Everything's finally come to fruition. The open road called-- and you answered.
Successfully financing your own commercial truck is no easy feat, but the real work begins now: finding and landing your first trucking contract.
It probably seems incredibly daunting to you now, but with the right resources, it doesn't have to be so scary. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about building your trucking business, from finding companies needing freight moved to landing truck driving contracts.
Get Your Authority to Operate
First things first: it's likely that you'll need to get operating authority, or an MC number, in addition to your DOT number. Unlike your DOT number, your MC number will dictate the type of business you can conduct with your commercial truck and the type of cargo you're allowed to carry.
Do You Need Authority?
Not all commercial truck operators need to get operating authority. Make sure you determine your need before you start the process to save time and money if it's unnecessary.
If you're a private carrier who transports your own cargo, you don't need operating authority. If you only haul commodities exempt from federal regulation, commonly known as a "for hire" carrier, you don't need operating authority.
Finally, if you work solely within a "commercial zone" as designated by the federal government, it's likely you don't need operating authority. Interstate authority regulations don't apply to these zones. One example of a commercial zone is the area along the Southern U.S. border, bordering Mexico.
Types of Authority
There are different types of authorities according to the various intentions of a trucking business and the freight it carries. Here are some of the main types:
- Carrier of household goods
- Broker of property (excluding household goods)
- Broker of household goods
- International cargo carrier
- International household good carrier
There are other authority types, too, if none of the above apply to you. Notice how carrying household goods plays big into your authority type. This is largely due to the nature of your clientele.
It's essential to figure out your authority type early on. This will inform almost everything about your trucking business, from your insurance to your clients to your capability to carry international goods.
Get Started with Load Boards
There are tons of trucking contracts available out there-- the key is to get your hands on them. This is where using a great load board comes in.
For beginners without long-term clients, load boards are where you'll find most (if not all) of your freight. Load boards are essentially freight-matching services that pair you up with clients needing your services.
They can be competitive, though. You're not the only one showing up every day, ready for the long haul.
Make sure you're using the best load board service you can find. The good ones will offer you the ability to create a truck posting in addition to searching for freight so clients can find you, too. The best ones will even have a quick payment system integrated for faster payment on your hauls.
Of course, your long-term goal is to build a trucking business on long-term contracts so you don't have to rely on load boards forever. Load boards are a great way to find them, but they're not the only way.
Think Long Term
In addition to your load board postings, you should also take matters into your own hands. Cold pitching to clients who need freight carriers seems like a shot in the dark, but can actually be incredibly effective.
Take some time to consider your ideal client's qualities.
What's their budget? How frequently do they need your services? How long or short term are their contracts?
Doing some self-reflection about your business this way is key to finding clients that are a great match for you. Once you've nailed down the characteristics of your ideal client, find them in the real world and start pitching. Usually, they'll love the initiative that shows and will want to work with you.
Top Tips for Finding Great Clients
Everyone has a hard time finding their ideal clients, across all industries. You're not alone.
Check out industry boards for industries you know use trucking services frequently. Many of your potential clients will display these on their site. If you can become a member, you've got access to tons of potential clients who are ripe for the pitching.
For instance, supermarkets make up a big bulk of freight clientele, so the National Grocer Association would be a great place to try to find a new contract.
The U.S. government also uses independent contractors like yourself for tons of shipments every day. The U.S.P.S. is always looking for owner-operator freight services, and pre-qualification is pretty simple. The General Services Administration, or the GSA, is usually looking for freight carriers as well.
Besides finding great clients, probably the most important piece of advice for building a trucking business with longevity is to keep great clients. Load boards are awesome tools for freight carriers just starting out, but your ultimate goal should be to build a strong client base with long-term contracts so you don't have to wonder where your next job is going to come from.
In order to build that clientele, you need to keep your current clients as happy as a clam. Sometimes, you have to eat short-term costs to keep a long-term client.
In every business decision, consider whether or not your decision will support the health of your relationship with that client. That should be your only deciding factor!
Land Your First Trucking Contract Today
Now that you've read up on how to land your first trucking contract (and all the ones afterward), hopefully you've found your footing in the owner-operator freight carrier field and are ready to get out there and get started!
Still need to find that first contract? We've got you covered.
Sign up for our load board service (it's free!) to post your first carrier listing and get on the road ASAP!