Looking Both Ways
To Van or Not to Van.
CAN I BE SUCCESSFUL EXPEDITING WITH A VAN? – PROS AND CON’S OF THE VAN
This post of Look Both Ways will explore the world of expediting in a cargo or Sprinter type van with the hopes of helping you determine if vanning is for you. We’ll look at facts and real data, some good news, and some realities you may not want to hear. It is very important that you have good information to help with your decision making process.
Expediting is the ambulance service of the trucking industry. It’s all about moving very time sensitive freight, generally because of an error resulting in a shortage of needed product. Expediting is nothing like the Truckload Industry which utilizes tractor-trailers moving normal freight, with the exception that the driver is picking up a load at a shipper and delivering it to a consignee. Current statistics show that in the US there are:
”¢ 1.9 million semi tractors operating
”¢ 5.6 million semi-trailers in use
”¢ 3.2 million truck drivers
”¢ And that 90% of trucking companies (including owner operators) have fewer than 6 trucks!
Most folks form their ideas on Expedited trucking from this truckload segment of the trucking industry. So, how many Expediters are there in the US? Taking all of the Featured Carriers on ExpeditersOnLine.com and adding all of the trucks required to be reported on their MCS-150 US DOT Motor Carrier Report, I found the number of trucks to be 4,651 at the major Expediters. This number may or may not include cargo vans depending if the Carrier requires their vans to transport placardable quantities of Hazmat. We’ll add in another 5,349 cargo vans to make it a cool 10,000 trucks operating for the major Expediters.
Expediting Compared to Truckload Trucking
To compare the relative size of Expediting in comparison to the truckload industry according to the above data would be 10,000 divided by 1,900,000 which is equal to .52 percent. This means that expediting accounts for just barely over one half of one percent when comparing the number of trucks to the truckload industry. I always make this point to eliminate any notions that Expedite Carriers should be required to “produce” some load just because an Expedite truck is sitting empty somewhere waiting for a load. Even in tractor-trailer truckload there is not always a load waiting for an empty tractor. Expedite loads are not pre-planned shipments. Generally expedite shipments are called in with a pickup needed in a few short hours – so the idea that dispatch had time to find you another load while you are delivering your current load does not apply. Expedited shipments are entirely different from normal trucking. It is what it is, and it is what we do.
Now consider vehicle capacity limitations of typical Expedite vehicles by weight and volume against the semi-tractor. Most tractor trailers will hold approximately 46,000 pounds of freight placed onto as many as 52 (stacked) pallets. Most 24 foot straight trucks will accommodate about 13,000 pounds of freight placed onto an average maximum of 24 (stacked) pallets. Obviously tandem axle straights hold more weight – perhaps up to 22,000 pounds, and Non-CDL trucks hold less weight – usually eight or nine thousand pounds. A 3500 Series 1 ton van will hold up to 3500 pounds of cargo and usually up to 3 pallets in an extended model. How many loads actually will fit in that cargo van? To further your understanding of the number of loads that may be available for cargo vans in the “normal” world of trucking on any given day look at any load board. Count how many shipments of the thousands upon thousands of shipments that are 3 pallets or less that weigh 3500 pounds or less. Reality is that the most limited cargo hauling vehicle by weight and volume is the cargo van. Don’t despair – there are many, many positives to expediting in a van.
Looking at some of the more positive aspects of vanning, we find that:
Â· Vans are generally not required to keep logbooks.
Â· Operators of cargo vans are not subject to IFTA fuel taxes. Vans pay taxes in the “pump” prices when they purchase fuel.
Â· License plate fees are less for vans than big trucks.
Â· Physical Damage insurance costs less due to vans having a lower stated value.
Â· No CDL required unless hauling placarded amounts of hazardous materials.
Â· Cheaper to dead head in a van.
Â· Still able to get sales tax exemption on vehicle in Ohio.
Â· Easiest entry level vehicle due to price. Buy used in case you don’t like – you should be able to sell for close to your purchase price.
Â· Compare the average loaded mile pay of the cargo van is about $1.00 per loaded mile versus the tractor trailer owner operator on a dedicated run may be paid as little as 95 cents per mile, but for all miles. A little truck getting more pay than the big truck? – If only there were as many loaded miles for that little truck.
Â· Generally not subject to roadside inspections.
Â· Can park pretty much anywhere.
Â· You can put mag wheels on your mobile.
Â· Can always recycle your old van into a cool hippie mobile or camper
Â· Not subject to FMCSA mandatory drug and alcohol testing – may be required by company policy – cool if you are an old hippie.
“I gave a girl a ride in my wagon.....Gonna love me in my Chevy van and that’s all right with me”. Sammy Johns 1973 –
Some of the not so convenient aspects of vanning to consider:
Â· Less hauling capacity by both weight and volume capacity – hardest vehicle to load.
Â· In the past 20 years many, many folks that wanted to get into expediting have bought vans – there just may be a glut of vans in the industry.
Â· Many vans lack adequate sleeper berth and other comforts. Having sleeper berth reduces space for cargo, thus decreasing load opportunities.
Â· Really tough to drive for fleet owner – not enough money to share amongst the driver and vehicle owner.
Â· Fuel discounts through carrier are many times not available for gasoline vehicles.
Â· You will be competing with OntarioVanMan, Moot and other great personalities here on EO for freight! These guys are very experienced, professional vanners. J
Â· Know that you will have a stellar week – having a settlement in the thousands – every once in a while. That will not happen week after week. Vans are the vehicle most subject to fluctuations in industry.
What can you do to increase your chances of success in a cargo van?
To increase your chances of success, first maximize the load carrying capacity. A van with the designation 3500 or E-350 is designed to haul 3500 pounds. A van with the designation of 2500 or E-250 is designed to haul 2500 pounds. A van with the designation 1500 or E-150 is really not useful in the expedite business as it is intended to haul 1500 pounds. Mini-vans, pickups and cars are used by very, very few expedite companies. These same number designations also apply to Sprinter vans. 3500 Sprinters have wheel wells about 46” apart meaning most pallets cannot fit between those wheel wells. An elevated floor may be installed to rise above the wheel wells to better accommodate pallets of freight.
Know Your Legal Load Carrying Capacity
The correct, legal way to determine your true load hauling capacity in any cargo van (or truck) is to read the manufacturers GVWR rating which is located inside the driver’s door. After equipping the van by installing a wood floor, e-track, any sleeping accommodations and your personal belongings, fill the fuel tank full of gas at a fuel stop with a scale. Weigh the vehicle with your body in the vehicle. Subtract that scale weight from the manufacturer’s GVWR and that my friend is the true legal load hauling capacity by weight for that vehicle. This weight will most likely be lower than the 3500, 350, 2500 or 250 designation on the van. Many drivers will argue that they can haul 4000 pounds in their van. A prosecuting attorney will argue quite differently after an accident. Ooops, sorry – the risk manager is coming out in me. Now apply this same principle to the “cube van”. There is a reality dilemma with owning a vehicle that has a GVW under 10,000 pounds, yet weighs 8,500 pounds equipped for work with the driver and fuel. The owner thinks he should be able to haul 3,500 pounds. Get in a bad accident with that scenario.
Cube vans having GVW in excess of 10,000 pounds might have an advantage over the typical cargo van. Along with the Sprinter van, cube vans offer the opportunity to haul loads requiring larger volume capacity. Loads that because of size such as height or length would not fit in the normal cargo van, may fit in a cube van or Sprinter van. Cube vans exceeding 10,000 pounds GVWR require the driver to log, and in order to log to your advantage, the truck would need to have a sleeper which conforms to the regulations contained in 49 CFR 393.76. Again, adding the sleeper reduces weight and volume carrying capacity. The idea is to legally maximize space and weight (load) carrying capacity when purchasing the truck to increase opportunities.
Other ways to help achieve success are to research Carrier companies. Ask to see settlements of vans from your home area from any companies you are interested in working for. Ask how many vans they have in your home area, and how many customer shipments they have per day (on average) in the area for vans. Stop at a truck stop and talk to the van owners sitting out front to get the real story. Better yet, listen to them and know that the truth lies somewhere in the middle of it all. Don’t ask Carrier recruiters how many miles vans average, because in Expediting it’s really not about the miles, it’s about the money. Remember that every van owner has different needs, wants, expectations and limitations. Each has their own individual work ethic. Restrictions you place on the Carrier restrict their ability to find load opportunities for you. Spend a lot of time reading posts on EO about vans and the experiences and failures of individuals. Have the right mentality – realize the van is toughest vehicle to find a load for. Don’t sit too long in any one area waiting for a load. Keep in mind the idea of “lost revenue” – that is the money you could have made from loads you might have got had you moved (deadheaded) to a better area. Sitting more than 24 to 36 hours in one spot means you might have lost revenue. Better explained, spending money for fuel to deadhead can often eliminate some lost revenue. Most important, have enough money (capital) set aside for the rainy day. Vans have the greatest swings in revenue and are the most susceptible to the fluctuations in the industry.
Please take time and learn the industry. Learn by reading, listening, attending seminars and training provided by your Carrier or other reputable sources. Wait to think about getting your own Authority, or running for multiple carriers (which I don’t condone) until you have a very solid understanding of the trucking industry and the many – oh so many – complicated technical aspects of this industry. Knowledge is power.
Can someone new still succeed in a van? – yes, but there is much planning, research and some luck involved. Cargo vans will continue to be needed within our industry. Don’t be scared, if after you research, study and listen and it appears like you could make it in a van, then you just might succeed.
Want to learn much more about Expediting? Want to get to speak to Professional Expediters? Want to speak with Professionals from Expedite Carrier Companies? Then attend one of the workshops brought to you by On Time Media and ExpeditersOnLine.com.
For more details visit www.truckingworkshops.com
Disclaimer: This blog is NOT intended to give legal advice, nor be a substitute for any training required by the Regulations.
Till the next blog, Thank you drivers for all you do!. Please be safe!
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©John Mueller, CDS, COSS