2024 is shaping up to be a true test of perseverance for every individual in the transportation and logistics industry.
Facing a post-pandemic freight recession, shortage of qualified drivers, and ongoing supply chain disruptions, transportation companies worldwide will need to focus on streamlining operations and optimizing output in order to stay competitive in today’s global market.
These circumstances can be especially difficult and detrimental for small, private carriers that don’t have as many resources or margin for error as larger companies. The first two years of the pandemic also saw many new carriers flood the market due to the freight boom, so the coming year will continue to reveal how many of these businesses are able to withstand economic uncertainty.
While today’s market may seem daunting for small freight carriers, there are many resources available to help them navigate these challenging times. Keep reading to find out where to find these resources, and how they could benefit your business.
Government Assistance Programs
According to the World Economic Forum, direct government grants and zero-interest loans are the most helpful tool for small businesses facing economic uncertainty. It might feel challenging to ask for help, but there are many government assistance programs that exist entirely to support small businesses during economic hardship.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) has been especially beneficial in promoting entrepreneurship throughout the US by providing limited small business grants for qualifying organizations that have struggled post-pandemic.
Consider looking into the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program, which is a loan designed to provide a direct incentive and ability for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll. The loan can be used on payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities, although at least 60% of the loan must be used for payroll in order to be forgiven.
The government’s post-pandemic economic assistance programs are also important resources to research. Although some are no longer active, the Economic Industry Disaster Loan is still assisting small businesses that have suffered economic harm from the impacts of the pandemic. The maximum loan amount available is $2 million, which can be used for payroll, fixed debts, accounts payable, and any other bill that is unable to be paid due to the pandemic’s impact.
Another valuable strategy to help small carriers safeguard against economic hardship is to join industry associations. Organizations such as the American Trucking Association (ATA) are designed to provide access to industry-specific information, networking opportunities, and a platform for carriers to advocate for their interests. A great way to start is to become a member of one of ATA’s 50 unique State Associations, which give members the chance to discuss local legislation and foster connections statewide.
Other options include becoming a member of The National Association of Small Trucking Companies which serves as an advocate for, a consultant to, and a source of collective buying power for its member companies, helping them save money. The Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association is another organization that offers members a platform for advocacy, a chance to learn about the newest industry updates, and the opportunity to receive exclusive deals and rebates.
Technology and Efficiency Improvements
Small carriers should also regularly conduct operational reviews to identify areas where they can improve their efficiency and reduce costs. By analyzing operational data and key performance indicators (KPIs), carriers can gain insight into what goals are being met and where new technology could improve operational efficiency.
Consider implementing technology such as route optimization software and telematics to save time, lower fuel costs, and improve customer satisfaction. Route optimization software works uses algorithms to determine the most efficient route, considering factors such as delivery-time windows, total number and locations of required stops, driver schedules, and more.
Telematics can help carriers to improve driver safety, reduce accidents, and lower insurance costs by providing real-time tracking of vehicles and monitoring of driver behavior. By investing in technology to improve overall operational efficiency, the up-front cost will be more than worth it in the long run.
Finally, carriers can benefit from other online industry specific resources, such as FTR and Freightwaves, to name a few. These resources provide valuable data on economic forecasts and will help you prepare for likely market changes.
In addition to keeping ahead of market changes, successful organizations make attracting and retaining top talent a priority. Drive My Way is now offering its own Small Fleet Plan to aid carriers in maximizing their brand reach and recruiting efforts. Through access to a large community of drivers and the use of advanced matching technology and digital marketing, Drive My Way’s plan can help carriers save time and money while attracting and retaining qualified drivers.
While today’s highly competitive market might seem intimidating for small carriers, these resources can help any carrier find cost-effective solutions to their problems.