Monday, December 20, 2010

Shipping Thoughts

Photos like this are bittersweet. It can either be a new love coming into your life, or a past one moving on. Sometimes they are torture; evidence of relationships that have parted too soon -or a reminder of an overly exuberant and irrational affair.

The middleman who makes it all happen is the shipper. Most of the transport advertisements you see in the trade publications are not from shippers, but brokerage houses. They take a cut of anywhere from $150-$300 to post your load on a bulletin board which is then bid on by independent shippers. That process can be full of false starts as different shippers fall through and your car sits in limbo. Sometimes a shipper can only take it part-way and the car sits in a freight depot somewhere to get passed off to another shipper. There are a lot of reasons not to like this process.

I always try to go with a local owner/operator. The guy who loads the car is the same guy who will drop it off. You can look him in the eye and you can hold him accountable for anything that goes wrong. Typically he owns his rig and has a vested interest in getting there safe. Communication is better. And he is usually a lot cheaper. Next time you are on the road and see a car hauler, jot down the company name and number from the cab. Some guys just prefer to deal with commercial accounts and set routes, but they may take your car to round out their load.

Listening to the shippers you can learn a lot about the dynamics of the economy and the car market. For instance it is pretty cheap to get a car sent from the Midwest to California nowadays. However that same mileage on the return trip is almost double the cost. This is because there continues to be an exodus from the West Coast into the more affordable Midwestern cities. Supply and demand. The trucks going west are empty; the trucks coming east are full.

Shippers going to Florida report that they are dumping a lot of their collector cars at the port bound for South America. Brazil in particular is enjoying huge economic prosperity right now, and despite an unfavorable exchange rate and massive import duties, car guys are buying stuff up like crazy.

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