What changes and challenges will 2017 serve up to the trucking industry? Certainly, economic issues remain an x-factor. Freight is often a bellwether for the health of many core components of the economy and, whether the present recovery continues or stalls, trucking companies will be among the first to know it. Another signpost on the road ahead is new federal legislation set to take effect during the coming year. Bills poised to become law in 2017 will impact daily driver ops as well as administrative procedures and adoption of new technology. Here’s a sample of what’s in the pipeline from Washington.
Transporting exhibits is a logistical challenge, including selection of a freight company with the appropriate trade show exhibit trailer. Unless the show is a local event, your valuable exhibit will be out of your hands for some interval during the transport process. It’s important to verify ahead of time that both the mode of transport and the expertise of the company handling it are appropriate to this specialized cargo.
Discussions about the benefits of a curtain side trailer typically dwell on—no surprise—the curtains. The heavy-duty retractable curtain system rapidly retracts to convert an enclosed van into a flatbed with load/unload access from both sides and the rear. While versatility may be it’s main attraction, other components of a Roland curtainsider also warrant attention, particularly the one that’s on top of it all: the roof.
While a flatbed may spend most of its time awaiting oversized or odd-shaped loads that require three-sided open access, the fixed expenses of owning it keep on keeping on. Insurance, taxes and registration, regular maintenance and simply the space taken up by an under-utilized flatbed represent an ongoing outlay for many small freight firms. When flatbed loads materialize, increasingly there’s also the issue of having the right driver available; i.e., someone sufficiently experienced, physically able and just plain willing to take on the heavy, sometimes hazardous labor of tarping the load. While an enclosed van trailer can never stand in when you need a flatbed, similarly, the flatbed can’t accommodate conventional box freight, which may represent the most recurrent and substantial profit opportunities.
What one improvement could you make that would minimize downtime on the road, prevent driver injuries and reduce driver turnover? That’s a no-brainer: eliminate tarping. In an industry that strives to enhance on-road efficiency and improve working conditions for drivers, the timeworn drudgery of tarping loads increasingly seems like a throwback to a bygone era. Back in the day of fewer options, the arduous, time-consuming process of covering large flatbed loads with tarps was accepted as business as usual. Today, however, the ever-increasing presence of curtain side trailers on the road openly refutes that outmoded assumption.
Aircraft engine transportation is a specialty in both the freight being hauled and the equipment required to do it in compliance with strict standards. A curtain side trailer is one of the elements uniquely suited to this very unique load. While it’s definitely specialized cargo, depending on your location, the profitable opportunity to haul a large aircraft engine may not be a rare occurrence: Big aircraft engines are often swapped out rather than repaired on the plane, in order to save time and get a working airplane back into the air, ASAP. Consequently, airlines and airplane manufacturers routinely have replacement engines in transport all around the country and around the world. A curtain side trailer along with the very specific expertise to meet the demands of the job opens up this money-making specialization.
Are you passing up profit opportunities because the sole trailer you own and operate is a flatbed? At the time you purchased it, committing to a flatbed alone may have seemed like the most viable option to maximize available freight. Perhaps the reality of the market has changed or the nature of the loads—tarping requirements and other drawbacks—has made owning and operating a flatbed alone a less attractive strategy than it once was. On the other hand, the expense of adding a conventional van and paying upkeep, insurance and storage costs on two separate trailers doesn’t make good business sense, either—particularly considering that one of the two will always be sitting idle and unused.
Because not all freight is created equal—in size or profitability—a curtainside drop deck provides the ultimate array of options for hauling a wide variety of freight on a single trailer. Standard curtain side trailers are well-known for their versatility. Three-side loading/unloading options plus retractable curtains permit these hybrids to morph from standard enclosed van to flatbed and back again at any point along the route. The time-consuming and safety-challenged process of tarping big loads is also eliminated for large flatbed style freight. Conventional dry van freight, meanwhile, can be speedily loaded or unloaded from the ground if necessary, with or without an available dock. Everything loaded onto a curtainsider is always accessible wherever it may be located on the trailer, opening up options for partial loads and haul-backs.
The ways to spend money on mobile advertising are almost unlimited. For most companies however, the budget available is very limited. It pays to be selective and devote those funds to the most cost-effective media to generate the highest number of positive impressions per dollar. If you own a curtain side trailer, you already own almost 800 square feet of potential ad space that are being exposed to as many as 60,000 to 100,000 people every day as your truck rolls down the road. Printing the curtain on both sides of the trailer with your identifiable logo, company slogan and/or other eye-catching graphics is a great option to put your message on the road in a high-profile way, at low cost.
Optimizing fleet efficiency means acquiring more efficient trailers as well as making more efficient use of existing trailers. Buying curtainside trailers can be one strategy that addresses both issues. Fine-tuning the fleet mix to meet the freight demands of any given day—not to mention the unforeseeable future—requires flexibility and getting maximum use out of what you’ve got already. If your fleet includes too many flatbeds simply taking up space on the lot waiting for a rare oversized load, or a conventional van trailer that sometimes sits idle because shipments require side-loading, you’re not operating at maximum efficiency.