How much does it cost to ship a vehicle?

Shipping a vehicle across the state or even cross country is often a difficult and confusing task. Does it half to be that way?

Why does it cost so much?

Many people who are shipping a vehicle for the first time are blasted with prices and incorrect information.

They usually start with a preconceived notion and the internet. While searching the internet for services such as Auto Transport, Car Shipping, or Ship My Car, in the back of their mind they know they can send a FedEx package across the country for $57.00. Shipping a car can’t be that much more. Can it?

The answer is, yes. It is in fact a lot different. Let’s compare modes of transport.

FedEx uses trucks much like auto carriers do, Right? They are about the same size and use the same type of fuel and probably get about the same mileage efficiency. That’s correct, but think about how many packages can fit into one of those trucks versus how many cars can fit on an Auto Transport trailer. Most Auto Transport trailers can only fit 8 – 10 vehicles on them per load.

So now you need to think about the incremental fuel cost per shipment. If I have the same (per mile) fuel costs as the FedEx driver, but only have 10 paying vehicles on my trailer, and he has 300 packages on board, I need to gross 30 times as much per vehicle to equal his collateral fuel costs.

Okay, let’s look at transit times. Some people will argue that FedEx will get my package to me overnight. Well, your right and they do a great service with their infrastructure, but one must compare apples to apples. Organizations such as FedEx have terminals in many major cities across the country. They also have drop and swap points, where one driver meets another. They trade loads and continue moving without stop. And we haven’t even mentioned their ability to use airplanes.

The Auto Transport industry is much different. Virtually every vehicle reaches a dealership or customer via truck and trailer. Most of the time the same driver, truck, and trailer that loaded the vehicle will be the same driver that will deliver the vehicle. That driver is allowed to travel 11 hours driving time. Most of the drivers’ trips average 55mph, (when considering city traffic, load and unload time). That same driver has to factor many things when operating his equipment such as; cargo insurance, tires, brakes, oil, major engine components, wear and tear on his truck and trailer, age of receivables, down time, etc. Needless to say he has a lot of factors to consider before accepting a load at a certain price.

Now we can cover the risk factor. If we look back at the FedEx driver, what major concerns does he have with damage to cargo? The consumer agreed to insure it at their own expense, right?

This is not true with the Auto Transport carrier. His cargo insurance coverage is very expensive and with usually a $2,500.00 deductible. I remember when I had my own trucks; our cargo insurance on only 4 trucks was $42,300.00 per year! Heaven forbid one of my drivers had a damage claim on one of the vehicles, which usually meant at least a $2,500.00 deductible. You can bet that if there is even a little scratch on the hood or roof of a car the customer will see it.

Most drivers will point damages out to the customer if the driver already knows about it. It is always better for a driver to be the one to point out a mistake and deal with it, than try to hide it. Most drivers work by these same ethics. Mistakes will happen.

On each Auto Transport trailer there are endless obstacles, and all of them will cause damage if you are complacent. The driver has to watch clearance on all sides, top, and even underneath the vehicle. He has to think about placement on the trailer, how to tie it down, and consider the bounce factor of his load as he is traveling. If he is using chains, and a chain comes loose, that chain will find a way to strike any and every car in its path before the driver pulls over to get coffee and finds the aftermath. When transporting used cars, inevitably one of the cars on the top rack will have a brake fluid, coolant, or oil leak. So, when the driver arrives to deliver one of the bottom cars, he finds a mess.

All of this to say, the driver has many potential risks to consider, and even more expenses to consider. This driver is responsible for a customers’ (likely) second most valuable possession. He has a stressful and complicated puzzle to anticipate, and should be paid accordingly. Most customers would not want the cheapest rate and service when paying for other important tasks in their lives. Like other industries, You get What you pay for.



Mismatching Bills of Lading vs. Photo Inspections

Dented Roof Heard a story from one of our brokers recently and it surprised me enough to ask the industry to share their thoughts.

Here’s how the story went,
The broker contracted with its client to transport a vehicle to one of their customers. The broker and dealer agreed on    the rate and signed the paperwork. Apparently this dealer had been a long time client of this broker, so this process was  quick and familiar to each party. Note my previous use of the words ‘HAD been a long time client’, I’ll cover more of this later.
Back to the story. The broker now needed to secure a carrier for the shipment and did. They contracted with an apparently reputable company. There was another clue, did you catch it, ‘Apparently reputable company‘.
So, as these trips often do, all went well for the first few days of the journey. On the third or fourth day the carrier notifies the broker that the delivery was made and per customers wishes the vehicle was left in a secure location and delivered without a signature.
This is the point in the story where those readers that are from this industry just had the little voice in their heads tell them, ‘this is not going to end well’, ‘never deliver without someone signing for it’.
Did I mention this was a brand new vehicle with less than 20 miles on it!
Okay, enough suspense building. The carrier sends the broker the delivery bill of lading and in the signature box the driver clearly wrote ‘TBI’ (To Be Inspected).
This seemed a little risky on the drivers part, but nothing seemed amiss from the delivery customer.
And then came the call from that delivery customer.
He states that everything with the vehicle seemed okay, until..
Well, I thought, that’s certainly true. Everything is always okay Until it’s not.
It seems the delivery customer’s daughter had climbed into the bed of the vehicle and asked her dad about the large dents in the roof of the pickup.
Again, those readers that have actually hauled cars in the auto transport industry on a double deck trailer know exactly what causes two large symmetrical dents in the roof of a pickup. Chain drums are very unforgiving to the roof of a vehicle when bounced down the highway at 70mph.
And so, like so many others before, this broker now had to start the paperwork gathering and the detective work. Collecting all of the paperwork, making sure everyone is in the loop on the situation, gathering photo evidence, contacting insurance, etc.
At this point no one knows exactly who is at fault, and a savoy, seasoned broker knows not to start throwing darts too early. He wants to remain neutral until all dust settles.
Apparently for this broker, the dust settled and when it did he was staring at the origin and destination bills of lading that Should look identical, but of course they were very different…

Laurie Darlin’ (Christmas Edition)

In my second edition of this post, I left you wondering if I was ever going to actually begin hauling cars or if my plans would fold before the cards were dealt. But, for a December edition I thought it would be a little more seasonal to fast forward a few chapters and share one of my more memorable Christmas memories as a car hauler. If you will forgive the rather large gap in my timeline, I promise to pick up where I left you last with the next edition of this blog.

So, with this story I guess I am revealing that, Yes, I did actually begin my quest to rid the countryside of all cars in need of a ride.

As many truckers come to realize some of the more memorable trips you ever make are those shared with family. Now ‘memorable’ can certainly be defined numerous ways depending on perspective.

I began a trip one December with the intention to get the last one in before Christmas and be back in Texas before Santa. We had received an order from the Greenbay Packers of the NFL to deliver two players cars. So we booked a load and secured a back haul to complete the trip. With paperwork secure, I loaded up Laurie, our son (the only child at the time), Laurie’s dog Rex (the Schnoodle), half of our house, and some Christmas presents (just in case). We pushed off and embarked on a journey that would begin with a 75 degree Texas day, traverse 7 states and end in Greenbay, WI where temperatures were bordering zero.

The front leg of our trip was pleasant and we had a chance to be away from all of the stress that typically attaches itself to the holidays. We had a mission and clear objectives. As long as everything fell into place it should be a much welcomed opportunity for us to spend time as a family without the stress. It was interesting though, having a child who was potty training and a small dog on board, both of whom seemed to have bladders the size of  a grapes. But, the frequent stops gave us opportunities to get out and see the surroundings and with Laurie now starting her Christmas ornament collection from every state we travel, we were going to stop anyway.

Leaving Texas and those still wearing shorts, it was easy to believe that winter had forgotten about the south, that was decidedly not the case in Wisconsin. We don’t experience lake effect snow in Texas, we have lake effect evaporation from the heat, but not snow. Our trip had officially derailed and the already tight timeline had now blurred. It was very clear that unloading and reloading our trailer, or basically any travel past this particular parking lot in Greenbay was not going to happen. We had plenty of fuel in the truck, 3 people, a dog, and a 72 inch condo sleeper with the budding of an improvised Christmas on the horizon.

There are many things that challenge a marriage in its early days, but one of the tops has to be a young bride that has never spent a Christmas away from her family, never mind spent one in a truck. Explaining to a 3 year old exactly how Santa Claus was going to squeeze himself down the chimney of an eighteen wheeler that doesn’t even have a fireplace could be tricky (there are some options here and you can use your imagination to picture a couple). But ever the optimist, Laurie saw the silver lining. We had snow, a Denny’s that would be open tomorrow on Christmas Day, and we had each other.

I remember that Christmas Eve well. After our son was asleep nestled in his bed on the top bunk, Laurie and I wrapped the few presents that she had instinctively brought with us. We drank her first pot of coffee ever made from a mobile kitchen (I had never had coffee with that particular strength and consistency before), and talked like two friends who owned the world. Later we put in a movie and just spent some time being together.

Christmas morning came to our son in that truck just like it did to all other little boys and girls across the world. Its still amazing to me now, the delight in his eyes with what he had, not what he didn’t have. Laurie and I had spent so much energy worrying about what we weren’t going to be able to give him on Christmas, that we had forgotten the true meaning of Christmas. So, with the contagious zeal of a child, we enjoyed the morning bundled up throwing snowballs and making snow angels in an abandoned parking lot in Greenbay Wisconsin.

That Christmas may not be the best one that Laurie and I will spend together, but it will be one that we will never forget.

Merry Christmas!

Laurie Darlin’ 2

Blog Lab

I ended the last chapter with a teaser. Before I get into the unexpected passenger for my journey, I wanted to back up and include something I had forgotten to tell you. This will probably not do much to improve the plot much, but it has been the source of a few laughs over the years in our family.

Before I could leave on this car hauling crusade and rid the country of those pesky vehicles in need of transport, I was advised to add an external fuel tank to my new truck. The idea was to add more fuel capacity and increase the number of miles between fuel stops. No problem, I thought, I know just where one is that no one is using it. I called my dad, asked and he said yes, but he did advise me that the tank was probably dirty and needed to be thoroughly cleaned before I used it.

Simple! Nothing wrong with cleaning out a fuel tank in your driveway, in the middle of town, in broad daylight, Right? Armed with dish soap and a water hose, I proceeded to fill the tank. This seemed like a perfectly good idea at the time. As the tank began to overflow, all of the trash and old fuel would flush out. It was working great, the water pouring over the side of the tank was becoming more and more clear. Now I needed to empty the tank completely and use the soap. It hadn’t occurred to me yet that 150 gallons of water and old diesel running down the street could be an issue with the neighbors, but I would soon get the picture loud and clear!

It took me a few seconds to understand why there were two fire trucks stopping in front of my house, our house wasn’t burning, nor was the neighbors. Sometimes comprehension sets in like a long awaited slumber and in other cases its more like a tidal wave. In this case it was definitely the latter. Apparently diesel and water on hot pavement produces some what of a slippery road hazard. Well, I didn’t go to jail and no citations were issued. I spent half an hour with a shovel and kitty litter in the street absorbing my folly. Then in the spirits of optimism and ‘when life gives you lemons’ I saw the silver lining. My 2 year old son had never had the chance to sit in a fire truck before!

Okay! Now that your story appetite is primed lets get back to where I left it last week. My bags were packed, and my auxiliary fuel tank was now installed. Laurie had packed a snack bag sufficient for survival on a deserted island. Come to think of it, maybe she was sending me a message.

When the time came for goodbyes, I was surprised with my mysterious passenger…

Our 85 pound Yellow Lab, Shelby was apparently the final crew member on this voyage. Now Shelby was to that point accustom to a wide range of activities including sleeping, eating, drinking, and sleeping some more. She was a great dog in all seriousness, but not the picture perfect example of a road dog. Never-the-less, with departure hugs and kisses (with the family, not the dog) we boarded our new F#rd freighter’ bound for Phoenix and a rendezvous with a trailer manufacturer.

I grew up in Colorado so I was familiar with the road west, but lands past I-25 in New Mexico, I had never ventured. So much like the 49ers in search of gold west of the Missouri, we carried on. We arrived in Phoenix late one night and managed to find a hotel. This hotel stay would forecast future events with a dog as a copilot, the hotel did not accept pets! With a concert event in town, our lodging options were minimal. So, against my better judgement, I lowered the windows and bedded Shelby down for the night in the truck.

It was about 2:00 am when I received a call in my room from security, they wanted to know if it was My dog in My truck outside? I thought, who’s else would it be, but answered with a simple yes. The security guard told me he was a dog lover and she could spend the night in my room. Shelby was more than happy to share the foot of my bed.

The next morning Shelby and I grabbed some drive through breakfast and made our way to the trailer shop. I was expecting to pick up my brand new 2004, fifty three foot, 4-car trailer and officially begin my trip to the top of the world. When I pulled in however, I was greeted with yet another change in plans……

Laurie Darlin’

As much as I would like to take credit for the initial concept and design of Auto Load Logic, it’s only fair to place credit where credit is due.

Here is the behind the scenes story.

Like the Maestro of a car hauling Orchestra, my fiancé (at the time), Laurie coordinated most of the actions that prompted the eventual creation of Auto Load Logic.

It all began on the back of a horse, none the less! My job at that time was supervising a work crew from horseback. It was in that saddle, in the Texas heat, that I would reflect on a better road for my life. I was recently engaged with a baby at home. This current job was not how I pictured my future. How would I give my new family the life they deserved working on the back of this hard headed, 1 ton, hay burner (obviously I’m referring to the horse here)?

It wasn’t long until I got a call. A family member called and asked if I had ever thought of starting a hot shot business? Of course in West Texas I had seen these guys with 1 ton dually pickups and a flatbed hauling oilfield pipe, but never saw it as a financially rewarding career option.

The family member explained further that he was talking about hauling cars. And so the conversation continued. I thought, it can’t be that hard, get a truck, get a trailer, and put some cars on it! Sounded simple enough, turns out that conversation would be the only simple part of the next 9 years.

So it began, I called home and said, “Laurie, we are starting a business. I need you to quit your job and pack the house. We are moving to Houston” I still can’t picture what I expected her reaction to be to that, but needless to say it didn’t all happen in that order.

We slowed down a little, and started with finding the truck. After shopping for about 3 months, we decided to drive to Houston and buy a new 2004 & 1/4, F#rd #-350. I was so happy with this truck… first. That happiness was not going to last long, but for now, we had a truck.

I drove back to Abilene and we spent the next month looking for a trailer while keeping my current job. I couldn’t wait to get out of that saddle and into the comfortable, air conditioned cab of our new business.

Meanwhile Laurie the ‘Maestro’, while keeping her full time job, was diligently doing all of her research. How much we needed to average per mile, fuel costs, equipment maintenance, insurance, equipment payments, and trailer options….

All I was concerned with was getting started. Finally she found a trailer manufacturer in Phoenix that could build the exact trailer we wanted and have it ready in 4 weeks. We went to the bank, borrowed the money, and sent the deposit. Our plan was coming together….we thought!

Now seemed like as good of time as any to get married. We had a shot gun wedding in the morning, I said “I do”, she thought about saying “I don’t”, but we tied the knot and she went back to work that afternoon. That’s dedication!

We spent the next 3 days together, alone. No business or family interruption. It was a great time together and a memorable send-off.

I packed my bags and headed to Phoenix the following Monday morning to pick up the trailer. I thought I was going alone, but it turned out I was taking a passenger I hadn’t planned on….


To be continued.