I check in with the customer, I walk back out, and start to unstrap and untarp, as Heather has risen from her cave and started the morning search of the load boards. The customer gets the last piece off, the bills get signed, and I climb back in asking Heather, "Anything worth a hoot?" She says, "no," so off to the truck stop we go, waiting for a load to pop. Searching for more than $1 a mile.
We check in with the office, checking to see what they have. They hear "thanks, but no thanks," as Heather continues looking. Some of you reading this are probably thinking that this sounds like a lot of headaches and work, and it is. At times, it makes a lot of unneeded stress, but at the end of the day, I say it's all worth it. I can say we are making it and doing it on our own, learning every step of the way. Yes, I do have a leg up due to Heather's unwavering dedication and great negotiating skills with brokers. She finds the $2-$4 a mile freight. She always lets me make the final decision on any loads we take, running every detail by me.
There's been days that we've sat a day or two, waiting for something worth taking to pop. There's been times that we put the truck in the wind, deadheading several hundred miles to escape the $1 a mile freight, but it's worth it. I will not deny the fact that we've butted heads with the outfit I'm leased to in a constructive manner. In the big scheme of things, this is my business, and my decision to what happens to my truck, and it should be able to be my call. I may be wrong in this line of thinking, but I strongly feel this way.
I am leased onto a small, 60 truck fleet. They have what you can consider agents, or dispatchers, that have a customer base of their own. The rates are okay, and you may be able to manage an okay living with their freight base. I also have the option of finding my own loads, which I mostly do. My feeling here is why not shoot for the stars if I can instead of settling for the status quo? You're probably wondering where I'm heading with this, so here you are:
Am I better off with a mom and pop, small fleet operation instead or a mega fleet carrier?
My view is if you have determination, passion, and put the extra work needed so you can run a successful operation, and want to be able to sit with the owner, and him know who you are, a smaller outfit is the right call. For some drivers, they love the mega carriers, it just isn't for me. In my opinion, (no offense toward those with mega carriers, especially the lease ops), with all the hoops, forced dispatch (whether or not the drivers want to admit to it or not), countless can's and can not's, comes off in my eyes that they're a glorified company driver. The mega fleets run you like a company truck, passing the buck for expenses onto you. Mega fleets view you as a number, not a person. I've been there to this extent when I was at ATS. They treated me well, but a lot of owner ops and lease ops were forced into loads because they would be told "This is all we have." The same load would be offered to them, day after day, hour after hour, until they would finally cave and take it. Unlike mega carriers, I can pick and choose, and sit, and bounce, for whatever I want, therefore, being the sole one responsible for my revenue. This can allow me to accel better, or will give me enough rope to hang myself.
To put another spin on this, I took a load from Landstar out of the Kubota plant in Ft. Worth, TX paying $2.50 a mile. Said mega carrier loading next to me, with equal miles, and a stop, was making $1.50 a mile, loading the same stuff, out of the same plant. Another mega carrier, comparative miles, was pulling $1.25 for the same freight due to co-brokering. I never have to hear you're number 20 out of 100 after emptying out, and to wait for my turn in line.
I plan my own routes. I don't have a bean counter telling me where and how much fuel to put on. I get fuel discounts at TA and Pilot, and TA is $0.02 cheaper per gallon on average (I guess I could just easily say TA since you know my stand on Pilot). I don't have to keep a certain idle percentage, like one mega carrier in particular, in order to obtain these discounts. I pull my own trailer that I am responsible for the maintenance on. I choose my own shops for the trailer and tractor, and the maintenance is determined only by me and DOT. They don't force me into their own slow running shops, where an alternator replacement takes 12 hours.
A driver leasing a truck should not be forced to run team or train to make ends meet. I am simply saying whatever a driver may decide is up to entirely themselves. They must choose what will work for their lifestyle and needs. My advice is simple.
1. Do your homework.
2. Don't go in blind due to it being a big, shiny, fast truck.
3. Run the numbers, talk to drivers. Take what they say with a grain of sand. Look at pay statements and 1099's for the truth, for everyone will say they make six figures, when their take home could be only four figures.
4. Know your expenses to run your truck. Can your freight base cover your living expenses while also paying for your truck.
5. Put money aside each week in a maintenance and reserve account. You will need this to fall back on if anything goes wrong.
The biggest thing that will cause a driver to fail is that they keep the company mentality. You are running your own company. This is a business, not just a job or career. You wouldn't sell $20 items for $1 all day. Take that perspective into it when you are looking for loads.