You’ve signed up as a driver on CitizenShipper, used our pro tips to create a standout profile and even won a few bids. Now that you’ve had a taste of success using our transportation marketplace, you’re ready to take your small business to the next level. You may be asking yourself, “What steps can I take to maximize my earning potential on CitizenShipper?”
The key to making more money on CitizenShipper isn’t raising your rates — it’s all about volume. This concept is fairly simple: your biggest expenditure on the road is gas, so the more shipments you transport along a single route, the more you’ll earn.
The most successful drivers on CitizenShipper are experts at route planning. They transport multiple shipments at once and rarely travel in any direction with an empty vehicle. We’ve designed a few tools to help you maximize your earning potential with round trips and stacked shipments.
This how-to guide will walk you through the next step toward success on our platform: planning efficient routes.
Plan Your Route Ahead of Time
It bears repeating: carefully planning your route ahead of time improves the bottom line. When you plan ahead you can increase volume and efficiency. Most drivers start their bids around $0.50 per mile, but effective route planning can earn you a rate of between $4-5 a mile — all without increasing your bids at all.
Here are a few tips to improve efficiency:
- First find Relevant Shipments near your starting point.
- Then, use the Search Tool to find shipments that originate near your first drop-off location to create round trips.
- Finally, use our Rideshare Tool to find shipments along your route.
Find Relevant Shipments to Start Planning Routes
The first step to route planning is winning that initial bid. It may take as many as 20 bids or more to win your first shipment. However, after your first positive review, our data shows your odds of winning double!
Create Notifications for local cities and states. Receiving notifications increases your odds of winning bids — and it gives you an idea of the number of shipments posted in your region and the rates other drivers are bidding.
- We recommend using broad parameters to maximize the number of notifications received. City notifications are based on zip codes, so use your home state for notifications. It’s better to get too many notifications than too few.
- If you live within 100-150 miles of the state border, add neighboring states. For example, if you live in Chicago add notifications for Indiana and Wisconsin in addition to Illinois.
- Most transportation jobs on CitizenShipper are hundreds or thousands of miles so driving an empty vehicle 50 miles to reach a pickup location won’t have a big effect on your income.
- Don’t forget to hit the button to opt-in for email, SMS or both so you know immediately when new shipments are posted in those locations. We’ve found that bidding within the first couple hours has a strong correlation to winning shipments.
Here’s a training video on finding Relevant Shipments:
Use the Shipment Search Tool for Round Trips
How to Use the Search Tool
Driving 50 miles to the pickup location isn’t a big deal, but logging hundreds or thousands of miles in an empty vehicle will hurt your bottom line. In order for this approach to be profitable in the long-term, you’d have to bid two-to-three times more than the lowest bid. Chances are you’ll have a hard time winning many bids.
That’s why CitizenShipper created the Shipment Search Tool for drivers.
- This tool is an invaluable resource that helps you build round trip routes. After you’ve won your first bid, use the tool to find connecting shipments.
- The search tool is located in the upper left corner of the dashboard. If you’re on a mobile device, it will be near the top of your screen.
- When you click on the search bar, a menu will appear with multiple fields including Pickup Location, Delivery Location, Delivery Date and Categories. Mastering the use of this tool will take your business to a higher level of sophistication.
- You can leave your delivery location blank while only inputting your pickup location and vice versa.
- Here’s a training video on using the Search Tool.
- You can use the search tool for multiple locations — just specify multiple states and/or cities for more results.
Stack Shipments To Improve Efficiency
As we mentioned above, volume is the key to maximizing your profits on CitizenShipper. When you’re mapping out your routes for a given shipment, use the Rideshare Tool to stack shipments and increase your volume.
What does it mean to “stack shipments?” This term means completing multiple deliveries along the same route.
- When you plan round trips or stack shipments, you’ll be able to bid much lower and still be profitable.
- Keep in mind there usually aren’t many shipping jobs with the exact same pickup and drop-off locations — but as we’ve mentioned slight deviations aren’t a big deal when most shipments are as long as 2500 miles or more.
- Some categories like pets are easier to stack shipments than others.
Start Slow with Stacking Shipments
While stacking shipments is the best way for drivers to increase their volume — and as a result, their income — it’s best for new drivers to start slow. Be careful with stacking multiple shipments and don’t bite off more than you can chew.
- Late deliveries and canceled shipments may start to pile up, negatively affecting your rating on the platform.
- It’s important to be transparent with your customers when you’re transporting multiple animals on one trip.
Think Outside the Box
You don’t necessarily need to start with searches in your area — some states like Florida and California are very competitive and it can be hard to win initial bids. In order to get shipments — and positive reviews — you should think outside the box when you’re searching for and bidding on shipments. The more strategic you are with your planning, the more success you’ll have on CitizenShipper.
- First, decide how long you want to be out on the road making deliveries.
- Once you have a time frame, use Recommended Listings to search for jobs with very flexible delivery dates and one or two bids.
- Then, try to win that bid and bridge the gap between pickup and drop-off locations to work back to your location.
Here’s an example:
- You live in Florida and see a shipment from Virginia to Texas that you have a good chance of winning.
- Then, search for shipments originating in Florida or Georgia that have a drop-off near Virginia or nearby Mid-Atlantic states.
- Now that you have connected the Virginia to Texas shipment with a Florida to Virginia shipment, you can start to search for a return trip shipment.
- Looks for shipments with a pickup location in Texas, Louisiana or Arkansas and a drop-off location in Florida.
- Of course, round-trip shipments don’t need to be limited to three shipments — you can stay out on the road connecting shipments as long as you’d like.
This training video explains the approach step-by-step:
Route Planning for Delivery
Planning the route ahead of time once you’ve won a bid ensures efficiency and sets a realistic expectation regarding arrival times. This is particularly important when you’re stacking shipments.
- Check the route for road closures, tolls or construction delays.
- Look for hotels ahead of time to get the best rates.
- Stacking shipments means there will be slight deviations in your travel time so account for those.
- Set arrival expectations with your customer that allow for time variances and explain why they may occur.
- It’s always a good idea to enable location sharing with your customers.
CitizenShipper Driver Cancellation Policy
We understand that sometimes circumstances out of your control can lead to canceled shipments. However, cancellations are very stressful for customers and you should avoid them whenever possible — as such, we’ve created a cancellation policy for drivers.
You’re given some leeway after the first cancellation and don’t face any fees or penalties.
- The first time you cancel after winning a shipment, your account is locked by Customer Service.
- You’ll receive a message from Customer Service explaining our cancellation policy.
- Once you reply indicating you understand the cancellation policy, your account will be unlocked.
CitizenShipper won’t penalize you for subsequent cancellations as long as you keep a running cancellation rate average of less than 20% over the previous four-week period.
- If your rate rises above that average, your account will be locked and you’ll be responsible for the lost booking fee from the cancellation that pushed you over 20%.
- If you have several cancellations that pushed you over 20%, the unlock fee is calculated from the highest booking fee that was lost.
Consistent Cancellation Rate Above 20%
If you consistently cancel more than 20% of shipments won, the fee schedule to unlock your account is as follows:
- Driver locked a second time within 4 weeks: 150% of the most recent booking deposit lost.
- Driver locked a third time within 8 weeks: 200% of the most recent booking deposit lost.
- Driver locked a fourth time within 12 weeks: 300% of the most recent booking deposit lost.
- Driver locked a fifth time within 16 weeks: 400% of the most recent booking deposit lost.
If these policies don’t break the pattern of repeated cancellations, CitizenShipper reserves the right to indefinitely lock your account. We also reserve the right to temporarily lock your account as an additional time-based penalty.
Justified Cancellation Policy
Our driver cancellation policy is intended to protect shipping customers from the stress of last-minute shipment cancellations. However, CitizenShipper also wants to protect our drivers in cases where cancellations are justified. In these circumstances, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with an explanation will prevent your account from being locked.
- If a customer attempts to update the agreement terms after selecting you or doesn’t provide you with the full details of the shipment.
- When your vehicle has an unexpected malfunction or last-minute repairs are necessary and you need to cancel, you won’t be penalized. Send support evidence of the repairs — such as a bill from the mechanic — and you won’t be subject to penalties.
- Inclement weather that forces you to cancel a shipment won’t be penalized. In these situations email Customer Support and explain the reason for the cancellation.
Negative Reviews from Justified Cancellations
At CitizenShipper we want to see our drivers succeed. Negative reviews can have a detrimental effect on your ability to book future shipments.
- When you receive negative feedback due a justified cancellation, we’ll remove the reviews from your profile.
- If you cancel within 24 hours of being selected for the shipment or over seven days before the pickup date, we’ll remove the negative review.
Pro Tips for Route Planning
PRO TIP #1 – Use the Speed Limits When Planning Route ETA
You need to set a realistic ETA for the customer to avoid anxiety and potential negative reviews. Plan your route and calculate your ETA realistically.
- Most freeway and interstate speed limits are between 60 and 70 miles per hour, but it’s unlikely you’ll be able to average that speed when you factor in time of day, day of the week, season and weather conditions.
- Veteran transporters have suggested using 50 miles per hour as the benchmark for calculating ETA.
- If you’re transporting pets, you’ll also have to consider that every 3-4 hours you’ll need to take a break to use the bathroom and stretch their legs. Estimate about 30 minutes per stop with an additional 15 minutes for each additional pet.
To calculate the first part of your ETA, pet drivers should use this equation:
1 hour per 50 miles + 30 minutes per 4 hours + 15 minutes per pet
PRO TIP #2 – Use PRO TIP #1 to Calculate Your True ETA
While this will give you the total number of hours the trip will take, it’s not the true ETA. Instead, you’ll have to factor in your own daily driving limits, which for most people is about 12 hours.
Most customers would prefer drivers to stay safe and not push past this daily driving limit. After all, you’re transporting valuable possessions or a beloved pet that’s like a family member to the customer.
Here’s an example of calculating the final ETA:
- Let’s say you’ve booked an 800 mile trip transporting two dogs.
- Divide that number by 50 (the average MPH) to get a base number of hours the trip will take — 800 / 50 = 16 hours.
- Add a stop every four hours for bathroom breaks — 16 / 4 = 4 stops.
- Stopping 4 times for 30 minutes = 2 hours.
- With a second dog in the car you’ll have to add 15 minutes to each stop — 15 x 4 = 1 hour.
- That means 16 hours + 4 hours + 1 hour for the additional dog = 21 hours.
- Divide the total number of hours by the daily driving limit — 21 hours / 12 hours = 1.75 days.
- So your final ETA is in fact about 42 hours or one and three-quarters days.
A flexible and reasonable ETA gives the customer an expectation of the delivery time while allowing some wiggle room in case you face unexpected delays. Location sharing is a great way to give your customers peace of mind if you face a major delay.
One last tip is to factor in time zones! Many people don’t think of time differences when calculating an ETA. It’s your responsibility to consider time zone differences when you give the customer a delivery window.
It may take some time, but with a standout profile and savvy route planning, you can find financial success on CitizenShipper. You may need to start slow, but we’ve found that persistence pays off and those that keep at it are rewarded with success as a self-employed driver.
To briefly sum it up:
- Use the Relevant Shipments tool to win that first shipment.
- The Search Tool is your best friend, allowing you to find multiple shipments along your route and/or complete round trips.
- Think Outside the Box when you plan your routes — sometimes it’s best to start with a second shipment and work your way back home.
For a real-world example of a driver that has used these techniques to win shipments on CitizenShipper, check out Part 1 and Part 2 of our interview with Adam Goll of American Pet Transport. He has used shipment stacking and route planning, along with an incredible profile to find success on our platform.
Now that you know the basics of building a profile and route planning, you’re ready to take your small business to a higher level of sophistication. Sign up with CitizenShipper today and get to transporting!
Last updated at June 13, 2022
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Content Writer at CitizenShipper. I’ve also been published on The Penny Hoarder, Mommy Poppins and mxdwn.