If you’re a long haul trucker, your occupation is more than just a job — it’s a true lifestyle. You have to do more than haul loads from point A to point B. In addition to transporting shipments, you must be a grade A problem-solver when it comes to truck maintenance and follow all applicable state and federal safety regulations. As a long haul trucker (also known as an over the road trucker), you also need to be tech savvy and a good communicator when interacting with shippers and receivers, dispatchers and/or freight brokers.
Check out these top best practices for long haul truckers.
Establish a Niche To Stand Out from the Crowd
If you talk to an experienced long haul trucker, they will no doubt recommend that you choose an area of specialization within trucking. When you choose a niche, you can zero in on pursuing specific types of loads and customers and build a name for yourself within that sector of trucking.
“I always preach that the riches are in the niches. The more specialized you get in this industry, the more opportunity you’ll have because you can stand out from the crowd.” – Rahmel Wattley
“You have to stay educated and dialed-in, and just keep figuring out how you can carve out your niche in the marketplace,” says trucking entrepreneur and former long haul trucker Rahmel Wattley. “I always preach that the riches are in the niches. The more specialized you get in this industry, the more opportunity you’ll have because you can stand out from the crowd. It’s a good idea to get into a niche that is higher skilled, for example heavy haul, where the equipment may be a little bit more expensive and the skillset a bit more advanced. That’s going to make you stand out from carriers who have dry vans.”
Use a Long Haul Trucker All-in-One App To Save Time
As a long haul trucker, you need to be able to be able to access information quickly. Whether it’s finding a backhaul, a place to buy groceries or the cheapest fuel, you need an app that it’s easy to use and reliable. Trucker Tools’ free driver app is an all-in-one app that includes more than 20 time and money saving features and tools. With the app, you can track broker loads, buy cargo insurance, message brokers, book loads, find food and parking, trip plan and much more.
“On the daily, I use Trucker Tools’ driver app,” says long haul trucker Jacinda Duran. “I can sign on and completely plan my day, from my route planning to where I’m going to get fuel, stop and also where I’m going to park at night. It’s super helpful. We do have to completely plan our days. I also like the weigh scales. I try to use that one as much as possible. I can use the app to find out if a weigh station is open or not.”
Focus on Relationship-Building
One of the best things you can do in your long haul trucker business no matter whether rates are up or down is to focus on building long-term relationship with brokers and shippers. Sometimes those relationships even can be started over a cup of coffee at a truck stop.
“I know people are saying the market is going to bottom out in 2023, but I choose not to believe that,” owner operator and long haul trucker Larry Cothran said in a recent interview. “I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing and keep on building relationships. Relationship-building puts you in rooms and in places that open doors. I’ve met plenty of people at truck stops and started a relationship with them that way and they end up having a load for me.”
Look Out for Double Brokering Scams and Freight Fraud
Unfortunately, freight scams and double brokering schemes have increased significantly over the last two to three years as thieves have become more sophisticated in their ability to impersonate legitimate freight brokers and carriers. It’s therefore always a good idea to check a broker’s credit score, listing with the FMCSA, and ratings and reviews before accepting their loads. In an interview with Trucker Tools last fall, long haul trucker Kim Loescher shared her recent experience with double brokering.
“I happened to come across a load on a load board recently that was paying very well going to Florida and when I received my rate confirmation, I thought that it looked like it might have been a double or tripled brokered,” Kim shared. “When a load is double or triple brokered, the rate is cut down more and more each time it goes through another hand. When we researched the company that was brokering the load, their credit score was really good but it turned out that they were using the name of a company that had been closed. Long story short, I probably wouldn’t have even gotten paid for that load if I’d taken it. We ended up getting in touch with the original broker and communicating with her directly.”