Trucking operations play a vital role in America's economy, yet the majority of them are small businesses. According to the American Trucking Association, 91.5% of small trucking fleets in the U.S. operate six or fewer trucks. About 97.4% of fleets have 20 or fewer trucks. If you’re one of these vital small companies and you’re ready to accelerate your business, this guide is for you.
1. Provide Outstanding Customer Service
To grow your trucking business, it's crucial to go beyond timely deliveries and offer exceptional customer service. One of the best ways to offer service is through real-time shipment tracking. For better or for worse, the industry has experienced “Amazon-ification” when it comes to real-time communications about location and delays. Customers are expecting the same visibility with commercial freight as they do with their personal orders online. This can become increasingly difficult if you are not leveraging technology and are getting manual updates from the driver over the phone.
Offering real-time visibility and tracking for your cargo and automatically sending updates to customers is one of the best ways to offer transparency. This is great customer service, and as a bonus for you, it will cut down on calls from frustrated customers asking when their delivery will arrive.
2. Use Smarter Tools to Improve Fleet Utilization
Level up your trucking operation by maximizing the fleet you already have. Improving fleet utilization is one of the most effective ways to move more freight, finish more contracts, and save money without making large restructures to your company.
One of today’s top utilization challenges is having drivers available for your trucks. Many carriers are reporting that their trucks are sitting idle because they have no one to drive them. If you know what kind of freight you’ll be working with or if you’re working with repeat business, you can leverage tools to incorporate the route into your driver planning easily. This can give drivers more visibility and predictability into their schedule, helping to retain top drivers.
In addition to creating recurring routes, you can maximize fleet utilization by using tools to move freight more effectively. Use smarter tools, such as a TMS, or transportation management system, to uncover potential backhauls and optimize backhaul efficiency. The trucking industry hauled 72.2% of all freight transported in the U.S. in 2021, so there’s huge potential in making that transportation more efficient. Fully utilizing your fleet means finding and adding additional pickup stops where possible and making load planning more efficient—both of which require real-time updates.
3. Shift with the Economy by Networking
Being adaptable to economic shifts is essential for success in the trucking industry. Building strong relationships within your network can provide flexibility and open doors to new opportunities. The best way to be flexible with the economy is to have good relationships with a solid network. The Trucker highlighted how networking for some truckers includes building relationships with truck maintenance and equipment control companies.
Another great way for truckers to get more clients is by expanding your network and using load boards to find capacity or freight when you need it. However, some load boards are low-quality and are filled with requests that aren’t worth your time. In some cases, you might consider joining a freight alliance. This is where carriers work together in private partnerships. Rather than taking a gamble on a stranger from a load board, you and another carrier can work together. If one of you is light on business, the other may need help moving extra cargo. Relationships are key to making your business more competitive. Having an “in” with someone in your network can help you skip the bidding process for freight and cut down on competition for loads. For tips on using load boards and choosing trustworthy business partners, visit our blog on how Solera can help you grow your fleet.
“Sylectus provides steady freight for our expedited trucks where and when we need it. We have formed many high-quality relationships with brokers and carriers on the platform. I can’t imagine this industry without Sylectus.”
— Brian Pearlman, Fast Service LLC
4. Submit Invoices Quickly to Get Paid Faster
Prompt invoicing is crucial for maintaining cash flow and paying your drivers on time. By implementing efficient invoicing systems and utilizing payment software, you can reduce the chances of missing documentation and improve communication with customers.
Prompt billing can even be considered customer service. In fact, 35% of businesses say their biggest challenge inhibiting collections is difficulty communicating with customers. Sending clear invoices quickly shows that you’re professional and organized. If the invoice is branded with your logo, that’s even better. The faster and simpler the payment transaction can be, the better experience the customer will have.
As you level up your business this way, you can filter your own network by this metric. Watch who pays you on time. This helps you decide who to do business with; if you have a bad experience and get paid late, you don’t have to carry for that company again. Focus your time on growing the business instead of spending time resubmitting lost invoices or pestering others for payment.
5. Find a TMS that Fits Your Business
A transportation management system (TMS) is a must if you want to streamline your trucking operation. Making phone calls and manually entering information in a spreadsheet takes too much time and doesn’t communicate quickly enough with other stakeholders for you to run your business effectively. In fact, having a robust TMS is a key feature that can attract more sophisticated customers–and even attract more drivers to your business.
A TMS can help with many of the above-mentioned strategies to grow your business, such as automating scheduling and tracking cargo in real time. Many TMSs can also integrate with other kinds of tech. Load boards, EDI or API communications, fuel cards, and ELDs can all plug into your TMS to make sure you have a holistic, end-to-end view of your operations for more supply chain visibility.
As you look for a TMS, keep an eye out for features that will handle the nuances of your specific trucking operation needs. Make sure that the TMS options you are reviewing are compatible with your existing platforms. You should be fitting technology to your business, not squeezing your business into the way a technology provider thinks you should be running your business. We suggest using an existing, robust technology rather than having one built for you from the ground up. Custom-made TMS software is expensive and time-consuming to create and is often not much better than off-the-shelf solutions.
If you’ve outgrown spreadsheets and are ready to accelerate your capabilities, check out the Sylectus TMS.
As a small-midsize trucking operation, even small changes can have a significant impact on your business growth. The tips in this guide are meant to help you think strategically about how you can grow your company and stand out in the industry without having to completely overhaul the way you run your company. Whether you’re interested in improving your customer service approach or eager to implement a TMS, there are a lot of ways to accelerate your small- to midsize-trucking operation. Ditch the spreadsheets and start taking your share of the trucking industry’s $732.3 billion in revenue.
Want to learn more? Contact Sylectus today.