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Camper hauling can be a lucrative business for those with the right equipment, skills, and business sense, and for those without the proper truck, skills and business sense, it can be worse than a waste of time, it can cost you both your time and money. Most camper toters are independent contractors, relying on their own knowledge, as well as the professionals they associate with (think insurance and accounting especially here). In this article, we will explore the ins and outs of camper hauling for profit, including the necessary equipment, licensing requirements, and tips for starting and growing a successful business.
What is Camper Hauling?
Camper hauling is the process of transporting recreational vehicles (RVs) from one location to another, usually from the manufacturer to the dealer. This can include towing small campers, travel trailers, fifth-wheels, and motorhomes. Camper hauling is a specialized niche within the transportation industry that requires specific equipment, training, and licensing and has some or all of the same regulations as big rig 18 wheel trucks depending on your size.
The Market Demand for Camper Hauling
The demand for camper hauling has continuously increased in recent years due to the increasing popularity of RV travel, greater personal income, and an aging population. The COVID-19 pandemic has also contributed to the surge in demand (while also making the supply harder to come by) as more people are opting for road trips and outdoor vacations with their families without the need to check in and out of hotels.
Camper hauling is a valuable service for those who are unable or unwilling to transport their RVs themselves. RV owners may lack the proper equipment, experience, or time to haul their vehicles. They may also prefer to have a professional handle the transportation to ensure the safety of their investment. Most buyers don’t want to take the time and expense to buy a camper where they’re made, and rather opt to buying from a local dealer for service and help.
Additionally, RV dealerships, rental companies, and manufacturers often require the services of professional camper haulers to transport their inventory to various locations. And it’s this type of hauling that most camper toters find most of their business from.
Starting a Camper Hauling Business
Starting a camper hauling business requires careful planning and preparation. Here are some key steps to get started:
- Research the market
Before starting a camper hauling business, it’s important to research the market and determine the demand for your services. Identify your target market, competition, and pricing strategies. Consider factors such as location, seasonal demand, and the types of RVs you are willing and able to transport. You’ll want to contact as many brokers and manufacturers as possible as the rates paid to haulers vary greatly. Because of the internet, the difference in pay is likely smaller than otherwise, however, you’ll want to do your own research.
- Obtain the necessary licenses and permits
Camper hauling is a regulated industry that requires specific licenses and permits. These vary depending on the state and type of vehicle being transported. In general, camper haulers using a F350 style diesel truck pulling a single trailer don’t have to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL), but this can vary with any given state. Some states also have additional endorsements required by their state. Depending on size, you may also need to obtain permits for oversized and overweight loads. If you have your own “authority” (either intrastate or interstate) filings have to be made by the insurance company.
- Invest in the right equipment
Camper hauling requires specialized equipment such as a heavy-duty truck and trailer, hitching equipment, and safety gear. It’s important to invest in quality equipment that is suitable for the types of RVs you plan to transport. Consider factors such as weight capacity, towing capacity, and safety features. I have watched many haulers try to start with old and/or gas powered trucks only to lose their shirt on repairs while on the road. I truly have the opinion that large truck payments cost less than roadside repairs. I can’t really stress this enough, if you break down on the road, it’s very very expensive. And not just in the repair bill, albeit also in reputational risk. If you’re late delivering too many times, even if you can afford the costs of repair, you may find you’re not receiving any more business to haul because the manufacturer doesn’t want the trouble of having late deliveries.
- Develop a business plan
A business plan is essential for any new venture, and something with the high fixed and variable costs of movement of goods is a key example. It outlines your goals, strategies, and financial projections. Your business plan should include details on your target market, pricing, marketing strategies, and operational plans. Just because you don’t have plans to work for anyone else (being under contract) doesn’t mean you don’t want to be thinking of ways to maximize your revenue potential.
- Obtain insurance coverage
Camper hauling involves significant risks, including damage to the RV, accidents, and liability issues. It’s important to obtain comprehensive insurance coverage that protects you and your clients in the event of a mishap. This is where we can help you.
The different types of insurance typically are:
Trucking insurance – This is commercial auto liability insurance. It covers the cost of damage and injury you may cause another. Generally speaking, you can expect to be required to have $1 million or more in coverage, even though the FMCSA (Federal Authority) only usually requires $750,000 if you have a federal interstate authority. One insider trick, if you’re obtaining your authority for the first time, get approved for $1 million, but only start with $750,000 until you receive your authority and are ready to haul. The reason for this is it can take weeks from application to approval and gaining a contract. Because your insurance may cost more than a $1000 per month, you may be able to save a few hundred dollars by having the lower legal limit during that initial down time while you wait for the paperwork to process. We do this all the time with new clients.
Cargo insurance – Many manufacturers give drivers the option to have their own cargo insurance and then pay extra per mile. For those driving safe and putting a lot of miles on the road while on duty, this can be a significant net profit. Often, I will advise people to forego the extra money at first and see how things go and make sure they’re working enough to make it worth while.
Physical Damage – Commonly called collision and comprehensive (or OTC other than collision) on personal vehicles, this coverage covers your vehicle in case of accident, theft, hail, or animal strikes (acts of God).
Non-Trucking Liability – For those operating under someone else’s authority or under contract with a single manufacturer, this is when you’re not “on duty” (actually hauling) and going home or other personal use. It’s very similiar to personal auto coverage in that it’s liability coverage when the vehicle is not being used commercially.
General Liability – In case you cause an injury/damage/loss to another when your vehicle is not in motion. For example, when you’re at a destination dealership and if you cause damage (think opening an expensive glass door and breaking it as one of too many examples to list). It’s not relatively very expensive because the risk is relatively low, however, one of the best reasons to have it is the legal defense even when you’ve done nothing wrong, but someone says you did.
Marketing Your Camper Hauling Business
Marketing is critical for the success of any business. Here are some effective marketing strategies for camper hauling businesses:
- Use Facebook to promote your business
Facebook doesn’t cost anything other than time to allow the world to know what you’re doing and many clients gain a lot of business from it.
2. Attend RV shows and events
Attending national RV shows and events is a great way to connect with potential clients and build your brand and service. You don’t have to set up a booth or display, just show up and talk to venders who do. You never know who knows who and can get you a great contract.
3. Partner with RV dealerships and manufacturers
Partnering with RV dealerships and manufacturers can be a valuable source of business for camper hauling companies. Again, most of my clients are working either directly with manufacturers or brokers who work with the manufacturers. These businesses often require the services of professional haulers who can haul one camper after another to various locations. Establishing relationships with these businesses can provide a steady stream of work and help build your reputation within the industry.
4. Provide exceptional customer service
Providing exceptional customer service is essential for building a loyal client base and generating positive word-of-mouth referrals. Communicate clearly with clients, be responsive to their needs, and go above and beyond to ensure their satisfaction. This is a small industry where many of the key players know each other. Like so many things, reputation is everything. Be honest and it will pay off over time, regardless of what it appears like short-term.
Camper hauling can be a profitable and rewarding business for those with the right equipment, training, and business sense. For others, it can be filled with frustration and loss. It’s important to research the market, obtain the necessary licenses and permits, invest in quality equipment, and develop a solid business plan. By giving us a call, you will increase your odds of success, especially if you’re the mindset of growing beyond a one truck operation. Most insurance agents have no idea of the nuances and barriers that camper and RV haulers face with both the business operations and especially the insurance aspect. Also, with so few insurance companies offering the correct type of coverage, you’re likely to only save money, and not spend more by going with a business insurance agent that knows your industry.