We’re back with part two of our conversation with Adam Goll of American Pet Transport. Adam is a driver on the platform with several years of animal transport experience. Completing more than 100 shipments over the last couple years, he’s developed a model for success other drivers on the platform would be smart to emulate.
Adam gave us a look into how he has found success on CitizenShipper in part one of our interview. He mentions crafting a standout profile, stacking shipments and incorporation as an LLC as a few keys to winning. In part two, we discuss more of his strategies for success and learn more about his life on the road.
Booking Shipments on the Road
CS: A lot of our drivers book their shipments while they’re out on the road. How often are you checking on CitizenShipper for new jobs while you’re out driving?
Adam: All the time. Whenever I walk my dog or go to the bathroom I’m constantly refreshing [the website]. It literally consumes my life. I’m constantly looking for shipments or moving filters around or negotiating. And sometimes now I’ll look at other drivers’ profiles and look for ways to improve [my profile].
CS: How flexible do you find shippers to be in terms of delivery windows?
Adam: They’re pretty flexible. My intro actually has a running list of my routes. So I’m very open and transparent about everything and it helps me keep organized. Because I don’t want to sit there looking at it wrong and go back to a piece of paper or Word document trying to line everything up. Everyone knows in the intro what my routes are — some people it helps them if they’re not geographically inclined. It helps them say ‘Hey can we go on this route?’
[Customers are] pretty flexible. A lot of the ones that aren’t flexible are the last-minute ones. They’re like, ‘Hey, can you pick up today?’ I think it was yesterday or today they were in Pennsylvania or New York and asked if I can pick up today. I’m like — and I mean I’m not unprofessional — but in the back of my mind, I’m thinking, ‘If you’d read my message you would have seen I am in Florida right now.’
Always Updating His Intro
If I’m on a very long-distance transport I don’t bother updating [my intro]. What I normally do with the route list, the very top route, I’ll go in every day — so let’s say the transport is from Florida to Seattle. That’s going to take anywhere from four to six days. So every day I’ll go in there and I might change it and update it to whatever city I’m currently at.
I might change it from Little Rock, AR to Seattle, WA. As I’m moving, I’ll update it so they can kind of get an idea of where I’m at. Because I go through multiple states in a day. So if I put a route there from Pensacola to Seattle and some people think I’m still in Florida and ask ‘Hey can you pick up on your way to Seattle?’ But I’m already five states away!
Another of the ones that aren’t flexible is when they have flights booked. I had someone that booked a month or two ago, I had to pick up on May 3rd and their flight was booked for May 4th — it’s from Fort Myers, FL to somewhere in Massachusetts. And so I have to be at her house at a specific time of day to pick up her dog. But usually, everyone’s pretty flexible.
How to Handle Scheduling
CS: On that subject, have you ever run into a situation where you’re running behind schedule, having car trouble, or faced some other logistical issue?
Adam: So, I never tell customers concrete dates. If I know it takes me three days to get somewhere, I’ll tell them it will take four or five… I always leave myself an extra day or two buffer. It sounds better for me to be early than to tell a customer, ‘Hey I’m going to be an extra day or two late.’ The only times I’ve actually had to use the buffer dates was a day in Wyoming when the interstate shut down because of wind and last January, I was trying to get from the east side of Washington to the west side of Washington through the Cascades, all the roads were shut down due to snow.
But I have GPS tracking and I keep the customer informed about every little thing. Normally I use 600-800 miles a day and it just varies with how I’m dealing with traffic and stuff like that. So when someone’s saying, you know, it’s 1200 miles I’m saying it’s going to take two days; it may take a day and a half. Or if it’s like 3000 miles, I might say it’s going to take five or six days, but I’ll get there in four.
It always sounds better to a customer to get there early. There are circumstances where I’ll have a route change or something comes up and I’ll say I’m going to be a day later than what I told them. And they’re a little disappointed but in actuality, way back in the text messages, I’m actually a day ahead of schedule.
CS: Reviews are a big way for drivers to build up reputation. Do you try to respond to reviews on CitizenShipper?
Adam: Yeah, I do. When I first started I did it like almost every review. But I’m so busy now, it’s hard enough with all of the messages. I’ll give you an example: two days ago, I think it was either the day of or the day after we left. Someone left a bad review on my Facebook page saying, ‘Don’t recommend, my dog got there but it took him three days later.’ And I’m like, that person has never been my customer, I’ve never taken three days extra, their Facebook page looks like it had just been created. So they’re either competition, someone in my personal life that wants to be a jerk or they think I’m a different company.
You can’t audit reviews [on Facebook] like you can in CitizenShipper, so I wrote a long explanation — I’ve got GPS tracking, my customers know from the get-go. I have never been three days late — I may have been one day late, it was because of weather conditions. But I’ve never, ever had a complaint about timing. I had just done two drop-offs and I was like, ‘You were never a customer’ and I said that my last 10 drop-offs, I was a day early. But my good reviews overwhelm the one or two oddball bad ones.
Calculating Earnings on CitizenShipper
CS: What kind of earnings have you been able to make on CitizenShipper?
Adam: My accountant actually — I had to file a tax extension — I had to hire an accountant because I’m so busy, I don’t have time. I had to file an extension because I got the accountant early in January.
Last month was pretty short, I think I made like $2000, but when I’m really going I can make like $6000-$8000 gross. My accountant gave me a profit/loss report, she’s saying income was like $57,000. But that’s just a ballpark. I know when I get my end-of-the-month bank statements, they’re anywhere from $5000 to $8000 gross.
There’s a lot of overhead, I know my overhead’s like at least $5000 a month. If it’s a month where I’m using a car rental that’s $1800 to $2000 and if you’re including hotels, that’s another $1000 and you’ve got to add [gas]. I would say I fill up my tank twice a day. I kind of came up with a ballpark figure that my overhead expense per day, when I’m actually actively doing a transport, is like $200-$300 a day. So if you do the math on that, that’s already $3000-$5000 right there. And that’s before I make any money.
The Benefits and Challenges of Self-Employment
But the thing is with owning a business, it pays for everything. You work a normal job, you’re making income to pay your bills. But when you own a business, some of the stuff you’re using will be covered under the business [Editor’s note: We’ve compiled a tax guide for independent contractors using CitizenShipper].
When I say gross, that includes the vehicle, the cell phone, the food — anything left over is either in savings or souvenirs from a national park. I mean, I’m comfortable.
I had to replace an alternator two weeks ago and my A/C is going on the fritz, so probably when I get done with these next few transports [I’ll get it fixed]. An A/C, they’re probably $1200, I’ve got the money, I could do it right now I just don’t have the time to sit and wait around for a mechanic to do it.
So the thing is, if I wanted to do that I would just rent a vehicle. I’ve put some ads on the [CitizenShipper Facebook] group for some easy things like battery-operated fans for more ventilation, airing up your tires, stuff like that. So I find little traveling hacks. One of the next big purchases I’m looking at is to be more sustainable off the grid so I’m looking at a power station. Then I’m not using the vehicle’s entire resources like the battery and the alternator and all that other stuff.
CS: You’ve mentioned National Parks and that you’re a photographer. What’s the most meaningful place you’ve visited while you’ve been transporting?
Adam: I think last year I did 150,000 miles and I’m already at close to 40,000 miles this year. In that time frame, it took me about 10 months to see all of the lower 48. Out of actual national parks, I’m at 34 of the 63. But there’s actually park units, which aren’t national parks but could be battlefields or monuments or anything else. There’s over 400, I think the last I counted was in the 195 range [Editor’s note: Adam’s updated us and he’s at over 220 now]. But a lot of them I’ve visited multiple times.
Because of COVID, I’d have to visit some of them multiple times to actually get into the visitor’s center. I’ve been to the Grand Canyon four times and I still haven’t seen the west end of it. And I’ve been to Fort Smith five times and that fifth time I was actually able to get into the visitor’s center. Yellowstone I’ve been to twice but part of the roads were closed because of weather, construction or whatever. So I’ve got a route going to Montana next month and I’m going to try to see if the other side of it’s fixed.
I would say in terms of nature and feeling like you’re on another planet, Glacier National. Yosemite and Kings Canyon are probably next. If you’re looking for Star Wars-type of stuff, Death Valley and — I haven’t been to Redwoods but I’ve been to the Muir Woods which also has redwoods. And I actually have a little souvenir redwood tree outside. So there’s a redwood tree in Florida! In terms of wildlife, Yellowstone. I’m kind of partial to it, the Gulf Islands National Seashore. I mean it’s quite a big adventure.
My dog travels everywhere with me. People say to me he should be in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most traveled dog. Every time I travel to a park, that front entrance sign at the visitor’s center, I take a photo of him on it. I’ll go and I’ll take photos of the dogs in front of the sign. I’ve got dogs that are in front of Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX, and I’ve got some in front of the Grand Canyon. Customers get such a kick out of it — one of the reviews was like ‘This is such a uniquely personal experience.’ The Grand Canyon is 60-80 miles out of the way on the interstate, so I run it through a customer before I make any big jump like that.
I would have gone to more, I would be close to 300 if it wasn’t for the fact that these parks aren’t directly off the interstate. A lot of times if I’m running empty — when I went to Glacier I was running empty. I went to Glacier, went across the whole north end of the country, visited all those parks, spent two days in DC, and went home with absolutely nothing.
For me I want to get exercise — I need to get out of the car and stretch. And that breaks the monotony of the drive. Because there’s nothing worse than driving for two days in the Great Plains and seeing absolutely nothing. When there’s not a park I’ll find some sort of attraction. When I’m going out west on I-10 there’s all those little Navajo Reservation pop-ups. I don’t stop at every one, but I might stop at one or two. And the next time out I’ll stop at another one or two.
Sometimes when I’m out there and I’m tired of driving on the interstate I get off the next exit and I’ll drive Route 66. So there’s always something. I went to a roadkill cafe in Arizona. There’s great people, there’s stories along the way. There are some people that are like ‘I’ve never seen anyone do this! This is so cool.’ Or they’re like ‘I’ve seen your YouTube video one time or another.’ I’ve had some people, I think it was at Craters of the Moon, they wanted a picture of me next to my dog and the car.
The Story Behind the Logo
Adam: The first time I visited Mount Rushmore, I wondered ‘What would it be like with pets on top of it?’ And I came up with the idea and I sent it to a graphic artist. That’s my dog’s head — my dog’s left ear is half-missing and I used to run a hedgehog business. With a dog and a cat I broke it up to say ‘Hey I don’t do just cats and dogs, I’ve got exotics and stuff like that.’ I pitched the idea and the graphic artist did it. The thing is Mount Rushmore is the public domain so I can’t get copyrighted for it. I’m working right now to try to copyright the logo and the name because I think there’s someone else out there [using the logo/name.]
That’s why I’m an LLC in Florida. So no one in Florida can have the same name. But someone in another state can do it. If I trademark and copyright it then no one in the entire country can use it.
CS: What do you do on the road to keep yourself entertained?
Adam: Other than going to National Parks to break the monotony, if I’m not carrying a load, don’t have a customer, I might do an aquarium or a zoo, something that takes a little more time. And just kind of walking around the parks. Some of them are just in and out; a lot of the parks you’re doing an auto tour and you’re just in the car and don’t have to leave the pet unattended.
I love drone photography but ended up getting rid of it a few months ago because I kept running into issues. Not only the National Park issues with the drone — I know all the laws and I can take photos of National Parks with my drone. I just need to know where the boundaries are. A lot of times I’ll want to go up and fly and I’ve got to go up and get air traffic control clearance. If there’s bad weather, bad wind, I can’t get clearance, there’s flight restrictions…
I love doing it when I could, but after about a week of trying to fly five times and I couldn’t do it, I was just fed up with it. So I got rid of it. Maybe later on I’ll get into it again because I want to get a better drone. I can’t sell any photos and make any money off of it without an FAA commercial drone license. And that’s a $200 test.
But driving around, I’ve got XM Radio that I have a subscription for. Some of those long nights where I’m getting tired, I’ll switch to Netflix is a Joke or some other comedy; when I start laughing, I can drive quite a bit longer. Podcasts; I’ve got an Audible subscription. There’s plenty of stuff. And then like, I talk to my dog. My dog has had these very serious, philosophical conversations that he doesn’t understand at all.
The Work Behind the Scenes
Adam: I’m trying to make more videos. The other day in the video, I was just cleaning out my car. I was like ‘These are the crates, I’m deep cleaning them, I’m sanitizing them.’ I’m showing them the behind-the-scenes and how much work it is. Pulling everything out and putting it back in. Making sure all of the USDA boxes are checked, reassembling everything. There’s a lot involved with the back end. And a lot of people don’t understand, they think ‘Oh you’re just taking my dog from point A to point B.’ It’s so much more than that. From the outside it looks easy but it’s not. It’s not as easy as just going to your neighbor and saying ‘Here’s $500, can you go grab my dog for me?’
You have to get a USDA [registration] and in Florida, Florida Fish and Wildlife regulations. You can’t just buy a lizard from PetSmart, decide you don’t want it and turn back around and sell it. I’ve seen transports on CitizenShipper go through like sending a hedgehog or ferret to California. I had to send an email, I said ‘That’s not happening.’ Just a lot of people that don’t look into that. I have past experience. A lot of transporters… this is like a self-police kind of thing. You don’t know unless someone that has the correct information tells you. There’s a lot of incorrect information. You do your research or you get in trouble.
I think why I’m doing so well is I have already got a background in exotics. I’ve already had a USDA license. The USDA stuff for transportation is [pretty easy]. It’s like one page of paper; you fill out one or two pages of paper and you send it in. It’s a free license and it takes like a month to get back. When I was a class B broker it’s like 10 pages of paper. Then I had to have a vet go into my facility to do an inspection — like, a local vet. And then I had to have a USDA inspector that was also a vet come and do the inspection. I had to pay a $120 fee and wait for all of that paperwork to get approved.
That’s just the USDA side, because I was doing exotics, now I have to deal with Fish & Wildlife. So then I had to go through another 10 pages of paper — they don’t require an inspection — and pay a $50 fee. Then I had to wait for a month. So that’s why if you see me there — and I get a lot of heat about it — because I’m really agitated by people who I can tell are breaking the law.
I use [the trip planner] as a tool so I can see what I can do better. I can look at other people’s accounts and see where I can improve. There’s some stuff where I’m just scratching my head wondering how they can do it; they must be transporting like eight other dogs. I can usually tell now when bids are really low or really high, something shady is going on.
Why American Pet Transport Always Operates By the Book
Adam: I’m helpful — I’ll hold [the shipper’s] hand, I’ll tell you where to get the paperwork, I’ll tell you where to send the email. I’ll go through processes, but don’t try to do stuff before you get the ‘okay.’ I’ve got a video on YouTube just about health certificates and another video on how to tell if a transporter is legit. A lot of it is just common sense. Like in any industry, you don’t want to have someone that’s an unlicensed electrician or carpenter, going in there without the proper licensing or permits. Because if something happens, your house catches fire or it won’t pass an inspection or something like that.
There have been stories and issues where a transporter, they either didn’t have a USDA license or they didn’t have all the health certificates and paperwork that they needed. And, their vehicle got impounded, they were fined $3000-$8000 per animal. Another transporter said they passed an animal control vehicle backed up against a transport van taking animals across [the border]. So I try to make people aware that this is absolutely serious. You get fined $10,000, your vehicle gets impounded and then your animals go to animal control. You’ve got to work it out with the courts or whoever to get them pulled out.
And we’re just talking about dogs and cats. If we’re dealing with exotics, that’s a whole different ballpark. I saw a bald eagle come up on CitizenShipper and I didn’t look too much into it but I saw another transporter chime in and say you better make sure you get all of the permits. You can’t just pick up that eagle and drive down the road — it’s an endangered species.
It’s a lot of education. I’ve got books on dog breeds, cat breeds and first aid. I want to take an animal behavior class. Not only for dogs and cats but for anything else. When I was running exotics, I was reading veterinarian college textbooks to learn about exotics. I don’t want to go into a full vet tech program but I want to expand more on my knowledge. I’m learning little things but I just want to expand… I want to be more.
Content Writer at CitizenShipper