How to Pick the Right Lanes for Your Carrier Business

Whether you’re a new carrier or a well-established one, one of the most important aspects of your business, and frankly your day-to-day experience, is picking good lanes to run.

What are lanes?

In the world of inland freight movement, trucking lanes or shipping lanes or freight lanes are the combination of interstates, highways and other roads approved by the Department of Transportation to move freight from one location to another, often crossing state lines.

A certain combination of roads are likely the most common and efficient ways to get Point A to Point B, so it’s not uncommon to find numerous commercial carriers traversing the same paths. Hence “lanes” have become an industry shorthand to talk about the routes to get freight from Point A to B, instead of just talking about the starting or end points.

Why are lanes significant?

In short, what you make as a carrier depends on which lanes you run. Different lanes command different rates, and additional factors affect the final rate. Rates are set by the open market, not unlike the price of a stock on the stock exchange – rates could go up or down due to numerous reasons. Read here for the major factors that affect trucking lane rates. It’s difficult as an individual carrier to affect rates, so your best bet to make money isn’t to try and influence the rate of your preferred lanes, but rather to find the best lanes that make business sense to you.

Consider the following:

Origination Point
Decide where you want to start from at the beginning of each week. For the vast majority of carriers, it’s where their homes and families are. So if you are raising your family in south Florida, you should be considering freight that pick up near you. It’s silly to run an empty truck up to Atlanta or Jacksonville just to pick up your haul even if those lanes are going for a higher rate.

The Freight:
What freight are you hauling? What equipment does that freight require? Where is that freight going? How easy is the drop-off? Any additional instructions from the shipper or the consignee? Your answers to all these questions will narrow the kind of broker or shipper you want or are able to serve.

End Point
This one is a bit of a trick question: dropping off a freight may be an end point for the cargo and the termination point of the obligation you have with that broker or shipper for that load, but realize that this is not the end point for you! From here, you need to go somewhere: whether that is back to your home base or to pick up another load to start the next haul. The distance between this dropoff point and the next load is called “dead head”, and just as the name implies this is dead or wasted time and distance that you’re not getting paid for. And worse: it’s also burning your time and your fuel. Good profitable carriers pay very close attention to this, probably as much as they focus on securing good lane rates, because every “dead” dollar goes against every dollar that you worked so hard to make.’

Why a good broker is critical to your overall success

This is where a good broker who is a true partner to you can really help make or break your carrier business. A good broker will work extra hard to keep dead head down for their carrier partners, even if dead head costs do not impact the broker’s revenue one bit. That’s because a good broker cares about the long-term relationships that it has with its carriers, not just one transactional load at a time. A good broker has a range of shippers that they represent and will seek to optimize routes so they can send the carrier to the next load with minimal dead head. And the magic really happens when a final haul takes the carrier back to his/her home base. A perfect closed loop!

While the perfect closed loop is not always possible, good brokers always strive to assign load to carriers that take the carrier’s economic interests into consideration. At Heritage, we are proud to say that numerous of our carriers run the same lanes with us year after year because of precisely that win-win mentality that we have with our carriers.

We have daily loads on some of the most profitable and easy lanes in the US. Call us now to find out what we are actively seeking to move right now. Get onboarded in minutes to our carrier network – we’d love to have you onboard!