This weekend, oversize/overweight-niche owner-operator James Canter was “only on my second load since the pandemic began,” he said. That first one started out OK enough. Canter had been home in Huntsville, Alabama, and accepted a load that picked up in Kansas going to a windmill farm in Oregon.
That’s some kind of “long bounce to pick up a load,” for sure, he added, but “the money was good and I had just about decided I would rather be on the road” with a load and plenty food and water to basically “quarantine myself in the truck, as I’ve done.”
But the project at the windmill farm in Oregon closed up shop, as have some other operations around the nation, and that first load canceled. “I got the news somewhere around Springfield, Mo.,” Canter said, making for a solid 500 miles of fuel wasted. “So I took a load picking up in Wisconsin going to Houston.” Not even 100 miles outside of LaCrosse for the pick, “I get the news that that load had canceled.”
Turned out the plant the load was scheduled to deliver to had someone with a positive COVID-19 test.
It looked like another 600 miles of wasted fuel, but “I elected to wait out that load” in LaCross for three days, Canter said. It paid off, eventually.
When I heard from Canter he was sitting in Texas and waiting to unload.
Independent heavy and over-dimensional owner-operator Bruce Arnold‘s experience has been less fraught with delays and closures, at least. We talked on Thursday, April 2, as he was under the load pictured above, a big transformer bound for a power co-op project in Arizona. At the time, he’d planned on deadheading back if he had to, a common-enough consideration of over-dimensional owner-operators. “I don’t leave unless I have enough money” — that is, enough profit, in the initial load to cover deadhead all the way back.
Like Canter, to an extent, though, he worries for “the day to come when you go to move a piece of construction equipment and [states suddenly] say that’s not essential.”
On the load last week, though, things were looking positive. Arnold was waiting to unload Monday and had even located pipe needing to be moved in his direction back east. It would fit on his RGN and not require permitting, adding further value to the run.
As for Canter, he adds what he’s heard from heavy/oversize operators amid the social distancing and other changes of these past weeks. “I have buddies who are staying busy running heavy-haul freight. That could be because so many truckers are at home.
“I do know this: It’s hard/harder to find shippers and receivers open on both ends of the load. There seems to be plants/sites loading but the plant/site on the other end may be closed.”
Best to double-check for assurance before getting stuck with a 500-mile deadhead.
Owner-operator Arnold feels fortunate to even be able to work and earn at a relatively steady pace. “I get aggravated when people say, ‘Well, I’m not getting laid off,’” as a way of making light of another’s situation. “What have you done for somebody who is getting laid off? Those are the folks we need to help.” The night before we talked, he’d purchased a sub sandwich for a man he ran across on the road who needed it.
For the extra-busy grocery haulers, “Thank God for them, and that they’re able to get some extra money in this,” he said. But don’t be quick to raid the chrome shop, he advised. “Last year was an ‘over-capacitized‘ market.” Too many trucks, basically, for the freight that was available, depressing rates. That new toilet-paper haul that’s now paying $3/mile? In a month or two, like as not “it will pay $1.14. Be resourceful with whatever extra you make — maybe we’ll see the light at the end of the the tunnel” before the bottom drops out.