FreightWaves Ratings cuts through the noise of freight technology product reviews to make you a smarter buyer

Truckers’ guide to identifying profitable dedicated lanes

Finding consistent, lucrative freight lanes is key to boosting profitability for truckers. This guide will walk through the data-driven process of analyzing truck trends, mapping prospective highways, calculating freight market rates and costs, and ultimately securing favorable dedicated lane contracts. 

Truckers can follow these steps to zero in on the most profitable routes, optimize their operations, and maximize revenue hauling freight through exclusive lane partnerships.

And when you’re finished reading, check out the other articles in our ‘Semi truck freight lanes’ series:

What is a dedicated lane in trucking?

A dedicated lane refers to a consistent, fixed transport route contracted out to a specific carrier for handling repeated freight transport needs between two set locations. For trucking industry carriers, having dedicated routes assigned by shippers provides guaranteed, profitable freight volume versus inconsistent load board jobs at spot market rates

On a dedicated truck lane, carriers can optimize their operations by assigning experienced drivers, pre-positioning equipment, and fine-tuning logistics planning. Transit times become regularized and reliability improves for the shipper using the same carrier again and again.

Drivers become specialists along their dedicated freight shipping lanes, knowing route intricacies like the ideal fueling stops and rest break facilities. Trailers can be strategically swapped at relay points along transportation corridors to maintain fluid movements. Route-specific costs from tolls to reload times can be accurately accounted for in pricing models.

In essence, dedicated freight lanes represent stable revenue and freight activity for carriers. Shippers reward this routing consistency and service reliability with contracted freight trucking rates. It’s a win-win where both parties gain efficiency, stability and transparency. The route becomes ingrained within the carrier’s network to cost-effectively service the customer through repeated, high-quality shipping cycles.

8 steps to identify profitable dedicated lanes for carriers

Here is a step-by-step guide on how truckers can identify profitable dedicated trucking routes.

  1. Analyze freight data: Review load board and freight industry market data to identify lanes with consistent, high-volume freight flows between major shipping hubs. Look for origin-destination pairs that regularly have high amounts of postings.
  2. Map prospective lanes: Create a trucking zones map of potentially profitable routes based on the freight lane analysis. Connections between major markets tend to be busy freight traffic routes.
  3. Verify customer demand: Talk to shippers and brokers to validate that dedicated lane solutions are needed on those lanes long-term. Get their volume estimates and truck rate pricing models.
  4. Calculate costs: Factor in all operational costs for the proposed dedicated lanes like fuel, tolls, driver wages and equipment leases. Account for any return backhaul truckload revenue.
  5. Optimize routing: Tweak the freight map routing to maximize mileage and efficiency. Set optimal fueling and rest stops. Identify any choke points.
  6. Lock in contracts: Leverage the data and freight pricing information to negotiate favorable dedicated lane contracts with shippers. Get guaranteed volumes in writing for 6-12 months.
  7. Deploy resources: Assign reliable driver teams and position any required trailing equipment along the route. Set up support facilities like drop lots.
  8. Refine over time: Once running, continue to refine the operations, fine-tune freight prices, and maximize loads through continuous trucking market analysis.

By following this data-driven process, truckers can zero in on the most profitable highway lanes to pursue dedicated contracted freight market opportunities.

Examples of freight lanes that are most profitable 

Here are some of the highest paying freight lanes in the U.S. based on historical trucking prices.

  • Los Angeles to Dallas: This lane covers major ports, distribution centers, and inland hubs. Long hauls and consistent freight volume contribute to lucrative dry van freight rates.
  • Chicago to Atlanta: Major industrial and consumer markets with plenty of backhaul loads available. Quick transit times are possible on this route.
  • Atlanta to Orlando: Constant demand for trucking along this route to supply theme parks and tourists. Refrigerated loads are common, making it one of the best reefer freight lanes.
  • Portland to Salt Lake City: Important lane for linking port shipments to rail transfer hubs inland. Biofuel and agricultural loads provide backhauls.
  • Dallas to Denver: Mileage-rich runs with high freight lane rates thanks to oil/gas shipments. Return loads of consumer goods and electronics available.
  • Memphis to Nashville: Busy short haul route with consistent loads between major logistics hubs. Retail store deliveries provide backhauls.
  • Newark to Boston: Heavily traveled I-95 corridor moving imports to population centers. Specialized loads like seafood and pharmaceuticals drive truckload rates.
  • Houston to New Orleans: Key petrochemical and oil products lane. Hurricane rebuilding efforts also spur transport demand, elevating current freight rates per mile.

So in summary, connections between major markets, logistics hubs, ports and high freight volume regions tend to be the best freight lanes for truckers due to abundance of loads, optimal miles, and backhaul availability.

Leverage data to find the most profitable truck lanes

Dedicated freight lanes represent a stable source of revenue for truckers compared to fluctuating spot markets. By leveraging freight rate data, optimizing routes, and locking in shipper contracts, truckers can focus their operations on the most lucrative highway routes. Following this playbook will lead truckers to partnerships and recurring profits hauling freight in America’s trucking lanes.

FAQ

Is dedicated better than OTR?

Dedicated routes tend to provide more stability in pricing and volumes versus over-the-road, since contracts lock in consistent freight activity. However, OTR provides more flexibility to pursue spot loads when profitable.

What is a dedicated carrier?

A dedicated carrier is a transportation provider that allocates certain drivers, equipment, and assets solely for the use of a specific customer for their shipping needs. The customer and carrier agree to consistent contracted rates.

When will trucking rates go up?

Trucking rates are likely to increase when demand grows from economic expansion and outpaces supply, such as when a shortage of drivers occurs or trucks and assets are underutilized. Rates also see seasonal bumps during peak shipping periods.

Sign up for a FreightWaves e-newsletter to stay informed of all news and trends impacting supply chain careers and operations.

Intelligent Dispatch

Unity-Dispatch specializes in creating custom lanes and building strong industry relationships. Our team will design lanes that fit your business needs and find freight within those lanes. Experience the benefits of 'Intelligent Dispatching'—we help you truck smarter, not harder.