“I‘ve noticed that some of the other candidates are almost scornful of the word, the implication being that if you‘re hopeful you must be naïve. That‘s not what hope is. Hope is not ignoring the challenges ahead. Hope is working for and fighting for what seemed impossible before.” -Barack Obama
It‘s hard to be hopeful these days, with the country now teetering on the edge of a recession, engaged in billion-dollar-a-day wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, healthcare costs spiraling out of control, with the threat of a terrorist attack by Al Qaeda or some other nefarious group not far from our minds.
It‘s harder still in trucking, which watched diesel prices jump over $3.50 a gallon in some parts of the U.S. last year (the industry‘s total fuel bill is expected to reach $110.1 billion for 2007) while freight levels slumped almost 2% overall from 2006 levels - after suffering through many volatile peaks and valleys month by month last year, with freight as unpredictable as the weather.
What to do? It can seem overwhelming with all this bad stuff happening at once. Throw in a couple thousand a month in truck payments, add in an unexpected health crisis in the family, and things can really turn ugly frighteningly fast. But I don‘t think that makes trucking a bad business to be in - far from it, actually. There will always be freight to move - even air cargo carriers and railroads need trucks for first- and last-mile service. The trick is finding the profitable freight, winning some good customers with your service, and keeping them for the long haul.
It‘s sounds simple, but I know it isn‘t. And trying to do all of that while clocking in 2,000 to 3,000 miles a week on the road is beyond my meager skills, let me tell you. But one guy who did - in good times and bad - is Tim Brady, our contributing editor in charge of the “Small Business Review” you‘ll be seeing every month in our magazine. I bring him up not to be self-serving to our editorial staff (well ... OK, maybe a LITTLE self-serving), nor because he spent nearly 23 years behind the wheel of a big rig in the moving industry, but because he breaks down all the complicated mumbo-jumbo of business into simple, common sense concepts.
I met Tim by happenstance back in 2003 and an industry convention, selling a book he‘d co-written with tax advisor Esta Klatzkin called “Driven 4 Profits.” He gave me a copy to read, explaining that this was his attempt to make the complicated business of trucking far less so for owner-operators and small fleets alike.
What a book! Simple, clear, concise ... even a layman like myself grasped everything he laid out in there. I went back and ended up interviewing him over several days, writing a couple of stories on him, and started to keep in touch. I met Terry, his wife, a former journalist herself who helped keep Tim‘s prose on the straight and narrow (and simple, clear, concise...). The rest, as they say, is history.
Thing is, you don‘t have to agree with Tim‘s philosophy on what‘s right or wrong with trucking - heck, as we all know, the old saw goes that no two truckers can agree on anything! But all kidding aside, his books (and articles, podcasts, online forums, etc. - Tim and Terry are nothing but prolific) will at the very least give you - whether you are a driver, small fleet owner, or big fleet manager - something to think about. Maybe it will help you find a new angle to solving an old problem, or help address new ones.
[You can reach Tim at www.writeuptheroad.com and his direct email, by the way, is firstname.lastname@example.org]
The whole point is that despite the rapidly worsening economic times - the stock market dropped by 292 points yesterday, after home prices reportedly dropped another 5.3% - it‘s not a death knell for trucking by any means. There are ways to make profits in this business, and not by crooked dealings, either. It just takes a little good sense to find your way there ... and maybe Tim can supply you with some.