Looking to get into the world of trucking freight, but not sure quite sure which type of freight is best for you? It may be that you’re keen to start your own transport business from scratch, but are intimidated by all the industry lingo (what on earth is a reefer, versus a dry van rate?). Luckily, all of this speciality knowledge is mainly surface confusion, which we’re here to dispel today. Below we’ve compiled a list of the best types of freight for rookie drivers, including the pros and cons of different truckloads – so have a read, and get your business on the road!
Get the business knots sorted out
Even if you’re doing it from the comfort of your own home, starting a goods transport business necessitates some paperwork on your part. Registering the business with your state, for one (which can be done online these days), applying to your government’s transport branch, dealing with taxes, getting insurance. Don’t skimp on these essential steps!
Procuring your equipment
For most of those new to the trucking business, the matter of equipment is likely to make or break your decision to go forward with your entrepreneurial plans. Make no mistake, investing in a start-up is always going to be a financial strain; in the case of trucking freight, however, you have a number of options to choose from to make things a little bit easier.
In terms of buying your first truck, you can offer a down payment upfront and procure a loan for the rest. This is seen to be the safest option by many in the know, as dependent on the conditions of the loan you won’t be overpaying for the hire of the equipment – and when your loan’s repaid, of course, it’s totally yours. Leasing is a little trickier, as generally, you’ll be losing profit on a truck you won’t go on to own, but it can present as a smart alternative just until you get your initial revenue up. Better yet, some loans come with lease-purchase options, meaning that you can make a balloon payment at the end of your contract to purchase the truck.
Taking extra expenses into consideration
If you’re making the transition into owner-operator trucking after being a freight driver yourself, then you’re going to have to take on all of the responsibilities previously left to the boss. Beyond paying the incomes of your employees (if you have them), you’ll have to show up with the cash for fuel, break-down repairs, new tires, toll road fees, extra transportation costs if you need to ferry your truck(s) across water…the list is nearly endless. Factoring all of these costs into your bills before calculating profit is essential to a sustainable business.
Don’t overlook the importance of the actual driving part when you’re setting up your business! Making sure you’ve passed the necessary license tests to legally drive an oversized motor vehicle is one of the first things to get ticked off your list. Once that’s done, keep the guidelines for safe larger-vehicle driving at the forefront of your mind at all times while you’re on the road, and ensure your driver records remain pristine. Fines and court time is the last thing you need to hamper your business’ chances of success, especially since you probably won’t have a lot of extra money to spare at the beginning of your venture.
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Choosing your truckloads: reefer vs dry van
So, what does reefer vs dry van mean? Basically, you’re looking at two different kinds of trailers. Dry van refers to covered trailers which have a flat deck; they’re the most common kind that you’ll see on the road, and can convey everything from furniture to non-perishable goods without putting them at the mercy of the outside environment. Reefer trailers, on the other hand, are used to convey refrigerated goods from place to place, as the trailer runs off an additional fuel supply to keep itself temperature-regulated. This is the type of trailer you’ll want to opt for if your clientele produce or require medical supplies, refrigerated foodstuffs, and the like.
In terms of dry van vs reefer weight, you can pull more weight with a dry van trailer, and you’ll also be able to worry less about “babysitting” the load in the event of temperature changes or second-engine fails. Moreover, you’re looking at a lower rate when pulling a dry van vs a reefer, as more specialised trailers tend to be charged more on the roads. Of course, what type you opt for boils down to the kind of freight you’ll be pulling.
Choosing your truckloads: flatbeds and lowbeds
Reefer and dry van aren’t the only types of trailers to consider: flatbed, lowbed and tanker are possibilities too. Let’s start with Flatbed Trucking 101, in which you start with a flat trailer only (without sides or cover), and tarp and secure the load yourself. The upside: because most flatbeds have a spread axle – which means increased distance between trailer tandems – you can usually load more onto them than a usual trailer.
Lowbed is basically a variation of a flatbed – that is, a sideless trailer, but with a middle section of a lower height (perfect for fitting long vehicles in). A lowbed trailer may, therefore, be more suited to over-sized freight as the well will effectively “lower” your load as compared to a flatbed trailer of uniform height.
Choosing your truckloads: tankers
If you anticipate dealing with liquid freight, tankers are likely to present the most obvious option – but do be aware of the safety risks involved in pulling a tanker before you commit. Most tankers have what are called ‘baffles’ to compartmentalise the liquid product inside the tank in the event that you spring a leak or have a crash, but these baffles don’t stand up too well against volatile liquids like gasoline and chemicals.
Taking each of the above loads and trailers into consideration – dry van, reefer, flat- and low- bed, and tanker – what you probably want to know most is what pays! Generally, dry vans pay less than the rest, with flatbeds more lucrative in that the truck driver is often paid extra to secure the load. Reefers pay more on top of those, and tankers come out trumps, due to the extra vigilance required on the driver’s part when hauling the more sensitive goods associated with them.
Cloe Matheson is a freelance writer based in the South Island city of Dunedin, New Zealand. When she’s not writing on her blog or collaborating with local businesses such as About Giving, you’ll most likely see her off to her next adventure.
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