Should You Haul That Load?

tough-decisions-aheadGetting the Hang of Profitable Load Selection

Should you haul that load?

As with most things in the trucking business, the answer is, “it depends.” Determining whether to pick up a load or wait for the next opportunity is a puzzle that has more than a few moving parts.

It’s easy to get distracted by what seems to be a high-paying run, but there are other important factors to consider. In an article on, trucking columnist and radio host Kevin Rutherford points out a few of them.

First, Think In Round-Trip Terms

How easy will it be to find a load out of your destination? If there aren’t many loads available, you may be marooned for a night, so you’re running up your costs without bringing in any revenue. And where supply of loads is low, demand to run them is usually high, often driving down driver rates. You may need to figure dead head miles in to your calculation.

Figure Freight Cycles Into Your Calculations

David Wolff, a consultant at financial services firm ATBS, says in the same Overdrive article that time, miles and rates all have to be considered when determining if a load is a good one for you to pick up. Also, Wolff recommends paying attention to freight cycles. Knowing that things are going to be slower in January after the Christmas rush, you can plan time off and take advantage of December loads that dispatchers are desperate to have hauled.

Consider Fuel Cost Per Lane

Fuel costs per lane are another piece of the puzzle, according to Wolff. Hauling from LA to Denver, you’ll pay West coast fuel prices – plus you’ll need more fuel to cross the Rockies than you’d need to travel the same distance along a flat lane in the Midwest.

A heavier load will burn more fuel per mile, so that lighter load that pays less could be the better proposition in terms of fuel cost – and in terms of reduced wear and tear on your truck. Rutherford offers a handy rule of thumb: Reducing weight by 10,000 pounds increases fuel mileage by 4 percent.

Know Your Cost per Mile

To make your calculations meaningful, you need to know what it costs you per mile to operate, including all your expenses and your salary. On the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association’s (OOIDA) website, you can find a spreadsheet that helps you calculate your number. Once you have numbers to work with, it’s easier to evaluate a load, track your profitability after you’ve hauled it and apply what you’ve learned next time a similar opportunity arises.


Choosing the Most Profitable Loads by Max Kvidera.

Figuring Cost Per Mile by Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.


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