Josh Rickards, owner and operator of Rickards Transportation Services LLC, sits down with Macey Knecht, Convoy’s Carrier Advocacy Specialist, to discuss his experience working with Convoy.
Joining the Industry:
Macey: How did you get involved in trucking, and what you were doing prior to driving?
Josh: I was marketing for a record label working with some of the biggest names in hip-hop before I got into driving. When they needed someone to drive over the road on music tours, I jumped on the opportunity. I was hauling equipment for the concerts and that’s where I started networking and building relationships in the music business. The schedule was crazy… I was driving over the road all day and then at night I was working with my clients to find concert promoters, venues, and book shows for the artists. Essentially I was running the music business and driving at the same time.
Eventually I got to a point where the industry was too chaotic and draining, but being on tour and driving was still something I really enjoyed. From that point on I made the decision to buy my own truck and run my own trucking business. Since then, my passion has been being on the open road and helping other people. Being able to focus on this industry full time has changed my career.
Advancements in Trucking:
Macey: Tell me about your favorite technology that has changed how you live on the road and haul freight.
Josh: I run freight in a 2020 Freightliner Cascadia. It’s a newer truck but essentially it has an electric APU. APU and the Diesel APUs have been around for a while, but now there is a system called ParkSmart and Optimize Idle. My truck has four batteries in the unit and I have four batteries on the catwalk that run the bunk heater and air conditioning condenser. The Epsar system has been around for a while, but it also burns a little bit of diesel and it essentially creates heat inside the cab. The neat part is I can run power inside the truck to watch TV, microwave, run the fridge and everything for about 8-10 hours. This system is integrated with Freightliner trucks and allows the truck to start up, run for two hours, and then shut off in order to charge the batteries. Because it does this seamlessly, I can be sleeping and the system will start the truck up, run at a higher idle, charge the batteries, and then shut off automatically.
The other big advancements in tech have been providing better information in apps by collaborating with drivers, brokers, and customers while on the road. TruckerPath specifically has been my go-to for finding parking on the road. It’s pretty cool to be able to help others out by sharing information we can see and verify in real time.
Macey: There can be a lot of competition on the roads. Do you feel like truckers are genuinely trying to help each other out?
Josh: When it comes to booking loads there is definitely a lot of competition because it’s a different atmosphere. But out here on the road, I do feel there are still those out there (like myself) who look out for other drivers. If I see a driver pulled over with an issue on the road, I’ll stop to see if they are okay, and I know others will do the same for me. The same goes for helping others back into tight spots in parking lots. You’ll constantly see guys running out of their cab to help direct trailers to avoid tricky collisions with parked trailers.
Macey: Twenty years ago your uncle was in trucking and you were his passenger. How has the freight booking process changed?
Josh: You’ll hear stories of the old school drivers who had to pull over at truck stops and watch a TV with flashing loads, phone numbers, and vague load descriptions. Drivers back then had to call their dispatcher or the contacts listed on the TV to negotiate for the load over the phone. I wasn’t operating back then, but technology today has completely changed the game.
What I love about technology is being able to run a business on the road by using apps like Convoy to find and book loads. What’s interesting is Convoy was actually the first company to take a chance on me when I first started my authority. There are a lot of other companies out there that require 30, 60, or even 90 days of experience with an authority before you can sign up with them. With Convoy, I was signed up and booking loads within a few days.
Finding Prefered Long Hauls:
Macey: Why do you prefer running long hauls?
Josh: I have different strategies, but I prefer longer hauls because I have three other trucks that are leased onto my authority. If you’ve heard the phrase “that’s trucking”, you probably understand that things always go wrong in this industry. With long hauls I can be on the road for four days and spend more of my time helping my drivers find loads.
When you book long haul shipments, you have to “play the game”. Seasonality determines which lanes and which rates will be most attractive for drivers and higher-paying. Right now, long haul rates are still pretty fair, but as they trend back down the key is to look for the lane that will position your truck for the next best load. If long haul is not an option, I look for the loads where I pick one day, and deliver the next. I’ll keep doing that over and over again until I find the long haul market again.
Macey: How does the Convoy app help you anticipate where those next best lanes will be?
Josh: Carriers can use Convoy to not only to book loads, but to gauge the various markets. When I open the app and set a destination, I’ll also look at what loads Convoy has leaving that area. If I see a destination with only 5 reloads, versus a market with over 30 reloads, I have a better idea of where I want to position my truck. You can get an idea that long haul carriers are going in, but they don’t have the option to move if you see limited options. The important thing is as a long haul driver, I decide where I want to go and the risks I’m willing to take. My choices as a driver are endless, and the Convoy app makes it easy to weigh my options.
Macey: What is the bidding process like with Convoy, and how is our experience different than our competitors?
Josh: Convoy is great to gauge the market because of the bid feedback and rate transparency. I tend to place bids on a bunch of loads that I’m interested in and then weigh my feedback. I also check the lanes that I’m interested in running by requesting loads in the app.
The best part of the Convoy bidding experience is the feedback you receive when you lose a bid to another carrier. Convoy will automatically tell you how much you lost by which is actually a neat function. Convoy doesn’t have to tell carriers this, most brokers hide this information and loads simply disappear. You can tell Convoy wants to help carriers win future bids by showcasing exactly when the load was taken, and how much you lost by.
Basically Convoy is saying “Hey by the way, we are letting you know this load was booked at this rate by another carrier”. Not only does this help carriers move onto other loads, but it signals how close your rates are to the market. If I’m losing bids by $500 and $600, then I know that I’m just shooting way too high for where the market is at that moment. If I’m losing bids by $100, then I know I’m pretty close with where the market is and can bid more competitively if I need the load.
Because of this experience and trust with Convoy, I’m willing to do more loads with them. Let’s say I place two similar bids with another brokerage and Convoy. Even if the other broker is paying $50 more, I’ll still choose to work with Convoy because you can’t beat the free Quickpay and in-app experience for detention and lumpers. I also know if I have issues on a load, Convoy is going to take care of me and we can get the problem resolved.
Macey: When we look at other load boards, one thing that surprises me is the lack of information provided prior to receiving the rate confirmation sheet. I’m a firm believer that drivers will make smarter decisions when they have more data and transparency with the load details. What are your thoughts on this?
Josh: I can’t stress how important data is to be a successful carrier. Not only am I gathering weather information to make informed decisions, but I’m looking at the total shipments in a market to gauge whether or not it’s worth traveling to. Every day in and day out, I’m consuming and breaking data down to make calculated decisions for my business. I think Convoy does a wonderful job of providing insights to drivers prior to booking loads. As you mentioned, drivers know exactly what they are getting into with facility insights, so they won’t be surprised when they arrive for the load.
Macey: What are your plans for your fleet in the next 5-10 years? Where do you want to take your business, and what are you hoping to get out of it?
Josh: I’m only one person so I’m at the max that I can mentally take on right now. Managing four trucks while balancing my family, health, and business is all I can handle at this time. I do want to take on more people in the future, but I’ll have to revisit that down the line. However, I would say the best way to depict what my goal for my business is to help more people in the future. I feel like my business model and goal in life is to empower other people to run their own business eventually.
Macey: As always, thank you for taking the time to chat with Convoy! Is there anything else you would like to mention before we sign off?
Josh: Ultimately, I would like to say I appreciate everything Convoy does for this industry. I really think it’s cool that Convoy will sit down and link up with a carrier. That’s something you don’t see a lot of your competitors doing, which is one of the reasons I think Convoy has been so disruptive. Every industry is changing, but I feel like trucking has been the most stubborn industry to change. The problems that Convoy has tackled have definitely set new industry standards for the future of freight, and for the betterment of drivers.