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As we approach the end of February, most truckers would acknowledge that this is a good year for the North American motor carrier industry. Business volumes remain strong, in fact stronger than they have been during the first few months of prior years. Supply and demand remain in pretty good balance. Capacity is tight as experienced drivers remain in short supply. Low diesel fuel costs are keeping this operating expense in a more manageable range than it has been in some time. For Canadian manufacturers, the eighty cent dollar is helping drive exports to the United States. Many shippers are receptive to rate increases to ensure they retain their core carriers. There hasn’t been a better time in years to improve yields.

In the past, truckers would go to their low margin accounts during the good times and seek a significant rate increase or de-market some accounts in the hope that new, more profitable accounts would be added. As economic conditions worsened and revenues declined, these same truckers would often go back to the accounts they de-marketed and then try to re-secure them. This feast or famine approach to yield management did not appreciably improve the business on a long term basis. Some companies have learned from experience that there is a better way. During these fairly buoyant times, the opportunity exists to make some significant and sustainable improvements to the bottom line of your trucking business. Here’s how.

Get an Accurate Reading on the Margins on all of your Accounts

If you haven’t invested in a good cost accounting system, now is the time to do so. As a starting point for any yield management initiative, it is critical that you don’t guess at the margins of your accounts. A good costing system will supply you with high quality estimates of the margins of your clients. The system should supply you with a list of your accounts in descending order by contribution margin by lane. There is a need to fully understand what is driving these numbers.

Which specific costs are contributing to the low margins on some accounts? Does a particular account incur too much waiting time? Is the freight difficult to load? Does the driver have to incur too many out of route miles to pick up or deliver the freight? Are the costs in line but the rates are non-compensatory? Do the rates not sufficiently cover fuel or accessorial charges or freight density? What are the factors that are producing an inadequate return on the account? Where do the rates have to be to achieve a satisfactory yield on the account? This will serve as a partial roadmap as to where improvements are required.

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