Over the past two years, freight has fluctuated from high demand to a more balanced market and is now about to migrate into much softer territory expected to last throughout 2023. In this volatile market, the search for quality loads to fill capacity is a constant challenge that occupies the minds of truck company owners, from large fleets to owner-operators.
The challenge is two-fold, volume and rates. Having a sufficient freight volume to fill capacity is critical to keep your truck(s) moving and generating revenues. But maximizing equipment utilization with full loads is only half the battle. The other half is ensuring the loads are profitable.
The massive flood of new trucking companies that entered the market at the height of the post-pandemic spot market boom has saturated the industry with dry vans all hungry for freight. It’s a highly competitive market in which general freight trucking companies from across the nation are searching for the same loads. Falling freight rates and excessive competition is forcing carriers to compete aggressively on price. Too often, this leads to money-losing hauls as rates are pushed below the carrier’s cost-per-mile. In the whirlwind of activity, truckers who don’t watch their books carefully are surprised to learn they lost money at the end of the month despite being busy.
Trucking is an industry of slim margins. Increasing operating costs and falling rates are battering profit levels. The continuing driver shortage limits the number of operators with additional experience and endorsements to haul the highest-paying loads, such as oversized and hazmat cargo. To counter these pressures, trucking companies need to develop the capabilities to access higher-paying loads hauled by drivers with standard Class A commercial drivers licenses.
In this article, we look at the truck loads that pay the most without the need of special CDL endorsements and discuss other factors that make for a better-paying load to maximize profitability.
What Types of Truck Loads Pay Best?
There are three main types of truckload shipments:
- Dry vans
Freight rates fluctuate weekly based on current market demand, but which loads pay higher is relatively constant. Dry vans pay the least, flatbed loads pay higher, and refrigerated cargo pays the most. Each type of load required different driver skills and equipment. Developing the skills and capabilities to haul higher-paying loads is a long-term strategy to build a more profitable trucking company.
Dry Van Loads:
For new trucking companies without experience or contract carriers with healthy access to regular freight, dry van loads are the way to go.
Dry van trailers are the lowest cost trailer equipment to acquire, yet are highly versatile, designed to carry the nation’s largest supply of freight – palletized, boxed, and loose freight cargo.
Because this is the highest competitive mode of over-the-road freight transportation, freight rates are generally the lowest in the industry. To improve profitability, higher rates can be charged for loads that are time sensitive, difficult to manage, or are high value such as electronic equipment.
This type of transport is an excellent option for trucking companies looking to capitalize on niche markets such a steel or construction. Drivers require a Class A commercial driver’s license plus additional skills to load and secure freight, uphold proper load limits, and maintain load balancing. Drivers must be somewhat mechanically inclined and physically able to ensure loads are properly managed.
Shippers are willing to pay premium rates to compensate for the considerable skill, effort, and time needed to manage the haul.
Drivers must have at least one year of experience. Freight must be carefully secured to be safe and comply with the stricter regulations that apply to this type of hauling.
Refrigerated carriers carry the types of loads that have perishable goods that need to be kept at specific temperatures. These specialized trucks can regulate temperatures between 55 degrees to -20 degrees Fahrenheit. The market is large consisting of fruit, vegetables, meats, and other perishables such as pharmaceuticals.
Advantages: Shippers are willing to pay premium rates to compensate for the equipment and driver’s skill needed to maintain correct temperatures and avoid cargo spoilage while on the road.
Disadvantages: Because of the time constraints on perishable items, reefers are on strict schedules that can be hard to coordinate. Reefer trailers are expensive, and insurance premiums are high due to the risk of spoilage.
Other Factors Contributing to Best-Paying Loads
A multitude of factors determines freight rates. In addition to the premium rates discussed above, other factors contribute to collecting higher rates for a haul.
- Expedited: Urgent freight that needs to be transported without hesitation is subject to premium freight rates. The six major industries that frequently utilize expedited freight are:
- Perishable high-value foods
- Regions: Some regions are less accessible and more challenging to navigate than others. Transportation through dense traffic or extreme weather causes more time to haul and more significant safety hazards. Hauling loads through crowded or densely populated locations such as city centers or central business districts is challenging and time-consuming. Freight transportation through difficult conditions is subject to premium rates.
- Public Freight: Federal, state, and municipal governments have specialized shipments, from military equipment to critical supplies and everything in between. During times of crisis, these shipments may need to be hauled amid natural disasters or national emergencies. To be awarded a government contract to manage these shipments may require special equipment, specific operating procedures, and security clearances. Trucking companies may charge a premium rate to compensate for time and resources.
Verify Loads Before You Haul
The loads that pay the most are only beneficial to your trucking company if your freight bill is actually paid. Use a quality load board featuring a credit check tool to find freight and confirm your customer’s ability to pay before you haul. Work with a freight factoring company and arrange a non-recourse factoring agreement for further protection. Under this arrangement, the factoring company will buy your invoices and pay you even if your customer goes out of business due to insolvency.
Trucking is a competitive industry with high costs and slim profit margins. Ensure every haul generates enough revenue to cover your cost-per-mile and contributes to the company’s bottom line. Trucking companies and drivers with additional training and specialized equipment are best positioned to capitalize on high-paying loads.
Your hunt for quality loads needs a broader view than just searching for high-paying freight. To be most successful, always keep in mind where your next load will come from. It’s not very profitable to haul a high paying load into an area that offers no freight to cover the backhaul. More importantly, verify each load to ensure the customer’s ability to pay before you haul. Protecting your profits from bad debt and the cost of empty miles is critical to maximizing profits.
Tap into your industry network, contact freight brokers, and utilize a quality load board to source better-paying freight opportunities. Loads that are more difficult to manage and require additional driver skills or specialized equipment tend to pay more.
eCapital is a rapidly growing leader within the freight factoring space and a trusted financial partner to thousands of trucking businesses since 2006. Our mission is to empower North America’s trucking companies to run their businesses better by accelerating their access to cash flow plus provide the resources to operate more efficiently and profitably.
Trucking services and resources include:
- Freight factoring – cash flow you can count on
- 5 Star Load Board – find loads while on the go
- 5 Star TMS Software – manage loads and track your business all from one platform
- Credit check tool – shipper and broker credit check
To learn more about our industry-leading freight factoring and support services to help you grow your trucking company, visit eCapital.com.