice but to take them if you want to keep running and meet your obligations.
I was trained to be a broker and I know that they use a lot of methods to justify their rates. Truck saturation, lanes, likelihood of getting a load out, fuel surcharges, tarping, (yes, that is why you will see so many times a load MUST be tarped) just to name a few. Then there is detention time, chains, straps, dunnage, and other equipment they can add on to the rates. Not every time but it is common.
They keep the money and see how low they can find someone to take the load. It has become an art and they compete among each other to see how much they can make. Now they are affected by the drop-in rates and tonnage too. So they make up for it by making more on loads.
Then, you have the brokers that double broker loads. They take good paying loads and partial it out as well. There is a real problem with this and it is much worse than any would imagine. There are whole networks built around this to help facilitate them. When you see some off the wall payment services that cater to double brokering, you know that the load is probably double brokered.
Is stacking partial loads wrong or hurting your business?
No, just the opposite, if you can get them, and increase your revenue and cost per mile per trip. You are being smart. In some markets it is easier than others. Texas used to be great but now is oversaturated with drivers and rates have plummeted. If you take a partial load that is likely to be the only load you get. So, for that reason, my policy is that EVERY LOAD must pay for itself. In other words, book every load as if it were your only load and weigh your overall time vs work.
Now what you need to consider. Time is money: how long is it going to take you to book another load? Can you get to the shipper in time for two loads in the same day? Remember that many shippers close at 2 or 3pm. Do you take another day to pick up a low paying load? If it pays good and is going to the same city or area, that is great.
It will also affect your Hours of Service. If you spend three hours getting in and out of load one and then the same for the second, that is saying that you or your dispatcher was able to book them quickly. Then you only have a few hours left to drive to your destination. You can easily add another day in the equation. I like to pick up, haul ass and drop off. Trying to use as much of my HOS effectively and efficiently as possible.
Consider the time you are going to take to offload multiple loads? Can you make it to the drop off locations within receiving hours? Partials are supposed to be not as time sensitive and on your schedule but rarely are. You have a broker calling you just the same as if you were on a expedited load. They will track most loads just like normal.
Now as I have said, I am all for making more money. We all have had the perfect scenarios where we were able to take two or more loads and make a weeks pay in one trip. However, we all have had to take loads or missed deadlines dealing with underpaid loads as well.
Other problems with partial loads
How many times have you booked a load that was “only 15–20-foot deck space or only so much weight” and arrive to find a whole load waiting for you or weighing way over what they told you it would. Then you can’t fit the second load on. I recently went to pick up a couple of pallets only to arrive to find 11 full size pallets waiting for me. If you call the second broker and tell him that you can’t fit his load… he hits you on Carrier 411 and you’re out of business.
Another consideration for stacking partials is how you load them. You have to consider which load is going to offload first, and load accordingly. Nothing worse than having offloaded a portion of your loads and having to travel with the other off balance or center on your deck. I’ve seen some horror stories involving this.
Reasons we take partials to help our business?
Our business but not necessarily the industry. We end up in a dead area, Denver, Phoenix, Amarillo, El Paso, and so many others these days. The load paid us okay there but nothing is going out. We take loads to get out of areas and to get us home. Sometimes we will take a low paying partial to a better area. We take them to just pay for fuel. We take them hoping to find another load along the way. How does that work out for you?
Some of us may have direct shippers and we need to take a load just to get back to them to get our next load out from them. So, we might take anything? You might but not I. My principles may hurt me but I understand the logic. You do what you must for your business.
Honestly, I have several friends that I talk to daily that have been doing this for a number of years. We all agree, we don’t take cheap loads. My friend Mikey will deadhead all the way back from wherever he is before he puts cheap freight on his trailer. I feel the same way and this is the reason why I sit at home and write blogs so much lol. My driver partner Jason feels the same way. Why use up your equipment and fuel?
The cost of depreciation, replacement and repairs is crippling these days. You are not making money with less than $2 a mile. I have seen all the figures on my groups that drivers post that they are making money. They are fooling themselves. You have to have a nest egg. Capital for reinvestment, breakdowns, vacations, and unforeseen circumstances. Your next breakdown is inevitable.
Do Partial loads hurt the market?
Lastly, my biggest issue with taking low paying partial loads is you are killing the market. Diluting the rates and falling into the broker’s game. Once they know that they can get rid of loads to some Hotshot driver for any rate they post, it is all over and they will never go back up. This market will never self-correct itself unless we work collectively to not take cheap rates. I know that it will never happen. I learned a long time ago from my groups, watching the market, seeing so many non-business driving fools get into this business. Anyone with a truck and a trailer can get in this business and call themselves a Hotshot driver.
Only the strong survive in this business, and many of the smart ones have left. This isn’t the best time to be in trucking. However, it is a business and a good one. Where else can you start a business and pull in revenue almost immediately. You run your business like a business, take care of your equipment, and be safe out there. I would love to hear from you on your thoughts about this.