Chances are a lot of what you have recently purchased has been on a semi tractor-trailer at some point. Any time spent on a major highway between cities can leave you thinking the interstate highway system belongs to the semis. The downsizing of America’s freight train infrastructure has shifted the task of moving goods to semis on the highways.
Whenever I need to get an exhibit to the client so that we can install it, it goes by truck. We are not the usual trucking customer. We load and unload our own trailers (which can take hours), we require 8am deliveries, and we often need to be where no one usually sends a semi. Our fabricators have ninja-like skills when it comes to packing a trailer, since very little of what we make fits on a pallet. Oak tree trunk? Check. Giant foam frog? Check. Life size bald eagle nest model? Check. Once we put the seal on the outside of the trailer doors, our blood, sweat and tears are in the hands of the driver. My trucking guru, Mike R. at Freightquote, has helped open my eyes to what every trucker has to consider when he or she takes a load.
If you know a trucker, you probably already know this, but a semi only makes money while it’s rolling with a load. If your tractor and trailer are waiting in a dock, you’re losing money. The tractor and the trailer (combined costing $120,000-$200,000 new) are losing value every moment, so you want to be hauling something whenever you are moving. What does this mean for me? It means that getting a truckload 400 miles to a remote area will cost more than getting the same truckload 850 miles to a major metropolitan area. A driver has to consider how easily he or she can pick up a load after they have delivered our exhibit. If there’s nothing nearby to haul, then they have to build into the price they charge us how far they have to go to get their next load; they call it ‘deadheading’.
Another twist is that certain parts of the country are exporting a lot at particular times of the year. The South exports a lot of produce during the spring, meaning that any driver who can get their rig there is guaranteed a load. The driver isn’t worried about deadheading and they can reduce their quote to us. So, if we need to ship an exhibit to the southern states in the spring, it will cost us less than during the rest of the year. However, I know I’m not the only one with inside trucking knowledge. What do you think we should all know about the people who move America?