Know Thy Trailers!
How To Identify Your Tractor Trailers
Growing up in Texas with a father managing logistics in the Army, on trips we always loved to play the game on identifying what types of trailers we saw up and down the interstates. Although this knowledge did not play a part in my life until almost 35 years later, I love the game to this day and have passed the game on to my kids., and my staff members.
It was easy for us to pick out the dry van and the reefer with maybe a little curveball on if the reefer, with its automated refrigerated system was capable of being a dry van as well.
It is so important, in this industry, to know what type of trailers your customer’s freight will require. Some broker agents prefer to stay in their comfort zone by staying with the dry van and reefer and will not attempt to work with specialized trailers and that is ok if dry van /reefer is what their niche may be. It is important for brokers agents to find out what their niche is and to cultivate it to become the
expert in the industry.
It is also important, in fact, it is a must, for the broker agent to know what type of trailers their customer’s freight belongs on. This is crucial for an oversized load!
Remember, we are specialists in the industry, and educating yourself is essential.
Below are some of the types of trailers and a good reference to use if in question:
Van- A van trailer is probably the common type of trailer. They are usually 48' to 53' long. The width is about 102'. It is important to know if it has a "swing door" or a "roll door." knowing the width of the commodity is so it is known if it can get through the doors of the swing and roll door. Commonly used for palletized freight, the vans can usually scale up to 44,000 to 45.000 lbs.
Refrigerated Reefer- A reefer (Commonly called) is like a van but insulated and has a cooling unit attached to the front of the trailer. This allows for freight that is needed to be kept at a certain temperature.
Flatbeds- Also known as Floats- Flatbed trailers come in lengths of 53', 51' 48', 45' and 40'. Occasionally you will come across a 24-footer. The most common is the 48 and then the 53'. Most flatbeds are 60” off the ground. It is important to know the height of the commodity. Height can cause issues if the broker agent does not do their homework on the commodity.
Flatbeds are good for construction equipment, hauling pipe, pipeline mats, and brick.
Not knowing the height of the commodity and sending a flatbed that should have gone on a step-deck will make the load too tallresulting in a Truck Order Not Used or commonly called a TONU. This when the driver has been dispatched and is en-route or at the facility and his truck cannot be used for load. A TONU will most likely occur and is deserved by the driver. Who is responsible for sending in the wrong trailer? You are.
Flatbeds with side kits- This is when a driver will take their standard flatbed and put a "side kit" on it. Most kits have 4' sides, and then there bows that attach from one to the other allowing them to put tarps over the top.
Step decks- A step deck is like a flatbed. However, it has a drop in the trailer to allow for taller freight. Most of your steps are 53', 51', and 48' in length. Usually, there is 10'-11' on the top deck dropping down about 24" with the rest of the deck. There is a 53' trailer, 48’, 42' to 43', and 37' to 38'. The width is the same as a flatbed, usually 102". Step decks cannot scale as much as a flatbed. They usually scale around 42,000 lbs. Some shippers may need a step-deck with ramps if the shipper has no way to load it up on the trailer. Good communication with your customer asking if ramps are needed will save time and money if clarified in the beginning.
RGN or Removable Goose Neck- The RGN is for loading larger machinery or oversized cargo. The trailer mechanically works in the front of the gooseneck that retracts down in the ramp. The ramp assists in driving the machinery up into the well unless the crane is loaded. The RGN usually has about 29' in the well unless it is extendable.
Lowboy- the removable gooseneck is slowly replacing the lowboy trailers due to their limited functions. The lowboys were built for heavy equipment but do not have removable gooseneck capability or functions to retract down to ramps.
Conestoga- A Conestoga is a flatbed with retractable sides. The sides of the trailer will retract to the front, and both sides are mounted on rails allowing for the retraction.
Power only- Commonly referred to as a tow away. A driver will disconnect the trailer and use "power only" to hook and pull with the truck using its power for the pull.
I hope that this will be a good reference to use for you until it does become second nature. There are many more trailer types out there. The ones here, are the most common.
The importance of educating yourself with the trailer types, the commodity, dimensions, and weight of your haul, and matching it with the right trailer will get you to your niche quicker with success.
Putting Yourself Out There
“The greatest fear in the world is of the opinions of others. And the moment you are unafraid of the crowd you are no longer a sheep, you become a lion. A great roar arises in your heart, the roar of freedom.” - Osho
So, you want to get into specialized freight. In order to get yourself out there to the potential customers, you will need social media networks to market your specialty.
A website is a must. It is an immensely powerful tool. It is like having a beautiful storefront to guide your potential clients to. A well- maintained website can improve your image as a business owner. Having a website is often how you are found intentionally or by accident by prospective customers and/or word of mouth. Your website is a powerful marketing tool.To begin to grow your business and to begin building your audience you will need a website to make your presence known and to attract the customer’s that you are interested in. It will need to have content with strong SEO words (Search Engine Optimization). Basically, they are keywords that appear when a potential client is searching for services like yours and uses a certain keyword that you have on your profile and articles that you write or post. Matching those keywords to the customers keywords guides that customer to your profile and services. On your email, brochures, any marketing material that you put out there, you should have your URL (website address) on it. And on that website, it should have all the information that they are looking for in exactly what your services/products are. It’s a time saver on both sides having it all in there for your potential client to read over. I could go on and on about the presence of a website but, that will be for another book too. There are so many advantages to having it.
On any social media, website, advertisement, etc. It is important to have a good profile with enriched keywords to bring those customers to you. It will pay for itself if you keep it maintained. There are many good articles on the web and videos on YouTube that will teach you all about SEO content if you are not sure what exactly it is and how to or where exactly to use them. Be creative!
There are excellent social networks out there. Besides your website, this is where you start developing your presence and social networks is where you would start building your audience. You need to know where your targeted audience is. What social network are they on? It is important to find your prospective customers.
I have found that LinkedInand Alignable are the two networks to find my target audience. For others it may be on Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram etc. Word of caution: you do not want to get caught up trying to create a presence on all of them. You will quickly know the networks to find most of your customers on. Do not mess with the ones that do not use certain networks. If your targeted customers do not use it then you are wasting time. Remember, time is money and money is time. It took trial and error to learn that lesson and eventually a great mentor, teacher who taught me. I was trying to have a presence on all of them, but my content was not good. I was posting the same content on each network and on some of them changing it up just a bit but just a bit to notice that there was sloppy work going on. I was not growing my audience and the results were hurting my growth. It seemed that I was drowning in a loud social media network frenzy. So, I stay with about two for engagement and on the others that do not really serve the company, I advertise my brand, so my brand is getting some recognition from them.
Establishing who you are, and your expertise is something that does not happen overnight. It takes consistency, planning, education, and watching others that have large followings on social media. You can learn a lot about growing your company on social networks by watching those in your field and what they post, the type of engagement from their followers, observing what kind of content your audience likes and showing them how different and beneficial you are to them versus any other company. That is what makes your light shine. Give them good content.
Instead of pushing your brand on your audience, interact with them by being your true self. They will eventually feel as if they truly know you and that is what networking is all about. The connections that you make, most of them, are intelligent businesspeople, just like yourself. If you sound fake, they will not have trust in you. If you come across as not being prepared and not showing your presence consistently, then they will not even take notice of your posts and videos. There is a method to this madness! Trust me, over the years I have met many digital contacts that now use our services and will refer others to our company.
It does take time to build your audience and to become an influence on those networks. When I first started out, I had posted a beautiful quote by Ronald Reagan. It had nothing to do with politics, it was just a great quote. The ones that love to push their political views on everyone else engaged on that one, including intense arguing! Finally, I stepped in trying to put out the ugly fire that was erupting from my post and a gentleman told me to shut up Forrest Gump. My son and I never laughed so hard! We got engagement for sure and it took days for the life of that post to fade away. Which is not a bad thing. Being called Forrest Gump was a funny thing!
Just know that with our technology constantly evolving and where your audience is today may not be where they are at a year from now and marketing a year from now could be a whole new ballgame. It is important to educate yourself on it and watch the data that most of these networks provide to know when it is changing. Be sure to keep an open mind, be creative, and always show professionalism. Not only do you need social media to bring in good customers, you need to set up appointments and go meet and visit with shippers. Take your potential companies out to lunch. Do not forget to take your existing customers out to lunch. Show your existing customers your gratitude for allowing you to assist in their transportation moves.
A great book that breaks down marketing for you is ‘The End of Marketing’ by Carlos Gil. I encourage you all to read and learn from this man and his years of experience and research.
Please keep in mind that all information shared with you in this book is basic. You will learn through experience and tools that are provided on how to get where you want to be in this industry and how much money that you want to make. We can go so much deeper on specialized freight and especially with the over-dimensional loads. I want to give you the essentials for now.
There are many ways to find new customers out there. A lot of them will have their email on their website. A good tool to also use is MacRae’s Bluebook. It is user friendly and some of our freight has been generated through MacRae’s Bluebook.
Find a strategy that works for you on bringing in new clients. You should always be looking for new clients.
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