The transportation industry is one of the most diverse, growing, and resilient industries out there. It’s a major economic contributor and a gigantic source of employment in the US.
In the US, the trucking industry is responsible for transporting almost 70% of all goods. The sheer revenue the industry is capable of ($792 billion as of 2019) is more than enough reason to want a piece of the pie.
Competing in, never mind thriving, in this industry, takes more than a bit of skill.
Starting a successful transport business can be a lengthy and detailed process. To help you on your way and make sure you’re truly set for success, we’ve outlined 8 steps that will make sure you have as strong a start as possible.
8 Steps to Starting a Successful Transportation Business
The transportation industry can be a tough and competitive industry to start a business. To help you succeed, take a look at the 8 steps we’ve provided below.
1. Decide on your niche
Transportation, as an industry, can be a complex, competitive and varied industry.
When it comes to transportation, at one point or another, huge quantities of stock will always need to be moved from point A to point B. It’s why trucking as an industry is one of the most growing industries out there.
Like any good business, you need to establish what niche you’d like to target specifically, rather than just taking a broad approach and hoping for the best. The niche you choose can impact everything from the vehicles and equipment you buy to the rates you charge and more.
As a general rule, it’s a good idea to target whatever market is the least saturated, while still being a market you and your business can thrive in.
That usually involves transporting specialized loads. That means your transportation can focus on anything ranging from vehicles, pharmaceutical goods, electronics or machinery, building materials, packages, agriculture, and more.
Choosing a specific type of good to start transporting can help make you a lot more cost-effective and focused in the short term. Some niches will allow you to be more flexible, have less competition, and be available year-round depending on what you’re looking to do. When deciding on a particular type of cargo for transportation, take into account customs prerequisites; for instance, goods moving into or out of Europe will require an EORI number.
2. Ensure you have robust business insurance
No matter how great a driver they are, no matter how efficient your organization is or how well planned your routes are, accidents happen.
That’s why it’s important to make sure you have insurance that protects your business and covers any damage that may occur to your assets, be that your vehicles or employees.
When it comes to the transportation industry, as a business owner you should learn more about Commercial Auto Insurance. This is a type of insurance
directed at covering a business’s cars, trucks, heavy-duty trucks, and semi-trucks.
If you’re this far into the article, there’s a pretty good chance that’s you.
Commercial Auto Insurance covers just about everything from bodily injury, medical coverage, and collision coverage. In fact, Commercial Auto Liability Coverage will even provide you with legal defense costs in most cases.
The last thing you want is for something to happen and leave you powerless. Depending on which point your business is, an accident that‘s not covered by your insurance may wind up bankrupting your business.
Whether you’re starting out or not, that’s the last thing any business owner wants.
3. Pick a name and entity
It sounds like one of the most obvious aspects of any business, but it can also be one of the most frustrating things to get right. Getting this part right can also feel like both the final piece of the puzzle as well as the first step towards success depending on when it comes to you.
Just as importantly, you need to choose what kind of business entity it is you want to be.
When it comes to owning and operating your own transportation business, a lot of owner-operators opt to register as a Limited Liability Corporation or LLC for short. An LLC acts like a corporation in that it separates your business assets from your personal property.
Other popular transportation business entity types include Soles Proprietorships and Limited Liability Partnerships. Each type of business entity comes with its own sets of pros and cons so it’s important to do your research when you start your business.
Make sure to contact both the Secretary of State’s office and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to ensure your business name, its domain and any other branding ideas you have don’t already exist.
The last thing you want to do is get ahead of yourself, planning great marketing and branding with a name you love, only to find out someone’s beat you to it.
4. Write a business plan
Ah, the ever-important business plan. Essential, but often a momentum blocker, a business pan can be the making or breaking of an up-and-coming business.
A comprehensive business plan can act as a road map for how you want your business to go.
You want your business plan to act as a document for you to use to clearly define your goals, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, and detail what your target market is.
A business plan is incredibly useful because it makes you think about every aspect of your business. This ensures you’ve done the research necessary so your business doesn’t, pun intended, stall when you make your dream a reality.
Your business plan should contain everything that’s important for your business to succeed. In fact, it’s essential if you want to be successful.
5. Make sure you have all the necessary licenses and permits
The last thing you want is to help in the creation of your business by paperwork.
That’s why you need to make sure, as much as possible, that your paperwork is as on point as possible.
Additionally, failing to have completed the necessary licenses and permits can result in fines, lawsuits, and even potentially lead to your business failing.
The last thing you want once you’ve gone through the effort of creating a potentially successful transportation business is to hit a paperwork roadblock.
6. Recruit and train quality employees
When it comes to having a successful business, there are few things more important than ensuring you have quality employees.
While you may start out on your own, if you want to scale up your success and make a truly successful business, you’re going to need to hire employees.
Specifically, high-quality employees.
Great employees are an incredibly rare commodity that can take a long time to find, train and make sure they’re the right fit for you and your company. This applies to both the drivers you’ll rely on and the back staff that you’ll need to make sure everything runs smoothly.
Remember, in today’s economy, employee turnover can be your number one enemy. Losing skilled employees can be incredibly costly to a business.
To reduce the risk of this, make sure to offer benefits and incentives your employees genuinely want. Some of which may include:
- Annual bonuses to accident-free drivers
- Bonuses for staff based on KPIs
- Singing on or loyalty bonuses after a predetermined time
- Health care coverage
- Schedules that allow for flexibility
- Paid getaways for top performers
Remember, the more valued an employee is, the less likely they are to want to leave you. Greener pastures can’t exist if you make sure to water your grass.
7. Get organized and incorporate software solutions
A great business is only as strong as its organizational skills.
You can be a business visionary all you like, but without effective organizational skills, people, and software backing you, you’re unlikely to meet your ambitions.
While you may be able to cope on your own when you start out, as you grow and expand, you’re going to need to rely on others to keep things running smoothly.
Combining quality backstaff with effective fleet management software and even integrating mobile apps. This can go a long way towards making your operation more effective.
Software like Connecteam, Magnus, and Tailwind are just a few examples of software that can simplify your operation. This is done by providing an all-in-one solution that includes time management, business management, employee management, communication, and compliance management.
There’s no reason why you as an individual business shouldn’t leverage the same kind of efficiency.
8. Purchase your vehicles and equipment
Probably the most obvious part of ensuring that you’re starting a successful transport business is ensuring you purchase quality vehicles and equipment.
This will largely come down to the niche you choose to operate in, in-depth research, as well as your own experience in the industry.
You need to make sure that you choose vehicles to suit the cargo you’ll be transporting. Having the right tool for the job can make all the difference, especially if you’re potentially transporting perishable goods, loose items, or ultra-heavy machinery.
Make sure you do your research on your niche and keep an eye on your competitors as well as local listings for any offers that may help you and your business thrive without costing you a fortune.
What makes a transportation business successful, ultimately, is the same thing as any other business. Thorough planning, organization, a drive to succeed, and a dash of creativity.
In today’s modern, fast-paced and competitive world, you need to do everything you can to succeed.
Using these 8 steps ensures that your business has every chance to be as successful as your ambition imagines.
- Author Bio: Ryan Fick is a Cape Town-based, internationally raised, opinionated writer who is passionate about politics, and social justice and a firm believer in the link between “Amandla” and “Awethu”. With a background in Journalism, Travel, and all-round Content Writing – as well as a burgeoning interest in all things SEO – he is a perpetual knowledge seeker who knows enough to know he doesn’t know it all.