A Farewell to Hauling

For several years now, I have earned a modest amount of InterStellar Kredits (ISK) by running private courier jobs for other players in EVE Online. I have enjoyed being a part-time space trucker. I even wrote a popular guide about it.

Alas, I've now realized that hauling no longer holds much appeal for me. I've decided that it's time to sell my freighters, and give up trucking as an income-producing career - for a while, at least.

Why have I given up on hauling? My decision arose from two factors:

  • The risk-reward ratio for being an independent trucker no longer makes sense
  • There are better hauling alternatives available - and perhaps more coming soon

Risk-Reward in Trucking

I got ganked in Jita last week. Though I've been ganked before, having it happen in Jita was a first for me. It has made me re-evaluate the utility of independent hauling.

As any reader of my hauling guide knows, getting blown up by enterprising gankers is just part of the cost of doing business as a hauler in New Eden. It goes with the territory, and every serious trucker has to accept that they are going to lose ships and cargo from time to time. For me, flying around with a big target on my ship made hauling interesting. Eluding people who want to see your industrial pop was one of the things that can make hauling fun.

I've lost a couple freighters in Niarja (the main choke point between the Jita and Amarr trade hubs) over the years, and each time, impatience or poor planning on my part ("I can forget using my webbing alt on this run - it will all be just fine this one time...") were the most significant factors. I didn't lose much sleep over those losses, as they were largely due to my own fault. I considered them valuable lessons learned.

But with the rise of well-organized corporations dedicated almost entirely to ganking haulers in high-security space, flying through choke points between trade hubs has become significantly more hazardous for solo haulers, especially in freighters. Earlier this year, I put my Charons in mothballs, and started using Deep Space Transports for inter-hub courier jobs instead.

DSTs are less vulnerable to bumping, as you can simply use a Micro Jump Drive to get 100 km distance, align and warp off, and they also provide a formidable tank. My experience using DSTs for high-sec hauling runs has been very good, though their cargo bays are much smaller than the massive freighter capacities, of course - but for most moderate-sized courier runs, DSTs work just fine.

I also began using the well-established hauling services, Red Frog Freight and Push-X, for very large volume moving jobs. For a long time, I avoided using these services, as their fees are not cheap. But when I weighed the increased potential of losing my own freighter and cargo, suddenly those fees did not seem so exorbitant. I've since had excellent experiences with both services, though one needs to be a little patient when waiting for your contracts to complete. There is always a small backlog of jobs in the queue and it can take a while to get your goods shipped, though with both services I have found that it generally takes just a day or two.

Both Red Frog and Push-X provide generous ship insurance supplements to their affiliated pilots, allowing full coverage of haulers who suffer the occasional inevitable loss. If I was going to continue to be a freighter pilot in New Eden, I would join one of these services. In fact, that's what I now recommend to pilots interested in becoming a serious hauler - train up a suitable alt, join one of the established hauling services, and never worry about ship losses again.

The Price of Impatience

As I mentioned, I got ganked in Jita last week. It was a costly loss - more than 2 billion ISK in expensive Tech II items, which I was trying to get to the trade hub station at Jita 4-4 to sell.

I had considered using Red Frog or Push-X. I could have broken the shipment up into a couple of courier contracts, paid the service fees, waited an extra day or two, and would have been fully covered.  But no, I wanted to get these items to market right away, so once again, my impatience got the best of me.

It was a small volume run, and fit easily into my trusty blockade runner, a Prorator - one of my all-time favorite ships. It's super-speedy, quick aligning and cloaky. I always feel near invulnerable in my Prorator. I've escaped so many bubbles in null-sec in my blockade runner, it's almost become routine. In low-sec, I've easily evaded gate camps so large that the red bars on my overview covered the entire right side of my screen.

I've been everywhere in New Eden in my Prorator. As I said in a previous post:

As a hauler, I've been to almost every region of the New Eden cluster. I've taken side trips to view the Monolith in Dead End, the EVE Gate, and... the graveyard of titans at B-R5BR. I've seen shattered planets, lonely memorials and ambitious research sites - and they've taught me all about the backstory of EVE.
As a hauler, I've learned how to avoid bubbles, frustrate gankers, evade gatecamps and escape tacklers. The joy of expert space trucking comes not just from completing a run and earning an honest paycheck, but also from the satisfaction of knowing that I can go anywhere - no matter how dangerous the trip may be.
New Eden is my domain, and no corner of it remains closed to me.

So, I was feeling ultra-confident when I decided to save some ISK, and do a quick run to Jita myself. I loaded my items into my Prorator, set the course, and undocked.

Every jump on the way to Jita was uneventful. There were a few CODE pilots hanging out on the Uedama gate, as usual, but they didn't try to catch me - there were much easier targets to take out, no doubt. I jumped into Jita, and started the warp to the station at 4-4.

The traffic around the Jita trade hub is always thick, and there is typically a second or two delay between coming out of warp and getting docking permission accepted. I routinely kick on my prop mod just as I come out of warp, to accelerate towards the station and speed up the docking process, and I did so this time.

But then, before I docked, my ship exploded.

"Oh, damn," I muttered to myself. I warped off my pod to a planet, and docked at the nearest station. I took a quick look at the kill mail - a pilot in an NPC corp flying a Tornado had one-shotted me. A classic gank.

The only consolation was that none of my Tech II items had dropped, so at least they didn't profit from my loss.

Still, I was curious. Blockade runners are immune to cargo scans, so my ganker had no idea what I was carrying - he was taking a random chance that I had something valuable in my hold. I hopped into my noob ship, undocked, and warped back to the scene of the crime, but at 100 km off. I wanted to see what corp his friends belonged to, if I could. Professional gankers always operate in teams, with a buddy in a hauling ship standing by to scoop whatever loot and cargo gets dropped.

As I arrived, there was the expected plethora of CONCORD ships on my overview, and the Tornado wreck, and also the wreck of my Prorator - unlooted.

This wasn't a professional gank. It was just some guy in a Tornado getting his jollies from picking off haulers. I was a little disappointed. I have more respect for the ganking entrepreneurs who take a risk and try to make a profit. Instead, this just felt random.

I do have to congratulate him for the quick shot, though. He only had a second or two, at most, to get it off. Maybe he just wanted to see if he could kill a fast blockade runner - they are more challenging targets than the usual run-of-the-mill industrial.

I kicked myself for not using a hauling service.

The Future of Hauling

At Fanfest earlier this year, CCP Ytterbium talked about the possibility of enabling InterBus, the in-game non-player corporation, to haul small volumes of goods for players between stations (with the risk that the convoy might be shot on the way).

As I sit back and reflect on my recent loss in Jita, and look at the current and potentially emerging options for hauling goods in New Eden, I come to the following conclusions:

  • Being an independent solo hauler makes little sense, given the increasing risk of loss, especially in high-sec space
  • The relative cost of using established hauling services, compared to the cost of potentially lost ships, cargo and collateral, make them the logical choice for large-volume and high-value shipping, even with the small additional delays that entails
  • For low-value and small-volume shipments, an in-game service like the proposed InterBus network will compete for a substantial portion of currently player-run courier contract work, reducing the rewards of hauling in what is already a low-reward business

The indicators are clear. The future of being a independent hauler looks bleak. It makes little sense, other than saving a bit of time, to carry on as an solo space trucker in New Eden. That work should go to the large and well-run hauling services corporations, who can manage risk more effectively. And with the anticipated changes in the hauling dynamic, should the InterBus option come to fruition with the new structures, the opportunities for small-scale haulers to ply their trade will be significantly reduced.

Frankly, I think I can make more profits by selling my hauling ships, and investing the proceeds in PLEX. Oddly, that seems like a much less riskier place to put my money these days.

So it goes in New Eden. Nothing ever stays the same. Usually, I like that, but in this case, I feel a little sad.

Fly safe! o7