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How Professionalism Can Help You Grow Your Expedite Business

By Sean M. Lyden - Staff Writer
Posted Mar 2nd 2020 9:39AM

A common misconception, especially among newbie expedite owner-operators, is that it's the carrier's job to market them effectively and keep them busy.

These owner-operators see themselves strictly as drivers, not salespeople or marketers. So, they don’t consider the image they project to customers.

But when freight begins to slow, these owner-operators don’t understand why they’re sitting while other trucks seem to be moving and getting good loads.

They point the finger at their carrier without realizing that they also play a role in marketing themselves to keep their truck rolling.

So, how do you effectively market yourself as an expediter?

Start by being a professional.

That’s the biggest piece of advice that long-time expedite owner-operator Linda Caffee gave me when I spoke with her recently.

But what does that mean—to be professional? Caffee offered these four tips.

#1. Make a good first impression...with your truck.
Remember that your vehicle’s condition and appearance are a reflection of you and the trucking company you represent.

“Your truck is your first impression with the customer,” Caffee said. “It doesn’t even have to be a new truck. Just make sure to keep your truck clean and well-maintained. It’s the first thing that the shipper or receiver will notice.”

#2. Dress for success.
When you get out of your truck, the customer is going to notice how you’re dressed.

“How are you dressed? Are you dressed as a professional? You want the customer to have confidence that their freight, which is very valuable to them, is being handled by a professional who takes their work seriously. And how you dress plays a big part in communicating that message,” Caffee said.

So, what does it mean to dress professionally?

"Nice slacks and either a button-down shirt or a nice pullover shirt," Caffee said. "Not shorts, unless they're nice shorts. Also, you should have good shoes on. Crocs are not appropriate."

What kind of footwear is appropriate?

"Closed-toe shoes," Caffee said. "And ideally steel-toed shoes. Some docks won't let you on their dock unless you have steel-toed shoes. They protect your feet when you're working on your truck, strapping in freight, and moving stuff.

If you’re a team, should you both wear something similar—monograms, colors, and types of clothing?

“Yes. The important point here is that you're presenting a professional look, and you want that look to complement each other,” Caffee said.

#3. Stow cargo neatly and securely.
Your professional image also extends to the cargo area of your truck.

“When the customer opens the back doors of the box, what do they see? Is the cargo neatly stowed and secured? Again, you want to give the customer confidence that their freight is in good hands,” Caffee said.

#4. Watch what you say—and how you say it.
"Always keep your conversations professional with customers," Caffee said. "We'll ask about their families, but it's still on a professional basis. Avoid 'bar-room talk' and cuss words. And never, ever complain about your company in front of a shipper or receiver. From a customer’s perspective, they’re going to think: ‘Are you going to treat my load like you are complaining about it? Every load you pick up is valuable, whether it pays a buck or five bucks a mile. What matters most to the customer is that you’re going to treat their freight with care.”

The Bottom Line
How does professionalism help you grow your business?

Shippers and receivers will take notice. And that word gets back to the carrier.

"We delivered to one place, and [the receiver] sent an email [to the company] saying how much they appreciated somebody finally coming in and looking like a professional," Caffee said. "They felt comfortable with us—and confident in us. So, acting like a professional all the time improves your reputation with customers and the carrier."

And a reputation for professionalism can snowball into more freight opportunities, giving you a greater competitive advantage as agents and dispatchers gain greater confidence in working with you.