The best way to get reefer loads for fresh refrigerated meat and produce is to work directly with shippers. Working with shippers can provide you with regular loads, and it bypasses load boards and brokers. This strategy allows you to keep more money per load, which makes you more profitable.
All it takes is a little work.
How to get reefer loads
The best way to get reefer loads is to contact shippers directly to let them know about your services. If you take the time to do this step, you will build a client list. These clients will become the lifeline of your trucking business, providing you with loads frequently. Serve them well and they will use your services often and pay you good rates.
There are two good and simple ways to get customers in the reefer market.
Option 1: Visit produce markets
Almost every metro area in the country has a produce market that ships (and/or receives) produce. Many are well advertised and easy to find. Go to the market that is most convenient to you and start establishing relationships.
Walk to the business owners and start conversations with them. Ask them about their shipping needs. Let them know that you have available equipment and can pull loads for them. While you are there, start conversations with other drivers as well. Ask them how they get their loads. If they are working with a broker, get the broker’s information and give them a call.
Before long, you will have a list of potential customers. Follow up frequently until you secure a couple of clients.
Here is a list of major metro produce markets across the country. It will help you get started:
- USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (All states)
- State Farmers Markets (FL)
- Atlanta Farmers Market (GA)
- Maryland Produce Market (MD)
- Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market (PA)
- Hunts Point Produce Market (NY)
- New England Produce Center (MA)
- Detroit Produce Market – East (MI)
- Indianapolis Fruit (IN)
- St. Louis Produce Market (MO)
- Chicago International produce Market (IL)
- Houston Produce (TX)
- San Antonio Wholesale Produce Market (TX)
- San Francisco Produce Market (CA)
- USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (USA wide)
Note that a number of loadboards have indicated that the two markets with he most reefer loads are Miami (Florida) and Atlanta (Georgia).
Option 2: Call and visit wholesalers
A second option is to visit your local wholesalers. You can build a list by using the Internet. Speak to the person in charge of shipping. Let them know that you have equipment available and that you can haul loads for them every week.
Why are you better than your competition?
When you speak to a prospective client, don’t tell them what you want. They know you want a load. They get those calls every day. You need to find a way to be different.
Instead, tell the shipping manager how you can help them, and how you are different. You can tell them that:
- You are punctual
- You are courteous (this is a big one!)
- Your equipment works well
- You can be there every week
- You can work holidays
If you are willing to work holidays (Item #5), let the shipping manager know. Few truckers are willing to work on holidays. This service will set you apart. At least, it will get your foot in the door. From then on, it’s up to you to build a reputation.
Increase your success rate
You may not get a client on your first round of visits. Don’t be discouraged. This happens. Here is a simple trick to keep in front of them, even when you are not there: leave them a keepsake.
Go on the Internet and buy some “promotional pens.” Make sure that they have your company name and contact information. If there is space, have them add a message such as “We haul on holidays!” You can get these in lots of 100 for about $70.
If they tell you that they have no work for you, ask them if you can leave a pen or two. Most folks will take the pen gladly. Now they will have your information in front of them all the time. The next time they are in a shipping bind, they may call you.
Keep the money flowing
One advantage of working directly with shippers is that you get paid more money. You can charge them the same amount that brokers are charging (know your rates per mile) – except you get to keep everything. That is an extra 15% to 20% that drops directly to your bottom line.
Keep in mind that many shippers pay their invoices on a 30- to 60-day schedule. This payment schedule means that you get paid weeks after pulling the load. This delay can create a problem if you can’t afford to wait for payment. The solution is to factor your freight bills.
Factoring provides you an alternative to quick pays. The factor advances up to 95% of your freight bill within a day. The remaining 5%, less a small fee, gets rebated once your shipper pays the invoice in full (30 to 60 days later).
Note: This article is part of a series on how to make successful trucking companies.