Choosing A Truck
I get a lot of questions about choosing a truck. I do not indorse a specific brand of truck. As for the decision of choosing a toy truck or a full size semi truck here are a few things to consider. Aside from the fact that you can buy a good used semi for the same price as a dually and get way more miles out of the used semi, on average, than you will the dually, there are a couple of things to consider. First if you want to make money legally a 3500 series (1 ton) is out of the question. I know we have all seen a one ton pulling a 5 car trailer and making it through the scales. There is a reason for that. The DOT is USUALLY only looking at the amount your truck is registered to haul. This means that they do not USUALLY look at the GVWR plate found on the driver side B-post or driver door that says what the truck is rated to haul. A 3500 is usually rated to haul somewhere around 30-32 thousand pounds including the trailer and your load. It is difficult to get a large enough load on a 3500 without going over that weight limit. If you are ever inspected and the DOT officer checks that rating against your scale weight you could be shut down. I have heard of guys going to jail for being over that rating if they are involved in a wreck with serious bodily injury or death.
So the bottom line is if you want a dually I strongly recommend going with a 5500 series. This gives you the ability to haul 5 cars at a time legally and safely or if you are starting with a wedge trailer you can carry a full load and go over the 30-32k that you are limited to with a 3500 series but you can also upgrade to a larger trailer later without having to get another truck. At a bare minimum a 4500 will handle a fully loaded 4 car wedge but leaves no legal room to upgrade to a larger trailer later. As for choosing a semi there are a couple things to consider. Length is a concern is car hauling. You have to be careful in some states to not be over 75 feet from front bumper of the truck to tail lights of your load. A full sized long wheel base truck and full size trailer will put you over that length because you have to slide your fifth wheel way back to about 2" forward of center of the rear axle in order to accommodate the "drop deck" of the car hauling trailer . A shorter wheel base truck is recommended.
How to choose the right size truck for the trailer you want to pull.
One of the most common questions that I get is "what size truck do I need to pull a - car trailer?"
So here is a good rule of thumb to go by.
3500 series truck=3 car trailer
4500 series truck = 4 car trailer
5500 series truck = 5 car trailer
Now I know if you go out there and park on the side of the road for just a few minutes you will see someone pulling 4 and 5 car trailers with a 3500 series truck but that does not mean it is legal or safe. Yes it is true you can purchase an apportioned license plate or tag for well over your scale weight and make it through the scales but... Here is where the problem comes in. If you will look at the GVWR plate on the back of the driver door or the driver side "B" post you will see that even if the 3500 series truck is listed as "heavy duty" it is still only rated at 32,000# and if you put 4 mid size sedans on the average 4 car wedge trailer you will almost always end up over the GVWR allowed weight. While this is rarely an issue I have personally seen a DOT officer at a scales check that plate against the scale weight. Also if you are involved in a wreck and you are over that GVWR allowed weight you probably wont come out so well by the time that officer that works the wreck is finished with you, unless they simply are unaware of the issue or don't know to check it. So why take the risk? If you are thinking "well I just wont haul more that 3 cars at a time" you may want to read the post above this one titled "How much can I make hauling cars?" The lowest figures on the smallest trailer is calculated with the ability to haul 3 large or 4 small so if you take one on it off (approx 25% of the load pay) you may not like the numbers that are left running legal with only three small or two large. Now this is not to say there is never a place for a 3500 series truck. Dealers that just want to move a few new purchases back to the lot maybe? But for those of you that want to make a living doing this do the math on carefully before you purchase. Just some thoughts to chew on while choosing your truck.
Tire Straps? What is the best?
There are several options and brands of tire straps available. What you can use may be dependent upon your trailer and the type of tie down system it will accept. The least likely to cause damage is the "over the tire strap". This strap will require a trailer that is designed for over the tire straps and most of them are now. Another strap is the "Lasso strap". This strap does not cause damage when applied properly and is quick and easy to use. They are also less expensive than over the tire straps and work well on multiple applications. But if not properly installed can cause tire, wheel or paint damage to the fenders. See the photo gallery pic of the little yellow bus. The straps used on it are "lasso Straps"
Manheim Chicago. The fence in the background in 6' tall plus the barbed wire on top of it!!!
Our services are specifically designed to help you succeed as an automotive transportation professional. Our dispatch team has experience as CDL and OTR drivers and in dispatching. We have dispatched everything from 3/4 car wedge trailers to 10 car stinger rigs. Our goal is to assist you, as a business owner, in staying fully loaded with the best paying cars available. With good communication and a willingness to go where the money is you can succeed. Call us for pricing.
We can assist you in choosing a trailer that will best fit your needs. I have seen someone who had no experience in car hauling go out and purchase a nice looking trailer and hit the road only to find out that the trailer could not perform up to his expectations. This cost him his business because he was unable to make the money he needed due to the limitations of his trailer. Speaking with someone who was experienced in car hauling prior to purchasing a trailer could have provided him with the information he needed to make a good purchase. On the flip side of that coin I have seen someone new to the business buy a good trailer but then set so many route restrictions and restrictions on what he was willing to haul that he also was unable to make money in the business. Both of these gentleman were making less money car hauling than they were hauling general freight and that tells you SOMETHING WAS WRONG!!! The cars were available but they could not or chose not to haul them. If you want to succeed in car hauling you MUST be willing to "go where the money is and haul what pays". We personally run our truck coast to coast because that is where the best money is but you can make money without going that far. You will need to run more than just a few states if you want to make $30k plus per month and stay loaded all the time.
This is my understanding of the drug testing requirement.
You are not required to go through a consortium, however, it does a couple of things for you. First it makes you seem more credible because you never know when the consortium will send you an email telling you to go to the nearest testing location for a random test instead of you being able to choose the time that is best for you when you are "clean". We all know there are a few bad apples in the barrel that ruin it for all of us and being willing to take a test at any time says a lot. Second when you are signed up with a consortium like Lab Works USA you will have access to a network of nationwide locations in the event of needing a random or post accident test. They can also take care of your "pre-hire" test weather it is truly a pre-hire or you are your own boss. The DOT still requires a "clean" test to be in your file. We have been using http://www.labworksusa.com/ for a while now and the service has been fantastic. Even if you are your own boss and you are involved in a wreck and the DOT officer working the incident does not demand you to submit to a drug test it may be in your best interest to immediately have one performed so that if you are in a lawsuit afterwards you will have documentation showing that you are drug free. Just my 2 cents for what it is worth.
Our accounting department is now offering IFTA processing. This is generally one of the most hated parts of running under your own authority. We strive to make this process simple and easy for you. All we need from you is for you to download your GPS after entering your fuel information at every fill up. Email this to us and we do all the math for you. If you are "old school" and keep a written tally of the mileage when you cross a state line and fuel receipts we can still work with you. It does take more time to process it this way but we can still do it. Call the dispatch hotline at 931-946-3232 and ask for April.
If there are questions that I have not already answered in the blog, services, or about us page please send me an email and I will add it to this page for everyone's benefit.
How much can I make hauling cars?
I get this question a lot. After all isn't making money one of the biggest reasons we get into this business, or any other? I will answer this question based upon what I am consistently seeing this spring/summer. (2017) You need to understand that there are so many factors that influence how much a truck can make that it is impossible for me to tell you exactly what you as a driver/truck manager can make in a given amount of time. I have seen a 6 car trailer drop $10,000 per month in gross revenue simply by changing drivers. The same dispatcher and same routes but 10k less per month just by a different management style. How long it takes you to load and unload. How well you can negotiate with customers for after hours pics and drops. How well you manage your routing when you have several drops or pics in one area. How well you manage your load placement. When you are driving a full size 6+ car trailer you should be grossing a minimum of a grand a day if not half again as much. That means that you should be grossing about $100-$150 per hour of driving time. Sometimes more. With this in mind if you are a poor manager and you fail to call ahead, as your contract says you must, and when you get to the auction the car has not been paid for yet you just lost money. You have three options. Pay for it your self and get reimbursed upon delivery. Not a good option. Sit there and wait 1-4 hours (if you are lucky) while this problem is resolved or cancel. None of these are good options for a number of reasons but you must choose one. If you go with option 1 there is always a chance that you may not get paid for the unit and get stuck with the car(after a bunch of legal paperwork). If you choose option 2 you just lost up to $150 per hour of lost revenue while waiting. As you can see if you only loose an average of 2 hours per day times 25 days per month that is as much as $3750.00 per month in lost revenue, some of which is avoidable simply by good management techniques. If you go with option 3 you now have the potential for getting a "late cancelation or no show" negative rating. Plus you now have an empty space to run with or another car to find and drive to its location. Like I said none are good options so do your job and call ahead. You may be able to get out of it but you still have the hassle to deal with and if you don't get out of it because you breached your contract by not calling ahead the day before and verifying vehicle readiness you will no longer have that spotless 100% record that is so valuable in this business. It takes a thorough understanding of these things and the ability to think them through quickly because it is these little daily decisions that will make or break your business. So back to the original question of how much can I make hauling cars. These are average number but can be much better with good dispatching and a driver that will let their dispatcher do their job. It can be worse with poor truck management and a driver that gets picky about what they will haul and where they will go.
3-4 car trailers typically will be $12-15k per month.
5-6 car trailers typically will be $15-25k per month.
A good 7 car typically $25-30k per month but can be more with a good driver.
8 plus can reach numbers well above $30k per month.
These are numbers we see every month but are not meant in any way to be a guarantee that you can make this kind of money. These are good average numbers and can be much better but few drivers have both the stamina and the management ability to reach higher numbers. These are solo driver numbers and with a team can be about 1/3 to 1/2 again as much but again it takes really good teamwork between the drivers and the dispatchers to reach the higher numbers. There may be drivers out there who are doing better than this and if there are I encourage you to keep doing what you are doing because you are either an above average good driver or have found a niche market or both. So this brings up another question.
Now that we have looked at the potential numbers a truck can produce I still hear a lot of guys say they cant afford a semi over a pickup. It can sometimes be easier to obtain financing on a pickup truck so aside from that lets assume that you can get financing for any truck you want to buy for the sake of argument. If you will go to www.centraldispatch.com and look at the classified section you will find a number of good used truck/trailer combinations that are 6 car or bigger for no more than you will pay for just the truck when you buy a 3500 one ton. With that thought in mind look up above at the gross monthly earning potential for the different size trailers. Now having bought and maintained older trucks I understand that there are maintenance risks with an older truck. You will want to plan ahead for the possibility of having to install a new/used engine or rebuild. There will always be some minor maintenance that needs done on them. However, in my experience, it is well worth the risks. You will want to establish and maintain a relationship with a good shop that can provide full service maintenance. Go to the Repair Shop page on our website for more info.
Is it worth team driving?
Short answer is, in my opinion, yes. There are several things to consider though. I prefer team drivers in my trucks for several reasons. I run nation wide, not regional. It is faster loading and unloading with a team. I am a people person and enjoy working with someone. Team driving is usually only truly effective if you are driving long distance because when you are picking and dropping there are time constraints that you must deal with most of the time. Normal business hours at a lot of businesses or scheduling with an individual to pick up or drop at their home. When you are running regional you often end up with both drivers sleeping most of the night on a regular basis. Kind of pointless to have a team under those conditions. Another thing to consider is a team will not double the income. Its not likely to increase it by half as much but it is possible. I still believe it is usually worth it.
Truck repair, Trailer repair, Welding Fabrication, Hydraulic repair, Truck management, Dispatching
Vehicle Damage Claim Forms
One thing that is important to understand is that it is not a matter of if but rather when will damage occur. When damage does occur handling it properly can reduce the cost and time involved in settling the claim. Having someone with experience in this area can help you save time, money and your rating on Central Dispatch and other load boards. We will share tips on how to avoid damage as well as tips on how to repair (not hide) minor damage on the road. This can save you hundreds of dollars.
How does our truck management program work?
Our truck management system is not for owners who drive their own truck. It is specifically designed for;
A. Someone who has a number of trucks and wants to get into car hauling but does not have the time to learn or manage a new side of the transportation industry. In this case you would provide the truck, trailer and driver and either lease them under our authority or keep them under yours while our team handles all of the day to day management aspects of getting that truck from point A to Point B. This would include dispatching, invoicing, truck and trailer maintenance and all of the little time consuming issues that come up during the day.
B. Someone who owns a truck but cannot drive it for any number of reasons. For example if some is a professional and does not want to give up their career at this point or ever but does want to get into trucking. Maybe you want to invest and at some point down the road get into the transportation industry but cant quit your day job until you have a truck with a proven track record. This option allows you to purchase the truck and trailer and put a driver in it but avoid the inevitable bumps in the road of starting a business without any experience in the car hauling world. We provide that experience in management until you are ready to take the wheel yourself. Or maybe you just want the extra income from the truck but are satisfied with your current job. Whatever your reason this option makes it almost a no touch managed income for you. Being under our dispatch allows you access to greatly reduced repair rates in our shop as well.
Questions about insurance are common so I will share a few thoughts, however this is not to be considered legal, professional or definitive advice. You should check with a licensed insurance agent for your final answers.
How much insurance do I need?
The amount of insurance coverage you need will vary depending upon your particular situation. There are some basic guidelines to go by.
A good rule of thumb is that a three car wedge should have a minimum of $150,000.
A 4-7 car carrier will usually carry $250,000. Anything larger usually has a $350,000 or larger policy. Keep in mind that the value of your cargo should be considered. With the price of today's automobiles these amounts may not be nearly enough. Discuss your options and needs with your insurance agent.
This one is easier. Most brokers don't leave you much choice in this matter. They require a $1,000,000 policy before they will even dispatch to you, and considering lawsuits these days that amount is not a bad idea to have anyway.
You may want a policy that is called "non truck" or "bob tail" policy. This will cover you when you are not "under dispatch". If you drive your truck on the weekend or for other personal use this policy covers you.
Collision and uninsured motorist etc.
There are varying schools of thought on this. Personally I believe that it is a good idea to have your General Liability and cargo with one company and the rest through a second company. The reason for this is if you have a claim your insurance underwriter will most likely jack your rates way up when you renew. This will effect every component of your policy. So if you have a collision claim it effects your cargo rates. However if you have it through two different companies you wont have to start shopping around for new cargo and general liability coverage. It is hard to find good rates so when you do you don't want to loose them. If you have a small cargo claim pay it out of pocket if possible. I have seen more than once, when a cargo claim was filed, the insurance company pays it then will jack your rates by $10,000 or more for the following year on a claim that was way less than the amount the insurance went up.
Who is the best insurance company?
Shop around. It is worth your time to shop around. If you have had your CDL less than two years a lot of underwriters will not even talk to you. Last I heard Progressive will write a policy in this case. We personally use CDL Associates and absolutely love working with them. They are "good people". You get a real human to talk to once you have selected the option that suits your needs. They work hard to keep you rolling. Their number is 888-863-2101. Tell them Bobby with Little Sequatchie Transport told you to call.
Is there someone out there that can teach me how to haul cars?
This is another question that we are asked on a regular basis. After doing a little research online I was able to find a couple schools that advertise for car hauling training. From what I understand they offer full CDL and car hauling training and they are not cheap. I am making no claims as to the quality of the training because I have never visited them or talked with anyone who has attended. So what about for those drivers that already have a CDL and just want to know how to haul cars?
With that thought in mind and after much discussion with our insurance company and our attorney we have learned that we can begin providing this much needed service. We will not be providing CDL training. It will be car hauling training only. This training would consist of learning how to properly fill out your BOL and how to properly fill out and perform an inspection on the vehicles you haul. You will receive instruction and hands on experience with loading, securing and unloading units. This will include the use of chains, laso straps and 3 point over the tire straps. this will include training on how to properly install and use all three types of securement methods without causing damage to the units you are transporting. There would be two-three weeks of over the road training riding with an experienced car hauler. This would be real world training on the road with a working driver. The loads you would be involved with would involve real customers and real paperwork. You would have the opportunity to deal with all sizes and conditions of vehicles. Upon completion of this training you would have a basic working knowledge of car hauling and depending on your performance you may have the opportunity to lease on with our company as an owner operator. The only requirement our insurance company put forth is that you must have had your CDL for two years before riding in our trucks. Again this is not CDL training and you would not be driving. Please go to the contact page to request information on costs and class dates. If a single minor damage to a vehicle can run from a couple hundred to several thousand dollars imagine how much you will save if you know how to avoid causing damage. Not to mention faster loading and unloading and knowing how to inspect and process your paper work for faster billing and less chance of getting stuck with a damage that you did not do but did not know how to document and inspect for. Car hauling is a steep learning curve even for experienced drivers.
For those of you who are not interested in this longer program we do offer a one day "crash course" with your truck and trailer. We will provide several different vehicle for loading onto your trailer and will go over the basics of paperwork, loading and unloading and properly securing your loads with your specific tie down system. A single damage due to not knowing these things can cost far more than this crash course. The program is simple. Bring your truck and trailer and we provide the load. A flat fee of $375.00, if you have not signed up for our dispatching service, is charged to your credit or debit card and is all the training costs. This is an investment that will pay you back many times over in increased speed of loading as well as reduced damages. If you will be utilizing our dispatch service you will receive a membership rate of $270.00 for the class. If you are leasing on under our authority the training is free.
"And whatever you do, do your work heartily, as to the Lord and not to men." We will do honest work at a profit if we can, at a loss if we must, but always honest work.
Permits-What do I need?
Making sure you are properly permitted is important. Knowing how, when and where to get the permits is also important. We will help you with this process but we ARE NOT the DOT. We will share the knowledge we have gained over the years but the ultimate responsibility is yours to make sure you are DOT compliant. Knowing how much overhang front, back and in the middle that you are allowed ,and in what state, will save you a lot of hassle. Most of this is "common knowledge" in the car hauling community and we will share the knowledge we have.
Bill Of Ladings
Upon signing up with our dispatch service we will provide you, upon request, with a sample of a bill of lading that we use. We have designed it, over time, with multiple tweaks and adjustments, to work with the unique requirements of dozens of different brokers. This BOL comes in triplicate carbon copies so that you will have one for the pickup location and one for the delivery location as well as a copy for you to keep. They can be ordered with 4 copies as well if you have more than one truck in your fleet. This allows each driver to maintain a copy of the vehicle if the car you are hauling gets transferred from one truck to another during the transportation process. This allows for an original signature from the beginning to the end of the trip.
We can Help.
Every car hauler knows that the larger the unit the better it pays per mile. But it also creates other problems like being over height. Knowing your trailer and where to load a particular unit on it is half the battle, but there will be times that you are just a couple inches too high and you don't want to cancel that good paying unit because you already have time invested in it and you know that canceling is bad business. So what do you do? There are a number of "tricks of the trade" that we can share with you.
What kind Of Trailer Should I get?
One of the most common questions I get is "What kind or size of trailer should I buy? One of the first questions is "how much money do you want to make per month?" But more on that in a bit. Well to start with I am not here to advertise for a specific brand. I am not being sponsored to share my opinion so what I will share is more about the functionality of the trailer instead of the brand. No matter what size trailer you pull the principals of functionality are the same. If you are planning to pull a wedge or pull a 9 car it is all the same. The more vehicles of varying sizes and styles that your trailer can haul the more money you will make. For example; If you buy a wedge trailer there are several size options. In my opinion you are wasting your time and money if you don't get a trailer that can haul 3 full size trucks or four cars/small SUVs at a minimum. I can say this because we dispatch for a number of companies and we see the bottom line of each. If you choose to buy a wedge you will want a 50+' wedge with flip outs front and back. You will need a winch with a remote control. Lighting that lights the underside of the units you are loading really helps but is not critical. The point is make sure that you can maximize your profit by being able to haul enough to make a profit. Second if you do get this trailer you will not be able to legally haul 3 full size trucks unless you are pulling your new pride and joy with something bigger than a 3500 one ton. You will need to have a registered gross weight of 36k or more in order to not worry about being over weight at the scales and most one ton trucks cannot legally do that. It is very frustrating as a dispatcher to sit there looking at a good paying load that you know will fit on that trailer but the driver cannot pull it because his truck is not big enough to legally register high enough to pull that load. The mistake of buying a one ton to do this job will cost you more per month in loss revenue than the additional payment to get a truck that is big enough to do the job, not to even get into the maintenance costs of running a truck into the ground that is not big enough to properly and safely do the job. Research carefully what your truck is legally allowed to haul before purchasing. I know you see them every day running the roads but that does not make it legal or safe or cost effective.
I purchased a trailer awhile back that was advertised to haul 5/6 cars. The problem was that this trailer only had two axles with single wheels. The tires on these wheels were rated at just over 6000 pounds each X 4. So 24,000 pound was all this trailer could haul due to the tire limitations. I found that if I loaded this trailer with what I found that paid the best and fit on the trailer I was over weight on the tires and blowing them like crazy. Now anybody that knows me knows I cannot stand an empty space on a trailer because that is lost revenue and over a years time it adds up to thou$and$ of Dollar$!!! I know! I know! Some small thinking people are saying "well just get smaller vehicle or don't load it as full!". Thats like going to the gas station and only getting 3/4 of a tank of fuel when you won a free fill up! If you will look at the picture of the trailer being pulled by the gray Mack you will notice that it is no longer a two axle trailer. You may also notice that is also no longer too short to put three normal sized 4 door sedans on the bottom without using the flip outs that we added. It is now 2.5 feet longer behind the axles. It now has 12 k Dexter air brake axles instead of the wimpy 10k electric brake axles it came out with. It also has flip outs on the front and top back. With the flip outs extended it is 2" shy of the 56' that Washington allows. (with a permit) These upgrades were performed in our shop and have paid for them selves many times over! See I could have just loaded smaller units or fewer large ones but I am in this business not to see the country side but to make MONEY and see the country side!!! In order to do that your trailer must be able to perform at its maximum. There are many more upgrades that this trailer has had. One of which is the ability to winch a vehicle all the way into and out of the bottom and all the way onto and off of the top. We handle a lot of INOP (inoperable) vehicles because the ones we get pay better or are what it takes to complete a load. This trailer can now manage 7 small units or three large and three small. I can hear someone asking why I didn't just buy a bigger trailer. Couple of reasons. First a larger and heavier trailer would have meant having to buy a bigger truck with two axles in order not to get over weight on the drive axle. As it is we are now running just shy of the allowed 20k on the drive with a full load. This trailer is a perfect fit for this truck. Secondly the old saying "run what ya brung" holds true here. It is what I had and without just selling and starting over this was the best option, and, as I said before, these mods have paid for themselves many times over both in added revenue and we are no longer blowing tires several times a week.
Now for larger trailers. It is the same principle. The more options and flexibility your trailer has the more money you will make IF you use your trailer to its maximum capacity.
Our shop is now open for diesel repair as well as trailer repairs including improvements like the ones mentioned above.