Being an independent truck driver can be a stressful business. The holiday season can certainly add to that stress, with the desire to spend the holidays at home conflicting with the need to keep your business financially sound.

This year, Christmas and the New Year holiday both fall on a Sunday. Many shippers will shut down causing drivers to lose productivity for a whole week, maybe two. However, the holiday season can be a good time to stay on the road and work as much as possible, especially considering the annual slowdown that typically occurs in January and February.

ATBS benchmarking data shows that owner-operators run 7% less miles in January than November and December, because of the lower freights available.

Christmas Truck

Let’s look at the reality of financial choices often made during the holiday season:

Pay attention to fixed expenses.

The average daily fixed expenses for owner-operators are about $115 per day. Ignoring fixed expenses to take 7-10 days off for each holiday means $800 - $1,200 in costs each week that aren’t being offset by any revenue.

Avoid deadheading or driving out of route to get home.

Basic operating costs and fuel can be 60 cents per mile. If you deadhead or drive out of route 1,000 miles you’ve added $600 to your costs, again with no revenue to offset the additional costs.

Keep the momentum going.

It’s difficult to get back up to speed after the holiday shut down. It takes time to get into the flow of freight again, which means a reduction in revenue for days or even a week after you’re back at work. Keep the momentum going through the holiday season!

Think long-term.

Buying gifts and entertaining will increase your costs at home. Significant time off during the holidays means less revenue to offset your increased financial burden. The freight slowdown in January and February also means limited prospects of digging yourself out of the hole until March or April—right before taxes are due on April 15th.

No one should miss a holiday with the family, but it is important to protect your business as well. Many trucks will already be parked for the holiday, so this could be one of the best freight opportunities of the year.

Here are a few other ways to take make this season work to your advantage:

Fly instead of drive.

Considering your fixed and variable costs and if reasonable airfare can be found, it may make more sense to park your truck securely under load, and fly home for only a day or two. Fly back and get the load running while everyone else is trying to get a load out from home.

Make up missed holiday time in January.

Even though you may miss one of the holidays with your family by working, you can take extra time off in January and make it up to them. Freight is slower then and the additional revenue you generated at the end of the year will make your time off less stressful.

Plan ahead for the New Year.

The only way to offset the inevitable slowdown at the beginning of the year is by planning for it early. You’ll be in a better position to pay your bills come January and February with the extra income. Tax day also will be less of a burden when it arrives in April.

The holidays can be a difficult time for those in the trucking industry, but the important thing is to have the right outlook. There are many other people that have to work through the holidays too (nurses, police officers, etc.) so be sure to spread a little cheer to others you encounter while you’re out on the road. Your job is extra special this time of year, and remembering that will go a long way.

ATBS is here for you during the holiday season. For additional tips, support, or even just a friendly voice on the phone, contact your ATBS Business Consultant. We’re here for you!

Have a very Merry Christmas, and a very Happy Holiday!

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