The long haul

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I just completed my first marathon, a 26.2-mile road race that took me about four hours to finish. Upon reflection, it seems as though the process of preparing for a marathon can be compared to running a trucking business. Success – whether you’re crossing a finish line or hauling freight – requires constant training, attention to detail and inner discipline.

Education. Preparing for the marathon began with planning. I needed to learn about types of training, nutrition and physiology required to achieve the goal; it was hard to keep up with it all. In trucking, your business requires you to “get the scoop,” whether it’s through the editorial content of CCJ, trade shows or a professional association; it’s important to seek out the most expert opinions possible.

Setting the goal. In a marathon, the ultimate goal is to finish with a specific time. I wanted a challenging and ambitious goal, and I chose a regimen to meet that goal. The key is to choose the goals that are achievable but also those that stretch you. When you set your company’s goals for technicians, drivers, profitability, idle reduction and customer satisfaction, you want to choose wisely. The goals you set now will impact your business for the rest of the year, and perhaps years to come.

Base miles. Before embarking on the regimen, you must establish a minimum set of base miles. For a trucking company, base miles can be good customers, dependable equipment and sound financial footing.

Adding miles. Once a base has been established, experts suggest adding miles slowly by no more than 10 percent increments until your body adjusts to the added stress; in other words, don’t add too much too fast. Regarding your business, you should manage your growth and measure its impact on profitability.

Rough patches. In physical fitness, “hitting the wall” is a much-feared phenomenon during a long endurance test like a marathon where the body runs out of fuel. Even the most conditioned athletes can hit the wall – and so can experienced fleet owners when faced with uncontrollable factors like fuel rate hikes, driver shortages and insurance increases. You can’t always predict when these challenges will happen, but you can develop strategies to get through them.

The finish line. I have to admit that it felt great to cross the finish line. To me, that was the most rewarding part of the journey. The bar is a little higher now, and there are new challenges ahead. Whether you are running a race or running a fleet, the philosophies have a lot in common: You may not always win, but you should always strive to achieve your goals and to continue to improve.