Being Successful In The Schneider National Choice Program

Mike

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Lately, I am finding myself in what starts out as casual conversation, and turns into teaching lessons. The biggest lesson to be learned out here is that being a good driver does automatically translate to being a successful owner operator. Yes, if you are leasing a truck, your ultimate goal should be to eventually own the truck, so you are an owner operator.

I have sit down with a few of our drivers over the past few weeks who are having trouble making the system work for them. Low revenue, high fuel costs, and trouble keeping moving.

While some will disagree, the first question I will ask the driver is what kind of fuel mileage they are getting, and how fast they are running. Typical answers are always above 65mph, and up to 75 or whatever the speed limit is. That is fine if you want to run that fast, but if you are struggling to learn the system and freight lanes, and struggling to make a profit, the first thing you need to do is slow down and slash your fuel costs.

Another topic during this conversation will be length of haul. The driver will usually tell me that there aren't enough good paying long loads. At that point, I get asked how long my loads are, and my answer is rarely not over 800 miles, and most of the loads are 400-600 miles in length. When you are a company driver, getting paid a set rate per mile, long loads are great for you. When you are running a business, it is all about profit. It makes more sense to take a load that delivers the next day, paying 80 cent per mile more than the long load you want, then get another short load the next day that is also paying 50-80 cents per mile more than that long load. In the end, you run far less miles in a week, use far less fuel, and generate the same or higher revenue. That means much higher profit.

Next, you have to know the freight lanes, and particularly the ones that are strong where you are leased. Where I am, you ignore good paying loads going to San Antonio, Texas delivering on a Friday. Why? San Antonio goes to sleep on Friday, and doesn't wake up until Monday for the most part. Don't take that load unless you are due to reset your hours. Take something paying a little less that is going to a strong freight area. Learn where the freight pays the best and try to keep yourself in that area. An example of this is that I will rarely, almost never, go east of Ohio. Why? because the freight rates pay horrible coming back west and I have no desire to run up and down the east coast. If you happen to live on the east coast, then staying over there and running I95 might work great for you. Pick your area, and learn to make it work for you.

Finally, plan your fuel purchases wisely. Schneider National has a fuel optimization program that works great for finding the most inexpensive fuel during your current trip. However, that program doesn't take into account your next load. When you plan your loads, map out your fueling locations and make the smart decision. Always make your fuel purchases in the most inexpensive location possible. For example: You can top off your tanks in Tennessee, while traveling to a delivery in Ohio. This prevents you from purchasing high priced fuel in Kentucky and Ohio (though you may want to purchase a little at some point each month in Kentucky for IFTA purposes). Your next load may take you right back into Tennessee, and even though the fuel optimizer told you to get fuel somewhere in Ohio, you can likely make it back into Tennessee to get fuel, saving you roughly 40 cents per gallon. 40 cents per gallon here, 20 cents per gallon there, and so on, adds up to a huge swing in fuel expense, and a much higher profit margin.

Bonus tip: If you are leasing a truck from Schneider, you want to put back money as quickly as possible to cover at least one of your weekly lease payments. You want to do this in order to not be forced into taking loads that deliver on Monday in order to cover all of your weekly expenses. You can put this money back into your own bank account, or you can have Schneider build it up out of your settlement into a general fund. What this does is allow you to take those better paying loads that you would otherwise ignore because they deliver on Tuesday, and you are needing a load to deliver on Monday to ensure you get a nice settlement and have all your expenses covered. Having that money set aside allows you to simply make a payment to Schneider over the phone or have them deduct it from your general account, therefore avoiding the penalty they would otherwise charge you for not making your lease payment.

There is money to be made, good money, in the Schneider National Choice Program. I will go out on a limb and say that you can probably earn more money and be more successful in this lease than you can with any other large carrier, based on the numbers I have seen from the other carriers, simply because you have the option to earn higher revenue if you work it right. At the same time though, you can fail much easier as well if you don't run it like a business.
 

Duck

My other car is a POS too
Supporter
Another topic during this conversation will be length of haul. The driver will usually tell me that there aren't enough good paying long loads. At that point, I get asked how long my loads are, and my answer is rarely not over 800 miles, and most of the loads are 400-600 miles in length. When you are a company driver, getting paid a set rate per mile, long loads are great for you. When you are running a business, it is all about profit. It makes more sense to take a load that delivers the next day, paying 80 cent per mile more than the long load you want, then get another short load the next day that is also paying 50-80 cents per mile more than that long load. In the end, you run far less miles in a week, use far less fuel, and generate the same or higher revenue. That means much higher profit.
Shorter runs pay better because shippers & receivers have a knack for wasting your time. Put a diesel powered air conditioner on the front of the trailer & now all of a sudden half of your shippers & receivers think they can take 6 hours to get you unloaded. That's simply not acceptable. There's no excuse for a van or reefer to EVER spend more than maybe 45 minutes tops backed into a loading dock.

If you're pulling for a fleet & it's either all drop/hook and it's a decent carrier that won't waste your time hunting down empty trailers, or if it's live load/unload ONLY at customers that have their act together & don't waste your time, then it's better to take those shorter runs.

From what I've heard, from ALL of the mega-fleets, is that you rarely save any time with drop/hook loads because any time saved by not having to sit in a loading dock is wasted trying to hunt down an empty trailer.
 

Mike

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Shorter runs pay better because shippers & receivers have a knack for wasting your time. Put a diesel powered air conditioner on the front of the trailer & now all of a sudden half of your shippers & receivers think they can take 6 hours to get you unloaded. That's simply not acceptable. There's no excuse for a van or reefer to EVER spend more than maybe 45 minutes tops backed into a loading dock.
This is the case if you work for a carrier that doesn't take measures to keep this from happening.

In this day and age, if you are still pulling trailers around for a carrier that sits you all day somewhere, and doesn't properly compensate you, it is all on you for accepting that and nobody should be willing to work at places who do this to a driver.

Another bonus of the Schneider National Choice Program is that and average duration is calculated for shippers and receivers based on the time spent there for each delivery (the numbers are accurate due to EOBR's accurately documenting the time). We do have a very small number of customers where the wait time is high. Typically, the freight rate is raised to accommodate that, and if not, there is detention time that goes into effect for extended waits. For owner operators at Schneider, the detention time doesn't go into effect until 6 hours. I have never had to file for it, but I also don't go to shippers or receiver where the wait duration is high.

I don't haul meat and produce anymore because it doesn't pay anymore to haul that crap, and those loads are notorious for delays. I'm not going to give my time away for free.
 

mndriver

curmudgeon extraordinare
Supporter
Tyson and Sysco both are great for wasting time. But also consider the idjits on the dock know nothing about your truck.

Tyson- Olathe has loaded me 40k to the doors. While I can easily carry 40k, in Missouri, you cannot bridge this load legally now. These guys had zero clue how to load you.

The jerks at Sysco are notorious for excessive detention. 30 pallets on at olathe will break down to 60 in Memphis and they expect you to sit there the entire time while they count it.
 

Mike

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Only thing I haul to Tyson is Pallets. Drop and hook :)

We do make some deliveries to Sysco, which is typically a 2-3 hour ordeal. Duration time that shows on my computer says 3 hours, so I avoid unless it is paying exceptionally well.
 

mndriver

curmudgeon extraordinare
Supporter
I have stopped hauling BOTH locations when they refused to do anything about the detention. The broker was upset with me "after all the work I did to raise the rates".

Guess what, you did nothing to address the issues of excessive detention time. An hour from the time I bump the dock to pull out. Not much to ask for. Offering to pay $50 per hour detention after 3 hours is not going to cut it.
 

Mike

Well-Known Member
Staff member
I have stopped hauling BOTH locations when they refused to do anything about the detention. The broker was upset with me "after all the work I did to raise the rates".
That is exactly how it needs to be handled, and it can work at both the owner operator and company driver level. People need to stop working for free.
 

Injun

Rabid Squaw
Staff member
Supporter
Okay, regarding fuel, IFTA and pump prices: It's a little more complicated than simply finding the cheapest fuel.

Take, for example, Washington and Idaho. In Washington, you might pay $3.98/gallon. In Idaho, fifteen miles away, it will be $3.93. Going off raw pump price, one would think Idaho is the place to purchase.

Except.

Washington's fuel tax is 36 cpg, Idaho's is 24.5. The fuel tax you will owe each state for passing through will be the same, regardless of where you buy. It's figured off your fuel economy and how far you travel in each state.

If you subtract the tax each state charges for fuel, you find Washington's price is $3.62/gallon and Idaho's is $3.685/gallon. If you buy at the lower pump priced Idaho stop, you will still owe Washington tax for whatever fuel you burned there. You will end up paying into IFTA. If you buy in Washington, you will still owe Idaho for whatever fuel you burned there, but you will be reimbursed the difference between the tax you paid in Washington and what Idaho charges.

The taxes you end up paying will not change. Each state will take its pound of flesh. That's what IFTA is all about.

You can control how much actual price you pay for the fuel. But you have to take into account how much of that price is tax and how much is fuel.
 
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