Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Concerns Continued

Yesterday I blogged the top five concerns of trucking in 2007. Here are the bottom five. I think these are an interesting read but don’t get bogged down with worry. Obstacles can slow us down or be the impetus for more creative thinking. I can’t say I like it, but I know I have grown more through tough stuff than through status quo. As I quoted yesterday it looks like 2008 will be a growth year so be prepared and may hay while the sun shines.

6. Tolls/Highway Funding. As the survey was conducted last year, the industry perceived an increase in the number of tolled roads in the US and the potential for what was characterized as the “balkanization of the US transportation system.”

Murray notes that as this Presidential election year moves on to November, Congressman James L. Oberstar, the powerful chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is frustrated because he hasn’t heard the word “transportation” come up once from either set of candidates. “He’s getting really nervous,” claims Murray, “since there will be a new administration. One way or the other a new funding bill is coming to guide us for six years and no one seems to be carrying the torch on this one. All the more reason I think highway funding is going to become more prominent than less.”

7. Tort Reform/Legal Issues. “If there weren’t so many zealous lawyers, this might not be as major an issue,” says Murray. “When you look at government statistics, automobile drivers are responsible at a minimum—the smallest number we’ve ever seen—for more than 55% of all truck-automobile crashes. When the automobile driver is responsible for the vast majority of these accidents but the tort law allows you to sue the person with the deepest pockets, it’s very clear that no matter how hard we work to reduce crashes and minimize the truck driver’s responsibility, we’re going to have law suits. It’s essentially an equity issue and tort reform would fix that.”

8. Driver Training/Driver Education. This made the Top Ten list for the first time in last October’s survey report. In the short run, this issue will become more prominent. It will be extremely critical when the industry finally pulls out of this weak economic period. Murray speculates that there will be new regulations detailing minimum driver training qualifications. They will require substantial accreditation, including 120 hours of classroom and 44 hours behind the wheel.

“Trucking companies will have to become accredited schools if they do anything with entry-level drivers,” he says. “It’s sort of the perfect storm. When the next economic up tick hits, there’ll be a major driver shortage again and we’re building a system that almost will not allow us to bring new people into the market. So I expect this issue to go up a notch or two.”

9. Environmental Issues. Anti-idling regulations and other emission reducing efforts are having a strong influence on carriers. “I suspect the thing that’s put Environmental concerns in the Top 10 is its complexity,” says Murray. “For instance, we have air quality issues requiring 200 or 400 pound anti-idling devices which ironically may improve their quality but diminish fuel efficiency. The heavier the truck gets the less efficient it is. So you have almost conflicting Federal policies between fuel efficiency and air quality.”

10. On-Board Truck Technology. Last October’s report was the first in which this issue made an appearance in the Top Ten. “The majority of respondents were not talking about technology mandates,” claims Murray, “but proactive technology solutions. We have tens of thousands of road stability devices hitting the marketplace: lane departure warnings, some of the new collision warning systems, integrated systems. They are bought because they can give really quick paybacks on efficiency and safety. That’s one of the few items on the list because industry is excited about some of the new on-board technologies.”

Looking to results of the next study, Murray says he thinks, “safety, highway finance and congestion are going to be right at the top in 2008 and they are all inter-related to each other. With the new transportation bill in the works, I think we’re going to see some programs that deal with truck funding and truck safety mandate.

Thanks to Greg Williams Director, Financial Analysis and Business Development
of Exel Transportation Services, Inc. for sending me this information.

Moving forward,

Jeff Roach

Monday, August 25, 2008

Panic or Patience

Some say we are in a recession but in my neck of the woods it sure doesn’t look like it. The shopping malls are buzzing and restaurants serving up lots of food. Predictions are that the trucking industry will lead the way out of economic issues but still much burdens our industry.

For the past three years, the American Trucking Associations has commissioned the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) to survey the industry and define the major matters being addressed by carriers. Its Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry—2007 was issued in October last year. Even in this short period of time, some of the Top 10 issues have changed their place in the order, moving up or down the list. Here’s a look at those 10 issues as defined last year with additional insights by ATRI’s vice president, Research, Daniel Murray.

1. Hours-of Service (HOS). While this was the top issue last October, edging out Driver Shortages which had previously been number one, its importance has diminished over the past few months. “I think HOS is a relatively stable issue and I would expect that would drop at least several places on our survey,” observes Murray. “This really came out during the height of the instability—court cases, interim rules and even congressional action. There were so many unknowns regarding HOS at the time that I now think we can go back to running companies with HOS in the background.”

The most recent District Court ruling preserving the 11- and 34-hour provisions of current regulations, the HOS controversy may be put on hold for quite a while.

2. Driver Shortages. Though this was a major matter in last October’s survey, with the lessening of demand for freight transport there has been less need for drivers. As always, it’s not just the need for drivers, but the requirement for those with good driving records and skills.

“Talk about a dull edged sword,” says Murray. “There’s an easing on the driver shortage issue because of how bad the economy is. But we all assume that’s a temporary situation.” As the overall economy recovers and demand for more freight movement ratchets up, so will the need for more drivers. It’s an issue that’s not going to go away.

3. Fuel Issues. The reason for this issue being third in October was given as the ability for carriers to recover some of the expense through fuel surcharges. Of late there is increasing focus at many levels on developing and using alternate fuels, ranging from ethanol to hydrogen and everything in between.

4. Congestion. This issue has moved up considerably from year to year as a headache for those using the highways. ATRI points out that average truck speeds and system reliability within many urban areas continues to decline. While several suggestions are offered to attempt to find initiatives to begin solving the problems attendant to congestion, there is obviously no panacea.

5. Government Regulation. While those surveyed in the October report weren’t specific on the matters that caused them concern, the sheer number of them were a burden. “When we went into the issue of Government Regulations,” recalls Murray, “as we surveyed this was a time of major rule making—everything from HOS to EPA engine standards for 2007, driver education. There’s even niche stuff, at least investigation of roll stability mandates on vehicles. They had done that on automobiles and everyone knows they are doing the same on large trucks.”

Exel director Greg Williams sent me this article. I’ll give 6 – 10 tomorrow. I heard on the radio that the decrease in gas prices is likely to continue as consumers are thinking through and not using as much gas as they had. Bus ridership is up. People are actually walking places. It’s all good.

Moving forward,

Jeff Roach

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What are the Fuel Formulas?

One of my online students asked me a tough question: How can I take the EIA fuel info and figure out how everyone comes up with the Fuel price for that week? I had to think about that one. The truth of the matter is I really don't have a clue. I do know companies use several formulas but they all change weekly. A large company like Landstar will have different data than a small broker who has four or five employees. Landstar is a multi-billion dollar broker. They most likely have an entire department to handle this assignment.

Since you can easily find this fuel surcharge info on most load boards and even on our site I never bothered to learn the formula.

One of my math savvy customers figures out the fuel costs. She sends it to my web master. We update weekly on www.brooketraining.com You can also track LTL shipments from the website.

So all that is to say this is the first time in my career that I could use some kind of advanced math. My artistic kids have been telling me they do not need math. I have been telling them yes you do, but put a gun to my head, I could not do this formula LOL.

I suggested my student call my customer who understands the fuel formulation. We were all impressed with my student's need for detail. With that kind of tenacity this student will surely make it in this business.

My elearning students experience a narrative learning experience. They watch, read and listen to modules that are entertaining and very detailed. We discuss anything they want to help them get the education and then I do my best to help them reach their goals. It is a blast. I love teaching on-line. www.justintimefreight.com This e-course was a year a half in development with a Team of Experts. I am amazed at the course. I get the chance to meet eager, intelligent, thoughtful students on line This young lady is going to make some broker a great agent. She wants to know everything and I love it.

Moving forward,

Jeff Roach

Friday, August 15, 2008

My First Load

We had just had our first baby girl. Amanda Brooke Roach. She was a gift from God. I had just quit my 50k a year sales job (that was good pay back in the day) and opened my own freight broker agency. I had a mentor that told me that if I would work for him for six months he would teach me everything I needed to know about opening my own brokerage. We were living in my parents’ garage while saving money for our first house so to say money was tight is an understatement. If it took .50 cents to get around the world I could not get out of sight - I mean I was broke.

So off I went to the west cost/El Paso. That is where my mentor had his brokerage. He showed me his operation and then sent me home on a 30% commission deal. That means I would make 30% of any money I made while working as an agent for Orion. His brokerage.

I always could sell - can't explain it but selling was natural for me. I was the kid in school that won every contest for selling stuff for fund raisers. I am not a good athlete so that was my way of telling everyone in school - lookout here comes the best selling kid in elementary school. Well you can imagine how far that got me with the ladies back then.

Anyway - he gave me a manufacturers guide and a carrier guide. The internet was really not a viable business tool in 1992. So we called shippers from my small little dining room table and sure enough old Jeff had an account within 2 weeks. The deal was this - I had 5-6 trucks a day of fiber going to Amarillo and the shipper said he would not pay more than 575.00 per load. According to every carrier I called in the carrier guide that was not a good rate. I knew because of the way they laughed. We started carriers on Monday and starting with the A's and by Wed we were still calling A’s and I believe it wasn't until the next Wed we finally got to the F's.

FFE. Frozen Food Express out of Fort Worth Texas. This time he didn't laugh at me. He said,”young man what exactly do you have? Again I told him,”I have 6 loads a day of fiber coming out of Waco going to Amarillo and I could only pay 425.00. (150) profit per load.” He replied,”I am sending empty trucks from Dallas to pick up loads of meat in Amarillo.”

TA DA...I found my carrier. For six months we moved six loads a day every day from Waco to Amarillo and we made around 150.00 per load. That calculated to 300.00 a day for me and my new broke family.

Just think if we had quit after the E's and not made that next call. In our case we had no other option. They say the best employees are poor, smart and motivated. Believe you me, that was me.

90% of success in life is showing up. Doing the work. Working out of the house, I catch myself sneaking into the next room to watch ESPN. It is okay and healthy to take a break but schedule those times then get yourself back to work.

Way to grow!

Jeff Roach - President
Brooke Transportation Training Solutions

Thursday, August 7, 2008


Freight brokers, are you marketing on a shoestring…or on the plastic thing on the end of a shoestring? My marketing consultant specializes in helping those of us with tiny marketing budgets but big ideas. The main thing about marketing or advertising is figuring out the best way to get your name in front of your shippers when they need a broker. Easier said than done, eh? The problem is you don’t really know when they are gonna have a crisis and need one more truck than they have or a fleet to move a shipment they weren’t expecting, etc. So you need to try to have your name in front of them at all times. That would be no problem if you had the same marketing budget as Coca Cola. So think of ways you can contact your potential customers inexpensively…without becoming a pain in the butt. Vary up your approach.

My daily blog has been a great boost to my business. I’ve used online contact companies like constant contact. You can set up a regular emailing to go out to your potentials with a tip for the week, a interesting quote, compelling statistic, testimonial from a satisfied customer, suduka puzzle, etc. The idea is to have your name seen and associated with something memorable or entertaining. Your contact information should be on the bottom of each correspondence.

Tuck a business card in with any snail mail. I had a vendor whose service I rarely needed. But my sales rep was always tucking a couple of business cards in with any mailing her company sent out. She was top of mind when I did need that rare service. You never know when someone who uses you infrequently will grow and need you for greater things.

Go to chamber of commerce meetings, breakfast clubs, industry tradeshows, training courses and other networking opportunities. Pass your business card out like water. Follow up with anyone you meet referencing what you talked about, etc.

As opportunity presents do something memorable. I like to use humor. It sometimes falls flat but that’s o.k. I figure my imperfections can be endearing…I hope so anyway. It is good to know what kind of image you want to establish for your company. I want my company to be seen as full of integrity but not stuffy. So I do what I say, own up to my mistakes and try to make customers be totally comfortable working with me.

There are volumes written on marketing ideas. Try to read business books to get fresh ideas. Test ‘em out. Incorporate avenues that give results over time. The key, as I stated before, is to have your name in front of your potential customer when they need you. Find out what they read, advertise there if you can afford it. Find out what kind of coffee they drink and send them a pound or a gift card. Find out whom they currently work with and meet with them to see if they will call on you for an extra hand.

Set aside an hour each week to brainstorm with a mentor on what you’ve tried, what has worked, what hasn’t worked and what might still work. Weigh all costs associated with each marketing effort. Seek professional counsel. Work at it everyday, you will reap benefits.

Moving forward,

Jeff Roach

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Gotta Have Goals

Goals - we talk about them... and we think they are good to have... but how do you really set goals and achieve them?

I define a goal as a dream with a deadline. Always write your goals down, set a deadline date then do something every day to achieve those goals.

Does the goal seem too big? If you’ve been to one of my classes you’ve heard me say - "how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Make a list. Your dream list. Write everything you can think of that you want to have or that you want to be. What would you do if you had six months to live? Next Consider what would you be doing if money were not an issue?

Make sure your list is in line with your values. Cross off the things on your lists that are not realistic. For example, I would like to have a helicopter but I am afraid that my neighbors would not like it so I crossed that one off.

Remember you’re the only one that can make you happy so this has to be your list. Not a list to impress anyone else. Most people buy stuff they don't need with money they don't have to impress people
they don't like...don't do that.

Think of where you want to be in the next 5-10-20 years. If you’re 46 like me then the next five years is important because I have 3 girls which means 3 colleges and 3 weddings -yikes.

Think about where you want to live and with whom and what you would like to be doing. Imagine you’re funeral and think of what they will be saying about you. Who will be there? What will be your legacy?

Go over your dream list and narrow it down again considering these other aspects. You should now have a fairly good list of goals that are in line with your values.

Ask yourself what obstacles need to be removed to achieve these goals. What can I do every day to achieve my long-range goals?

Use other sources to establish goals. I recently looked through one of my books on the Internet that I bought six years ago. I wrote down some specific goals for my companies that I got from the book. This blog was one of them. I can't tell you how important it is to write down your goals.

Write down goals for every area of your life - physical, spiritual, family, friends, financial, career, community.

If you just have one major goal for each area of your life and do something every day to reach those goals you will be amazed at what you can do in your life.

We are built to achieve. God made you unique - you have your own gifts and talents - but you must decide to use them and if you do then the sky's the limit...

Moving forward,

Jeff Roach - President
Brooke Transportation Training Solutions

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Online is Fine

Yesterday I blogged the testimonials from July's live class. I got this kind email from an online student I thought I'd share with my blog readers today. It is rewarding to hear from students that they benefit from a class I facilitate. I was certainly not the most accomplished student in my formal education years so to know that I'm a good teacher is truly miraculous. God is good.

"When I thought of an online course my first thought was that it will never be as good as a live class, until I decided to become a freight broker. I looked through a lot of online courses and thought this one was worth the price. I finally took the Gatlin Freight Broker course. I couldn’t have picked a better way to invest my money. It’s not only the course itself, but Jeff Roach is also the best instructor that I've had.

The way he teaches is incredible. There is no way that the material can not be understood. It is like having a live class in your home. The course covers every detail and I've never had a doubt or question after each module. The narrative learning course is fantastic, and my favorite part is the fact that I only have to listen. I highly recommend the course for those who want to understand the Freight Broker Industry."
J.V. Spring 2007

Moving forward,

Jeff Roach - President
Brooke Transportation Training Solutions

Monday, August 4, 2008

A Pat on the Back

We had another great class in July. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what some of the graduates said about head instructor Lance White, our motivational speaker and they even mention me and my beautiful bride Janis:

Excellent choice of motivational speakers. Paula H.

Lance is an excellent teacher! Very knowledgeable tin the transportation arena. Keeps it interesting. Paula H.

This week has been great! I enjoyed the instructors’ ability to explain complex information of the broker business. They placed emphasis on “honesty and character” . However, beware of Jeff Roach and his dancing. Lance was very informative on the technical lay-out of the business. He answered all of the questions we had. – Marvin G.

It is very refreshing to see that there are still companies who pride themselves in customer service. Jeff and Janis exceeded every expectation to ensure my traveling experience went well. I can’t put a value high enough on the knowledge these folks provide. – Jeremy C

As a long time professional broker, I found the course provides a good base to build a career. Instructors were informative and friendly. Guest speakers provided inspiration and motivation. The vendors offered systems and tools needed to succeed. Dan E.

I liked it a lot. Jeff, Janis and Lance helped me understand the freight business in a nice, fun environment. – Marcela V.

Moving forward,

Jeff Roach