Partials: Balancing Profit with Customer Expectations

Unused space on your trailer is lost potential revenue. I’m not suggesting that finding the perfect partial will happen each time. I am merely suggesting that I fear we “talk” ourselves out of even looking. “It will add time,” we say. “I rarely find one dropping on my route,” we say. Both of these statements are true, but they are also excuses not to try. That breeds complacency, which in turn breeds laziness. Be mindful and beware of laziness. Laziness is so insidious that it doesn’t just show up in your life. It creeps in, slowly.

The term “partials” can have a negative connotation in our business. Some brokers are more than happy to lists loads as partials, but most assume they are “paying” for the whole truck. In truth, I don’t often bring it up with anyone I’m working for. We’ll start with a real-world example.

Picture of a Case 580 Combination Backhoe sitting on a step-deck trailer.
CASE 580 Combination Backhoe

Take this CASE 580 Combination Backhoe (pictured above). The team back in the office negotiated an excellent rate from southern Michigan to Idaho Falls, ID

The Problem

When I get empty…I’ll still be in Idaho Falls, ID.

I don’t mean this as a slight to the fine people of Idaho. It is truly beautiful country. It is not, however, a hotbed for specialized open-deck freight. You now find yourself stuck with the two terrible choices of sitting in Idaho hoping to get lucky or driving empty (for free) to another location.

Is there a third choice?

What if we were to go back in time to last week when we loaded this load. It was a 1500+ mile run to deliver on Monday. Scheduled to pickup on Thursday we would be landing in Idaho Falls Saturday afternoon. This means a day in Idaho Falls sitting (Sunday).

The Solution

Full image of my Red Kenworth W900L hooked up to my step-deck trailer. On the trailer is a Case 580 Combination Backhoe and a piece of machinery covered by a tarp.
All Loaded Up for Maximum Profitability

How about we load an additional (and separate) delivery using up the 21 feet at the end of the trailer?

We could use Thursday to locate a partial. After much searching…victory. A piece of machinery going to a roof truss manufacturer in Wyoming. Just 70 miles from our Idaho Falls delivery.

The Customer Factor

Never forget that this business is all about customer service. Too many drivers don’t realize or won’t realize this simple fact.

This partial feels like a lucky break. Realize now that the partial load will need to come off first so the 580 can be driven off the rear. If the 580 is a firm 8:00 am, you cannot accept the partial. In this case, it was an open 8 am-4 pm FCFS (First Come First Served) delivery.

Educate Yourself

Educating yourself is going to be a recurring theme for me. You have to be creative all of the time. Think outside the box. If you see multiple items on another truck, go strike up a conversation with the driver. Is it multiple loads? How are they delivering? How much time did the driver lose collecting them all?

The real secret to success in life is to educate yourself about that which you are ignorant. The word “ignorant” inherently has a negative connotation. In my opinion, this is unfair. It is only negative if you don’t remedy your ignorance. Research the web. Read. Ask questions. EDUCATE YOURSELF. Don’t sit around waiting for someone to teach you. Everybody else is busy doing their own thing.