From January to March (and especially February), when the holidays have passed but it is too early for produce to ripen, the trucking industry has its slow season. Here are our tips to help you survive this troubling time.
Slow Season is Hiring Season
Because the slow season has a low number of miles to claim, it’s the perfect time for people to make mistakes. Hiring newbies and training them now makes them better prepared for the peak times of the year.
Beyond hiring truckers, the slow season is your best time to hire other personnel. Hire an HR professional for your fleet now to do your hiring in the summer when rates are at their highest.
Slow Season is Also Vacation Season
If you ever want to take a vacation and put your trucking business on hold, it makes the most financial sense to do it during the slow season. Not only do you miss out on only the cheapest of contracts, but it is also the slow season for the vacation and tourism industries. Amusement parks and other vacation spots are at their lowest demands, meaning lower prices and shorter lines.
Understand the Terrain
The winter is when the nation is coldest. When transporting during the slow season, understand the route you are taking and the weather conditions along the way. Is there slippery ice on the road? Could it possibly become too cold to start the engine in the morning? These are factors to consider to prevent catastrophes.
Prepare for Lower Rates
With a lower demand for shipments, clients have more bargaining power. It is a good idea to save money earned from the higher rates of the previous holiday season to help make it through the slow season, to augment yourself for the lower rates you will be making.
Likewise, your truckers may be discouraged at the lower rates and quit. Subsidizing their work with an additional cent or two each mile might be worth it for retention purposes alone: recruiting and training new talent is a much larger expense than a few hundred dollars in the winter.
Keep Your Trucks Winter Proof
With the slow season starting midway through Winter, there is no doubt you have already prepared for the cold. But with the environment still extremely harsh, it doesn’t hurt to keep your trucks well maintained for winter. Check tire quality and other components most harshly affected by the cold.
Annual Maintenance and Compliance
Time spent maintaining your vehicle is time it is not on the road, so it makes perfect economic sense to do your annual inspections when it costs the least to not use your truck. Additionally, the start of a new year is when new rules and regulations tend to become enforced. As such, it is best to plan your annual inspections to be done during the slow season. If you are knowledgeable in truck mechanics and in regulatory compliance you can do it yourself. If you hired someone to do it in house, tell him this is the best time to do it. If neither, you can outsource the work to others, but other fleet owners may have the same idea, driving costs for inspections and compliance upward.
Minimize Your Cost Per Mile
With loads having their lowest mileage rates during the slow season, it pays more than ever to keep costs low and protect your bottom line. Make sure you and your fleet understand the importance of fuel efficiency. Remember that deadhead miles are essentially worthless and plan for your next load farther in advance.
Keep Working Your Contracts
Having a contract for the future helps keep income steady. You don’t have to worry about business being slow if you’ve already planned your shipments far in advance! This, of course, requires advance preparation and may require you to take a pay cut during the peak seasons to maintain a higher rate during the slow season.
With the beginning of a new year offering the lowest rates of the year, now is the perfect time to take care of business off the road. Hire new people, prepare your fleet for the year ahead, or take that vacation if you deserve it. In any case, just because the start of the year has lower rates than the rest of the year does not give a reason to slouch: there is plenty of things to do to keep you occupied until April.
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