Driving Relationships with the Trucking Industry 

Great Truckers

About the Author

Kevin Rutherford — Founder and CEO, LetsTruck

As a third generation owner/operator, Kevin bought his first truck at 22, and had a fleet of 11 trucks by age 28. Kevin started offering tax and accounting help to other owner/operators in 1990. He created his own fuel mileage tracking and accounting software to help small fleets better manage their financials. As an industry advisor, he speaks to various industry groups—from owner/operators and drivers to fleet executives, brokers, and associations. Kevin was a member of the Florida Trucking Association’s “Road Team” and developed an audio/video/workbook program titled, “Stop Holding the Steering Wheel and Start Driving Your Business” to help owner/operators build successful businesses. In 2007, Kevin started hosting his own satellite radio show, “Trucking Business and Beyond,” which was the basis for his ongoing podcast network, AudioRoad Network.

The Secret to Cutting Costs for Small Carriers

Every business has expenses. And in today’s market, if you’re like most, you’re looking for ways to cut costs wherever possible. After all, lower costs often mean higher profitability. For small trucking companies, cutting costs may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.

Understanding which costs to cut

When looking for areas to reduce expenses you first need to know which expenses to focus on. Each month your business—no matter its size—has two types of costs, fixed and variable. drive down small carrier costs

Your fixed costs (think rent, insurance, permits, cell phone bills, etc.) don’t change a lot from month to month. The other type, variable costs, includes things like fuel, lodging, meals, and repairs. Variable costs are fluid and will shift (sometimes drastically) from one month to the next depending on your business in that time.

While you might be able to get a better deal for some of your fixed costs, focusing your cost reduction efforts on variable costs will likely mean greater results.

Easy cost reduction strategies to get started

Cutting variable expenses starts with small changes in various areas of your business. The order is up to you, but I suggest incorporating one change before moving on to the next.

Fuel efficiency and driving behavior

Because fuel is such a large expense for most trucking companies, it makes sense to find ways to save on fuel whenever possible. A lot of driver behavior can affect fuel efficiency. Speeding can use more fuel, while reducing idling can save it.

Maintenance rather than repair

Trucks are complex machines. A lot can go wrong if they’re not properly maintained. And normally such repairs are costly. While it may seem counterintuitive to spend money maintaining your equipment, it can actually save on repair costs down the road.

Emphasize safety always

Promoting safety not only saves money, it can save lives. The cost of an accident can add up quickly, especially if there are injuries. Safety education—from winter driving techniques to ways to avoid back injuries—goes a long way in reducing high accident, citation, and insurance expenses.

Food and lodging budget

Eating and sleeping on the road can add up quickly, not to mention rough on drivers’ health. Some drivers add a refrigerator and/or a bed to their cab to help cut down on these kind of expenses. If that’s not feasible, setting a budget and sticking to it can also help.

Tracking your cost reduction progress

You can change many areas of your business, but the only way you’ll know if your cost reduction efforts are successful is if you have an accounting process to clearly show you the results of your actions. I believe an accounting system is the critical piece to small carrier profitability, and one area that drivers often overlook.

Define your own system

Whatever method of accounting you choose—software, an accountant, or some combination—make sure you choose an option that’s easy, simple, and maintainable. I often recommend developing a process of sorting receipts when you get them and then processing them on a monthly basis.

Working with a 3PL can also help streamline your accounting process. C.H. Robinson makes the accounts payable process fast and easy so you can seamlessly incorporate it into your overarching accounting strategy.

Run your business by the numbers

Most importantly, your accounting system must be powerful enough to offer reports so you can use your information to find areas to improve. After all, in order to achieve better results to you need to take better actions.

4 Areas of Life to Improve Truck Driver Wellness

No one said being a truck driver was an easy gig. But they might not have told you about all the health challenges you’d face either. Did you know that the FMCSA estimates the average life span of a truck driver at only 61 years old? That’s drastically lower than the national average. And honestly, it’s unacceptable. The lifestyle of a truck driver certainly can make healthy choices more difficult, but they’re far from impossible. Healthy truck driver focused on wellness

The idea of holistic wellness as a truck driver isn’t just about eating like a rabbit and running on a treadmill until you’re beyond bored. Instead, it encompasses four areas of your life that all influence your general well-being. Each is important in its own way.

4 areas of life that truck drivers can improve

1. The food you eat

If you’ve been driving for any length of time, you already know that having easy access to good, nutritious food on the road is a challenge. Truck stops and fast food places are filled with the worst kind of foods—empty carbs and sugar.

I recommend eating food as they exist in nature as much as possible. For truck drivers, this means choosing lots of meat, vegetables, and water. I even suggest truck drivers stay away from fruit because there’s too much sugar. Of course, healthier options are not only harder to find on the road, but also typically require refrigeration—something you likely don’t have a lot of room for.

One way around these issues is to partake in a little meal planning and prepping. When I’m at home, I personally like to can my own meat and ferment my own vegetables. It’s fast, easy, and I know that I’m getting high quality ingredients.

2. Your sleep schedule (or lack thereof)

Sleep is so important. The less consistent your sleep schedule, the harder it is on your body. In an ideal world, you’d go to bed and wake at the same time every day. And it would be good quality sleep, too. Well you and I both know that’s not the case for truck drivers.

Even if your driving schedule means switching from days to nights and back again, there are other things you can do to help promote quality sleep. Start by cleaning up your sleep environment.

Make it as pitch black as possible and turn your phone off (or at least suspend the notifications). Consider a white noise or meditation app to help you fall asleep quickly. And when you wake up, spend as much time as possible outside in the early morning sunshine. This will help your body reset its natural clock and help you feel more rested. It’s certainly a healthier (and more relaxing) option than jolting your system awake with an energy drink.

3. Effectively managing stress

Practically everything about a long haul lifestyle adds stress to your day. When you’re stressed, it makes it hard to sleep and no sleep means more stress. When awake, drivers often face the stress of traffic, equipment problems, and a ticking clock on hours of service. Even unhealthy foods can add undue stress on the body. It’s a vicious cycle that can suck you in and lead to burnout.

Dissipating stress starts with awareness. Identifying what causes you stress means you can apply tools to help deal with them. I’ve found several meditation apps that help me de-stress. Yoga and tai chi are also tools I use regularly. But you might find a kickboxing class or favorite music playlist helps you. I even know drivers who have gotten a pet as a companion when on the road. Try out several ways to lower your stress and find the one that’s right for you.

4. Finding time for movement

Sitting is a real problem. And when you’re on the road, there’s no avoiding it. Now many experts advocate 300 minutes of intense cardio exercise every week to combat the negative effects of sitting. And that’s great, but not everyone is ready for that. I simply tell drivers to move more.

Rather than seeing your mandated 30-minute break as an intrusion on your day, look at it as an opportunity to do something that will make you healthier. I like to use my time to get out in nature. Take a walk, practice tai chi in the grass, and short hikes are my go to activities. Another popular outdoor option is geocaching, a using your phone. Geocaching is a fun outdoor game that gets you out of your truck and often brings you places you would never know exist.

Perspective changes everything

It’s easy to get caught up in the negative aspects of being a driver—especially when they’re affecting your health. But I challenge you to change your perspective and think about the positives, too. As a truck driver, you likely have more freedom than someone working in a cubicle does. Owner/operators especially have great autonomy to set their own hours and lanes. Not to mention, most days you probably have an amazing view out that windshield.

Get started on the path to wellness

We’ve covered many specific changes to make your lifestyle healthier. But the trick is getting started. When it comes to your health, there’s no quick fix. So, if you want to take back your health, choose one or two small changes to make now.

The key is to develop habits that you can stick with. You can always add more goals later. And finally, there’s no better time to start than now. Don’t wait for Monday, make one simple change today, and build on your success tomorrow.

The Secret to Small Carrier Profitability

The Secret to Small Carrier Profitability | The Road

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I bought my first truck at 22. By the time I was 25, I had 11 trucks. And that sounds great, but at one point, I was close to filing bankruptcy—all because I didn’t understand one important part of the business. I didn’t understand the financial numbers.
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- Founder and CEO, LetsTruck

Relationships Work Better than Focusing on Rates

Relationships Works Better than Focusing on Rates.The Road

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A few months ago, I wrote about how important accurate accounting really is for small carrier profitability. Today I want to continue on the topic of profitability, but from a slightly different angle. It’s my experience that many owner/operators and small carriers have one approach to find loads—one that’s not always the smartest, or the most profitable.
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