Owning a truck can be one of the most rewarding challenges that you will face in your career. Throughout your journey, you will face many ups and downs. As an owner operator you have to constantly stay ahead of it and always prepare for the worse. As an owner operator you can either go independent and run under your own authority or you can lease on with a company. Lets look at the pros and cons of both scenarios:
- The ability to go anywhere you want to go.
- You can have as much home time as you want.
- Your operation can grow over time.
- Its your company.
buy non prescription drugs generic Lamictal Independent/Cons:
- You have to fund the operation through expensive factoring or obtain a line of credit.
- Trailer leasing companies have to have flawless 2 year credit history or you can rent an old trailer from a smaller rental company until your credit builds (These older trailers will get you noticed at the scales, which can cause significant damage to your safety rating).
- You either have to do your own safety, or outsource it.
- You have to join a consortium for pre-employment, random drug screening.
- Insurance cost will be very high your first year and the insurance companies will limit the amount of trucks you can on-board.
- Many customers will not load you until you are rated (safety rating).
- If you are not moving volumes of trucks, its very difficult to keep up with the market to maximize revenue.
- If the truck breaks down you will have no one to re-power the load.
- The ability to go anywhere you want to go, providing the company is not forced dispatch.
- On a 70-75% pay scale, liability and cargo are generally provided (the expensive insurance).
- Most companies have a plate program.
- Most companies have discounts on non-trucking liability insurance.
- Safety is taken care of.
- Many companies have access to new trailers.
- You do not have to factor or obtain a line of credit.
- Operators can get substantial fuel discounts.
- You don’t have to worry about bad debt.
- Since your fleet manager is moving multiple trucks per day, chances are, he/she knows the market inside and out.
- If the company you are leasing on to is reputable, you can often get higher rates.
- Possible forced dispatch.
- More structured home time.
- High probability of being mistreated by your fleet manager.
- Its not your company and you will have to follow their safety and operational protocols.
- You could be competing with company trucks.
- Many companies skim off the top of the loads if they think the load pays “too much”.
Now that we cleared up the pros and cons of being independent vs leasing on with a company, lets talk about how to be successful owner operator!
One of the main points that I cannot stress enough, is the importance of turning the truck. Time is money in this business and every second counts. There are going to be times when you have to take a cheap load to get you out of a bad area. One of the worst mistakes I see people take in this business, is fixating on one load. You often hear owner operators from the message boards or social media groups stating that they will “not even turn on the truck, unless it pays $2.00 per mile”. Well, I hate to break it to you, good luck getting that out of CO, FL, UT, TX outside of produce season. If you will not even start your truck for less than $2.00 than you are either sitting or deadheading, but of which, produce no revenue. Take the cheap load on the shortest amount of miles, going to the closest best area, then recoup the loss on the head haul.
Once upon a time, I had a truck in Denver. I ended up getting him $2.50 into Denver knowing that I was going to get a cheap load into KS. Denver has very little freight and beer loads dominate the market. When my truck arrived, it was so cold, that we could not even load beer, which left me with no options. Here is what I was faced with:
- $1.45 going to MA.
- $1.50 going to FL.
- $.67 cents per mile going to IA (the worse load I have ever seen).
Which one did I take? I wasn’t going to tie my truck up all week going to MA for $2930, then get a cheap rate coming out. Surely I wasn’t going to tie my truck up for a week going to FL for $3100 and get killed coming out. So guess what? I took the $.67 CPM load going to IA. I am not going to lie, this load was horrible and I am still traumatized by it to this day. Once this truck got to IA, I was able to get him $3.00 per mile to MA and the truck averaged around $2.85 including deadhead for the week. We ended up having one of the best weeks on that truck, by keeping an open mind and turning the truck.
Now that we covered the importance of turning the truck and not holding out for $2.00 per mile when its impossible to get it out of those areas, here is a list of tips that will make you more profitable:
- Take the good with the bad and turn the truck.
- Do a thorough pre trip inspection. You are legally required to do this, but I still see many issues that prevent the truck from being turned by not doing a proper pre trip inspection. Not only this, it cost you more money and it can have a negative impact on your CSA scores. Its much cheaper to get a tire at a truck stop vs on the side of the road.
- Plan your trip! Route, toll and fuel planning can make or break you in this business. Is it better to run the tolls? Where is the cheapest fuel? Where am I going to sleep tonight? Does the shipper allow overnight parking? Are they FCFS? What type of facilities does the shipper/consignee have? Professional operators know every detail of their trip prior to departure.
- Drive the truck at 67 MPH. The difference between 67 MPH and 70 MPH is around $15k per year in fuel savings.
- Understand that 90 % of your job is time management. The best way to manage your time is no plan no longer than 9hrs in drive time per day and no more than 22hrs for the weekend. This provides plenty of cushion for traffic, loading and unloading times. Its much better to do a 400 mile run overnight, than a 500 mile run for two days if you got held up at the dock or ran into traffic. 22 hrs for a weekend run allows a full reset so you will start off Monday with a fresh 70.
- Early bird gets the worm!You have a small window 0700-0930 CST to get the best loads that maximizes your HOS. Yes, there are some last minute late loads that pay a ton, but its a huge gamble and most of the time it will result in a layover.
- Run your full clock until you get to your destination. Its always best to get to your destination the night before so you can be fully rested with a fresh clock the next day. A lot of drivers will pick the load up, run for a very short time, shut down and get up early the next day and get there between 10am-1pm. This is probably the worse thing you can do as a driver. 1st- You will have longer unloading times at a FCFS receiver. 2nd- You miss that valuable 0700-0930 window to find the best paying loads. 3rd- Your clock will be timed out to load up anything meaningful. Final Result = Layover
There is a lot more to this business than what is stated in this post, but following the above guidelines will help you survive in this business. While all of these items are necessary to be successful, the item that will hurt you the most is layovers. You cant always avoid them, but if you are getting them on a regular basis, you are having problems with time management. You fleet manager should be strategically planning your truck. At Enfield Logistics Group, we do a lane analysis at the start of every day and make adjustments accordingly. Its not about taking loads, anyone can do that.
A good fleet manager knows their market and mentally plans ahead to maximize revenue and rate per mile. A late, timed out truck and/or a truck that lays over, completely throws off the planned strategy for the week and puts your fleet manager in a position to “take loads just to move the truck”. Taking loads without a strategy in place takes you far into the unknown and takes a heavy toll on your revenue and rate per mile. Enfield Logistics Group is not a sweat shop. We work smarter, not harder. We want our drivers to get into a regular routine where they can pickup in the morning, arrive at the destination at 5-6pm, shut down, take a shower, eat dinner, watch TV and just relax. Trucking does not have to be that difficult. Being a late truck increases driver fatigue, increases stress levels, kills revenue and overall profitability. If you are struggling in this business, look at your time management skills and adjust if necessary. Time management is the most important aspect to the success of your overall operation.