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RV transporters squeezed by record fuel prices, starting to park their trucks

Record prices at the pump may be putting a new kink at the very end of the RV industry’s supply chain and could prevent RV buyers from getting their new rigs.

RV transporters are an essential yet mostly unheralded segment of the RV manufacturing industry. In most cases, the folks who move new RVs from factories to dealerships are independent contractors working for larger dispatching firms that contract with manufacturers.

Typically, RV transporters sign up with the dispatching firms, agreeing to haul new RVs from Point A to Point B for a set “per mile” fee that usually rolls in the cost of fuel. When fuel prices jump significantly, transporters can sometimes negotiate for extra fuel surcharges. But the surcharges—if there are any—aren’t keeping up.

Some RV transporters are giving up

Transporters are now saying that current fuel costs have them operating at a loss, and many are either parking their trucks or thinking seriously about giving up.

RV transporters historic photo
RV transporters have been part of the RV industry since it began.

“This is crazy,” said one transporter recently on an industry Facebook page. “Unless rates go north of $2.50 (per mile), we are hauling (RVs) for free.”

Social media sites intended to connect transporters are now filled with comments about parking transporting vehicles until fuel prices allow for a fair profit. Since most transporters own their own vehicles and are independent contractors, they cover their own expenses including insurance, fuel costs, maintenance, and depreciation, among others. The cost of an oil change for some large rig haulers can run more than $200.

“Profit?” asked one transporter on a social media chat board. “What about truck payments, trailer payments, insurance, maintenance, tires, food, license plates, all your compliance costs, dispatching percentage, and all the chains, binders, tarps, straps, and signs? I don’t see a profit at all.”

Fuel surcharges—intended to offset gradually rising costs—aren’t keeping pace with recent rapid price increases. If a fixed cost such as fuel increases substantially, it cuts directly into an RV transporter’s profits.

“Well, boys, as of today I have officially shut down my truck and I want to just wish those of y’all still running good luck and safe travels,” posted one RV transporter.

Many RV transporters who already have the proper licenses are now giving up the RV transport business and going to work for traditional over-the-road freight trucking companies desperately in search of drivers to move consumer goods from ports to stores.

Dealers caught in a bind, too

Josh Winters, host of the popular RV Nerd YouTube video series and an RV dealer at Bish’s RV in Coldwater, Michigan, said high fuel prices will likely continue to disrupt RV deliveries to dealers.

“I have heard that a few have basically parked for now until freight rates rise,” Winters said. “Some manufacturers are announcing things like 25-cent-per-mile increases, but the shipping companies pocket most of that and relay only fractions to their drivers. With fuel costs and wear and tear, many are simply refusing loads until a more reasonable and favorable climate finds them.”

If enough transporters decide to park their rigs and wait out high fuel prices it could severely curtail shipments to dealers and further delay delivery to buyers.

At least one transporter agreed with Winters.

“That fuel surcharge needs to come up at least a dollar,” said an RV transporter from Montana. “The (dispatching) company is getting a higher fuel surcharge (from manufacturers) that is not getting passed on.”

It’s even more difficult for transporters who can’t find a return load to haul back to their home base—which is usually near manufacturing plants in Northern Indiana. The cost of fuel for an “empty” return trip is borne by the drivers.

Many RV transporters who are parking their trucks, for now, are blaming the middleman in the transaction—the transport company that contracts with both drivers and manufacturers to haul new RVs.

“Any of you who don’t think your load broker didn’t tack on a big increase to the manufacturers and dealers since the fuel prices jumped are smoking something,” said one transporter on social media. “That increase that’s supposed to be passed on to you, the transporter, is going into their pockets. They aren’t buying your diesel, you are. It’s time to quit buying the boss a new car.”

##RVT1043b

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Tyler turner
6 months ago

It’s alot more than just RV transportation it’s all commercial transportation. Something will give when the shelves are empty

Dano
6 months ago

No doubt truckers deserve a lot more than they are currently getting paid to move RV’s. But maybe it’s time to look at moving RV’s by rail as the auto manufacturers have. It’s terribly inefficient to move them using the current mode. As published by RSI Logistics on April 20, 2020, “The cost to combine rail and truck using a bulk transfer terminal is approximately $95.54 per net ton. By comparison, rail direct is $70.27 per net ton, and over-the-road truck is $214.96 per net ton.” Those numbers are almost 2 years old so given the current fuel pricing are probably significantly higher now. Just say’n, don’t shoot the messenger.

Tom
6 months ago

I would have liked to see in build back better a lot more rest stop for truckers where they could hook up to an electric service run their air or heat and rest for $2.00 per hour for up to 10 hours with bath and shower. We need to make it more livable for these essential workers.
Near ports waiting for a load almost a mini RV Park for Truckers. A friend with a tracking company each 20 cent fuel increase cost him $10,000 a week.

Bill
6 months ago

I looked into transporting RVs a few years back. One couldn’t afford to stay in a motel over night nor buy food. The amount of money barely covered cost transporting without anything leftover for profit.

Sparsparkster
6 months ago

As far as transporting campers seems one option could be to allow the customer to retrieve his purchase at the manufacturing plant.

David Allbright
6 months ago

It gets me all of these people commenting on trucking businesses like they know something about trucking. They don’t realize the sacrifice that a trucker makes on the road and r not appreciated. And the comments on rvs and motor homes. The prices will simply go up. Like every thing else. You people that go to work every day and come home $5 a gas may not effect you too much.But when you consider 3 to 4thousand a week for diesel fuel you would consider. And right now I doubt that any job is actually secure.

Ken Parr
6 months ago

Everyone seems to realize the situation and offering solutions so why is there still a problem? The lack of leadership by our so called “leaders” at the top is the real problem. Greed, incompetence, and dependency on foreign resources has become a detriment to the values and morals of an otherwise great nation. The anti-American attitude by certain segments of our society is appalling, especially when janitors and bartenders are put in positions of power. The Good Book has all of the answers as in “You reap what you sow”. On a secular note practice the KISS principal ; keep it simple, stupid. Just less rude campers and trucks that I would otherwise have to contend with. Business 101: Cut out the middle man.

Johnny G
6 months ago

Went to 7-11. Bought a 16 oz bottle of water for a dollar plus tax. And your complaining of $5 dollars a gallon for gas? Compared to Europe we pay very little. You see headlines about people paying 200k, 300k or more over asking price for a home. Yet gas goes over $5 it’s the end of the world. The haves vs. The have nots. Yeah our divided goverment is not good for America. Only the people can fix this. Everybody must vote! Make our politicians work for the have nots and not for the haves.

Mark Williams
6 months ago
Reply to  Johnny G

Your cost comparisons are irrelevant to the drivers being able to make a profit. With fuel over 5 dollars a gallon, it IS the end of their business world. Your statements just make you sound stupid.

Rudy Globokar
6 months ago

For those of you that believe that we were ever energy independent,think again. Shut off your tv and internet and do the simple arithmetic yourself. We use 20 million barrels a day and we produce 12 mbpd. That means we are short 8 mbpd. Guess how that shortage gets filled and has been for well over 50 years – we import it.
We import oil from Canada, Mexico,Saudi Arabia, Columbia and yes Russia. That is probably the reason why the largest refineries are located on the Gulf Coast. You can blame Biden all you want, but just remember we have imported oil from Russia during the last 5 administrations.
The XL Keystone pipeline originated in 2008 and so far there has been 93 miles completed of the 1210 miles planned route. Doesn’t appear it will help us out of our current predicament.
Covid is responsible for a worldwide disruption of the oil industry and it is going to take a while to settle down.
In the meantime, capitalism is alive and well.

Tom Hosack
6 months ago
Reply to  Rudy Globokar

From the US energy Assoc.

The United States became a net annual petroleum exporter in 2020In 2020, the United States exported about 8.51 MMb/d and imported about 7.86 MMb/d of petroleum1, making the United States a net annual petroleum exporter for the first time since at least 1949. Also in 2020, the United States produced2 about 18.40 million barrels per day (MMb/d) of petroleum, and consumed3 about 18.12 MMb/d

Sam
6 months ago

Do these RV Transporters also deliver motorhomes to the retailer? If so, will this problem also affect the availability of motorhome inventory on retail lots and thus the value of used motorhomes?

Chris
6 months ago
Reply to  Sam

Yes, they also transport motorhomes

Eric Ramey
6 months ago

As I read this article this appears to be more of a RV transportation issue rather than a high fuel cost issue.
Pay the RV transporters a reasonable wage (including a fuel surcharge) and this is a non issue.

Lantraxco
6 months ago
Reply to  Eric Ramey

With very rare exceptions, all RV transporters are independent contractors, they bear all the costs, fuel being by far the largest share to deliver these trailers, fifth wheels, motor homes to the dealerships, or reposition them to holding yards around the country. If you move a trailer from Elkhart, Indiana to say Southern California, you do get some money up front to help you along the way, but many times there’s nothing to pull back East, so your return trip, although burning less fuel of course, pays nothing, you’re just burning time and fuel. Typical rate might be now $2.00 a mile one way, and fifty cents or more is fuel to deliver, maybe another thirty cents per mile for the return. Truck payments, wear and tear, insurance, etc. When you break it down, the hourly ain’t much. And these driver run DOT legal, so they’re driving up to eleven hours a day, within a 14 hour window, then a ten hour break up to 70 hours in 8 days. 34 hour break, then rinse repeat.

Steve
6 months ago

I guess, if the transporters stop transporting and the dealers want to keep selling RVs to meet all that demand RVIA says is out there, the dealers may have to do their own transporting. The dealers then have to pay all the shipping costs and add those costs to their selling price, but also take a tax deduction on all transportation costs that can be deducted.

The dealership where we bought both our 2012 travel trailer and our recently sold 2016 fifth wheel did exactly that. He hauled all his new RVs from the factory to his lot, cut out the middle man, reduced his delivery costs, and sold his inventory at a price other dealers couldn’t match. Seems to make good business sense to me.

Mark Williams
6 months ago
Reply to  Steve

You make it sound as though your dealer gets his RVs transported for free because he cut out the middle-man. This is far from correct. Those drivers moving said RVs are still being paid.

Tim M
6 months ago
Reply to  Steve

Yup. Its the middle man that always gets worm. Agree

Vincee
6 months ago

My brother retired after 32 years overseeing 11 counties in NY State for the DOT truck safety program. In his opinion, and his job was “truck safety” on our highways, the federal government has decimated the trucking industry through oversight and regulations. That is one of the reasons why you see so many Middle Eastern immigrant truck drivers driving today. Today’s Washington environment and activists, throw in ridiculous California regs and now record-level diesel costs and you wonder why some items are scarce on Walmarts shelves or your local grocery store and now your friendly RV dealer.

Thomas D
6 months ago

No one mentioned that cost of fuel is tax deductible for a company doing delivery work, as is oil changes, tires etc.
I want to go camping, it’s on my dollar. I feel sorry for those delivery people and wouldn’t do their job but i really don’t think it’s that bad. It’s the consequences of high fuel that hurts everyone. Example: Dollar Tree is now $1.25__25% raise. I’d like a raise like that.

Leon Stiltner
6 months ago
Reply to  Thomas D

What good is a tax deduction if it doesn’t even pay the expenses you are referring to. I have been down that road. Causes a lot of sleepless nights.

Stacy J
6 months ago
Reply to  Thomas D

As a transporter we used to be able to make $1100 on a 1200 mile run. But when we are spending more on fuel to go up and come back down it’s not worth it in the end. My husband and I spent over $40,000 on maintenance in 10 months last year. So until the fuel rates come down I’m not putting the extra wear and tear on my pickup to break even.

Lantraxco
6 months ago
Reply to  Thomas D

You should go into business for yourself even a little side business. The learning curve is steep with no guardrails. If I have to spend $1,000 more per month, yes I can expense that. But it only means I get to pay about $350 less in taxes down the road. I still have to earn that extra $1,000 first to keep the doors open,

George
6 months ago

I don’t blame them. Seems like they can easily show their fuel cost per mile has gone up X $ since some date last year and say “Im not hauling unless I get X $ per mile more fuel surcharge.” Then of course, there is also general inflation so probably even more.

The Lazy Q
6 months ago

Probably above $7 a gallon for diesel in Bakersfield California this morning. As I drove yesterday the chevrons and shells were at $6.99. OUCH

Bruce
6 months ago

Managed tranportation for a large company moving on average 3500 truckloads a month. We set fuel surcharges with the carriers and adjusted weekly based on DOE fuel for that week. We wanted to be fair and keep the truckers whole. It’s an expensive business and if they go under we may not be able to move our product and then we don’t make money either. Sounds like RV industry let’s a 3rd party manage it all and my experience was these 3rd parties just care about their profit

Tim M
6 months ago
Reply to  Bruce

Youre exactly right.
I have a moving buisness. I do these 2 buisness. I go though a National management company for each. It wasnt that way 4 yrs ago before management companys took the reigns. I was makeing a good profit. Now the the management company comes along, i have to work for less now, while the management company lines there pockets. The RV dealers has to cut that middle man out.

Montgomery D Bonner
6 months ago

All – going to happen to every type of delivery we get, not only RV’s. Grocery stores, gas stations, mom & pops stores. Restaurants, especially are caught in the middle, why, they have significant overhead costs, well before the door opens, some have 2-hour time for setup-prep. Labor, people also want more money to work, food costs + transportation going up. Will some price themselves right out of business, yep, you can only cut so far, before, you cut out business. This is going to happen everywhere in US. But, think fertilizer, price has gone up over 4X what it was two years ago. We all might starve, because, fuel, fertilizer, costs are hitting farmer right in the middle, get ready, 10 dollars for gallon of milk, 12 for loaf of bread. Nice steak, only if Bill Gates, can get. How much will you pay. My Prediction, March 2022 will go down as the most expensive month for inflation in our nation’s history. [bleeped]

Troy
6 months ago

I do driveaway which is motorhome delivery, and we are only up to average $1.20 a mile and motorhomes are very thirsty. I barely do any loads now and when I do it’s either my one load a month to maintain the job, or a close to home higher paying load (I live in NW Florida)

Teisha
6 months ago
Reply to  Troy

We also do driveaway and are currently working on getting signed on with a company that will pay even that much. Company we have been with for 7 years still is paying .96-.99 for most loads. On a run now and it’s the first one from them that has paid more than a dollar a mile and we are BARELY cutting it. Will likely have to be advanced more than our 50% to finish it. 😡

Landry
6 months ago

Unfortunately the domestic fuel supply is not that easy/quick to increase, it does not happen at the snap of your fingers. Fossil fuel is a huge world wide issue. No the president does not set the price, but Yes long term “political policy” DOES effect domestic oil production greatly…

Cal
6 months ago
Reply to  Landry

Thank your President for bowing down to his base and closing down the pipeline and killing domestic oil production. We were oil independent two years ago now we’ve become oil beggars!

Owl
6 months ago
Reply to  Cal

What pipe line did he shut down

ReasonablePerson
6 months ago
Reply to  Owl

He canceled Keystone XL. He made new oil production much more difficult. He insisted that 25% of our oil comes from foreign sources.
California does not have enough pipelines from the permian basin or Texas sources and must … MUST import from Russia’s east coast.

Chris
6 months ago
Reply to  Owl

The Keystone pipeline

Mark
6 months ago
Reply to  Cal

Mmfla

Mark
6 months ago
Reply to  Mark

Mmfla

Lantraxco
6 months ago
Reply to  Landry

Refineries lock in base stock supplies and the price at least 90 days out, this is just bald faced price gouging. There’s no reduction in oil flowing and no upsurge in demand suddenly, there’s absolutely no excuse for this except the usual ghosts with power manipulating markets so they can scoop up property and assets for pennies on the dollar and then turn the power back on so the can profit from it.

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