Welcome back to our Driver Onboarding Guide! The goal for this series of articles is to get you set up as quickly and comfortably as possible, so you can start booking shipments and making money.
In the third and final one, we’ll be dealing with the following topics:
- A driver’s expected income
- The cost of doing business
- The benefits of experience
If you’re this far into the onboarding process, we assume you’ve got the basics figured out — you know how the site works, you’ve won a few bids, delivered a few shipments, and are now just aiming to make the most of it. So we won’t waste time rehashing stuff: if you need a refresher on anything, the previous articles are at your disposal.
With that said, let’s get into it!
A DRIVER’S EXPECTED INCOME
For some, the transportation business is no more than a side-hustle: they drive when and where opportunity presents itself, not interested in quitting their day jobs. Others go all-in and try to make this job their main source of income.
Whichever way you choose to go, pretty soon you’ll need to figure out how much money there really is in transportation. And the answer is, a lot if you can find it.
As this article explains, an established transporter can easily make more than $100,000 per year — assuming they keep the pace and make up for lean months.
It’s much harder for beginners, of course, who need to build up a reputation before they start winning the bids they want. Early on, it might take dozens of bids before you’re booked once, but this picks up very quickly. Our data shows that winning your first shipment doubles your odds of winning the second — that’s how much that first review counts!
Here’s a couple of pointers to get you going:
- Figure out your bidding strategy, but be flexible. About $0.50 per mile is a decent benchmark, but you must be ready to deviate from this when necessary. Go as low as you need to win early on; in time, you’ll be able to leverage your reputation and charge more.
- Plan your routes with stacking in mind. As a general rule, the more shipments you can stack onto a single trip, the higher your earnings will go. Be careful, though, and don’t bite off more than you can chew — cancellations and late deliveries can pile up quickly.
- Keep track of your expenses. Meticulous record-keeping will serve you well. Treat each trip as a learning experience, figure out if you can cut corners here and there, and which expenses are unavoidable. More on that later.
THE COST OF DOING BUSINESS
You need to spend money to make money, as they say. Being an independent transporter requires you to carefully manage your expenses.
This article offers a comprehensive breakdown of the expenses you’ll be facing, as well as simple saving strategies. To summarize, most drivers spend 30-40% of their revenue covering fuel, food, accommodations, tolls, vehicle repairs, and insurance premiums, leaving them with 60-70% as net profit.
That’s a significant amount, but you’ll be able to keep it down once you get into the swing of things. Here are some common saving strategies that experienced drivers use:
- Cut down on fuel costs. Since fuel is usually the biggest expenditure, you might want to get a cash-back credit card to shave off a certain percentage.
- Save time and money on tolls. In some states, purchasing an i-pass or a similar transponder lets you spend less on tolls, cutting as much as half of the expense.
- Plan your routes ahead of time! It bears repeating, careful planning can result in massive savings. Consider increasing the volume of your vehicle, see what kind of reach that gets you, and you’ll see the fuel expenditure steadily decrease.
THE BENEFITS OF EXPERIENCE
By now, you’ve probably run across our ads stating that CitizenShipper is not a transport company but an “online marketplace”, and that we’re building a “community of transporters”. What exactly does that mean, though?
Well, marketing jargon aside, we want to motivate you guys to work closer together. We want you to exchange information and learn from each other, even cooperate when opportunity presents itself.
Yes, yours is an independent business, and yes, other drivers are your competitors in winning shipments. But don’t forget that they’re also your colleagues who want the same things you do. There’s more than enough shipments to go around, it’s about meeting that demand, and that’s often a matter of timing.
When you’re on the road delivering shipments and realize you can’t make one pickup, what’s your best course of action? Just cancel it and risk a bad review… or refer another driver in the area who might be able to make it instead? In the future they might tag you in the same way, sending business your way, all in the effort to keep customers happy.
That’s just one example of transporters helping each other out. For beginners, it’s even easier — just start browsing our Facebook groups where drivers gather to share info on routes, customers, pricing issues or fuel costs. Remember, you’re all in the same boat, and sometimes the best way to succeed is to benefit from someone else’s experience!
For CItizenShipper’s part, we’ll be there to support you in any way we can. When drivers hire drivers of their own to meet customer demand, we fast-track them through the background screening so that there are no delays. When we contact breeders in need of pet transport, we offer them the services of the most reliable drivers on our platform.
And when rookie drivers are struggling with this detail or that, we’re right here 24/7 to answer their questions and suggest solutions. In that vein, let’s end this onboarding guide with a list of Help Center articles that you might want to keep handy for future reference:
- The Shipment Search Tool
- The Shipment-Stacking Tool
- How to register with the USDA
- Writing intro messages
- Transport insurance options
- The CitizenShipper subscription (paid by drivers)
- The CitizenShipper service fee (paid by customers)
- Upfront payments and shipment pricing
- Payment disputes and contested reviews
- Tips, tricks, and perseverance