Analytics, maintenance keys to trucking profitability

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. – “Do you wanna make more money?” That was how Brian Abel, freight network engineer with KSM Transport Advisors, introduced himself before a Surface Transportation Summit session on improving the profitability of your trucking business.

The key to achieving this, Abel contended, is by leveraging analytics.

“Carriers for years have sought a metric that could best capture potential profitability,” he explained.

His firm developed a concept called “yield,” which is essentially the margin per day of a fleet’s entire network.

“As yield goes up, operating ratio goes down,” Abel explained. “The concept of yield creates a common language to allow carriers to analyze freight using proven mathematics.”

The formula developed by KSM Transport Advisors incorporates the measure of time.

“Time in trucking is a perishable commodity,” said Abel. “You can’t make up revenue tomorrow that you squandered today.”

The metric measures the time and cost to deliver a load, beginning with the empty call following the previous delivery. Any unplanned time is considered delay, which gives the fleet insight into how long it actually takes to deliver a load compared to its expectations. It also considers geography and helps fleets to drill down on the most – and least – lucrative lanes, loads, and customers.

These analytics also allow fleets to better understand backhaul requirements, and whether they’re charging appropriately.

Mike Buck, president, MCB Fleet Management Consulting, spoke to how improving maintenance practices can also improve a fleet’s profitability. A good fleet maintenance program needs rigorous inspection processes, he noted, so all technicians are following the same workflow.

Service intervals should be carefully planned so the company is not wasting money over- or undermaintaining its equipment. Fleets also need to consider maintenance costs when spec’ing equipment in the first place, Buck added.

One area which should receive extra attention is tires.

“Perfectly good tires lose two to four psi per month. The more you use it, the more it gets hot and cold and the more air it loses. You have to have something in place to get that air back into the tire between your PMs if you have extended oil drains,” Buck said.

This can be as simple and inexpensive as a wall-mounted tire calendar, which fleets can use to ensure they’ve been regularly checking inflation pressures.

“Get a rigorous tire program in place so you can monitor it and prevent those tire breakdowns,” Buck said.

Fleets should arrange national account programs for the purchase of maintenance services, parts, tires, and fuel. They should have a list of approved vendors, and equally important, disqualified vendors.

“Ensure they know how to maintain that equipment before you ever have to take it to them,” said Buck.


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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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