Some Straight Talk From An Owner Operator

Topic 16189 | Page 1

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Old School's Comment
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I had a really great conversation with an owner operator today. That in itself is an unusual experience for me. Most of the time I talk to one they seem like they are not only trying to convince me of how great it is, but also trying to prop themselves up too. I know enough about business to know that it is not all peaches and cream, and the way that some of these guys do their "trucker math" is really disturbing at times.

I started the conversation with a driver parked next to me and asked him "How do you like working with Landstar?" He responded with, "Well, I've been with them for 23 years now." Of course that statement says a lot to me, and he went on to explain to me why he operated as an owner operator, and he basically told me the things that I had pretty much figured out on my own. He said that the money was not really any better than being a good company driver, but he does it so that he can be home every weekend (something you can accomplish as a company driver also) and he wanted to run in a certain area of the country - the south - he lives in Alabama. He acknowledged that when he first started out as an owner operator those things were his goals, but that now days there are plenty of company positions which offer regional runs with those options available.

This driver was 67 years old, and he has been driving trucks for most of his life. He told me that his wife tells him that he's not doing any better than he did when he was a company driver years ago, and that as best as they can figure the money part of it, they are enjoying having an expensive hobby. That is the way he described it to me - an expensive hobby! It is rare that I meet with such candor from an owner operator, and I enjoyed talking to him. It was nice not having him try to convince me of the pie in the sky scenarios when it is something that I already have an understanding about.

He ended the conversation with a comical little remark about his nice big sleeper on his 1993 Peterbilt wagon. He said that originally the truck had a regular sleeper, and he wanted to get one of those really nice big ones. His wife was against it because of the incredible expense of it. He convinced her to let him spend some more money on their "hobby" by telling her this: "Well, you know honey, I have only got two vices. That is big trucks and little women. Somehow after all these years I've ended up with a little truck and a big woman!" Haha! After that comment she gave him permission to go ahead and have his big truck!

I'm including a photo of his rig because I just know that it will have Linden slobbering all over himself when he sees it!

20160908_070839_zpslbcuemc8.jpg

Regional:

Regional Route

Usually refers to a driver hauling freight within one particular region of the country. You might be in the "Southeast Regional Division" or "Midwest Regional". Regional route drivers often get home on the weekends which is one of the main appeals for this type of route.

Owner Operator:

An owner-operator is a driver who either owns or leases the truck they are driving. A self-employed driver.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar

Yeah, unfortunately in an industry that averages like 3% profit margins you're just not going to get very far owning a truck or two, or even ten. Heck, there are companies with many hundreds or even thousands of trucks that struggle to turn a profit at all. It's just a tough game to be in as a business owner, but then again that applies to being an owner in any business!

Well, you know honey, I have only got two vices. That is big trucks and little women. Somehow after all these years I've ended up with a little truck and a big woman!

rofl-3.gif That's funny!

Now his sleeper is pretty nice, but look at my sleeper!!!

6f0E820a_kytHRcqhWJ1lrAoUnB9IDkSehZcF3No

When I first started trucking in '93 I was in a 48" flat top bunk. You couldn't even stand up in there and the driver's seat bumped up right against the bed itself. After a couple of years I managed to get into a condo and stayed in those from that point on. But to this day I walk into my camper and it feels like a palace compared to all those years crammed inside of what amounts to a walk-in closet.

So for all of you who would like to become owner operators I suggest operating a company truck and owning a camper. That's the smart angle on being an owner operator and travelling in style!

smile.gif

Owner Operator:

An owner-operator is a driver who either owns or leases the truck they are driving. A self-employed driver.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Brian M.'s Comment
member avatar

Now may someone disagree? I realize that the trucking industry has its highs and lows. Also it's important to understand that not everyone is cut out to be an owner operator. When you make the decision to become one you must also understand that you are going to wear many hats. It's not something for the faint harded or someone who needs a stable paycheck every week.

Such as old school I in a previous life was a successful business owner and started out as a company driver. Please understand this is not to discredit anything old school has said. I have the up most respect for him. In fact I think of all people in this forum he would make one of the best owner operators out there.

The biggest issue to overcome the being a driver factor. There are quite a few success stories out there, but for every success story there are many more failures. The value of being a company driver first is so important. Learning what makes a successful driver first will help you prepare for the hurdles you will face in the future.

You will never see me tell someone it's easy being an O/O. There is so much to know it could fill a book. Every student I have I tell them go company for at least a year before they take that step. Do the research, ask other O/O out there. Do the math yourself. Don't jump into it!

I am lucky I've been able to succeed at doing it. Many are not! There are weeks you won't see a settlement and others where your eyes grow glossy because you've realized that's a heck of a lot of money.

I agree there are o/o's out there that will tell you how great there doing and such. Not all of them are telling you a bag of hooey. The first thing about this owner operators story is all the things I could correct to make him more profitable. The problem is this O/O is doing it for different reasons other than maximizing his profits.

Now Brett if you would like to disagree with me please to it in a civil manner. It's okay to agree to disagree. It's funny how in the past you have judged my posts without having all the facts in my peticular case. This is why I haven't been on trucking truth that much. You do a great service to new drivers coming into the industry. I do a hell of a job running my business and taking on one student at a time.

Recently you ranted on how I was part of the problem by not going to my business partner and telling about the issues on that truck with students. The fact remains I only knew hearsay and from third party sources. I never witnessed any of the problems associated with the trainer. Just a side note I did offer my assistance through a third party if needed. I never received a call.

The best I can do out here is lead from example and give the best training I can to the student that is in front of me. By doing this I hope I can also be a positive roll model for trainers and instructors as well.

Owner Operator:

An owner-operator is a driver who either owns or leases the truck they are driving. A self-employed driver.

Bud A.'s Comment
member avatar

All I'm going to say is I have a lot of business experience, I tried leasing (granted, not the best lease program available, but probably about average), and everything Old School and Brett warned about came true. It was pretty good for a while, then pretty bad, and now they're still trying to get money from me four months after I left!

I think the only way I'd do it again is if someone gave me a truck with a warranty for free -- and even then, I'd be very tempted to just sell the thing and take the cash.

Brian M.'s Comment
member avatar

Bud sorry it didn't work out for you, failure rate is pretty high. You're story is probably more the norm than mine. Just a side note my warranty goes to 500000 and I have breakdown insurance to cover my time lost. I don't foresee any problems getting to the end since I only have a little over a couple 100000 miles to go on it.

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar
I don't foresee any problems getting to the end since I only have a little over a couple 100000 miles to go on it.

I really hate to say such things but it happens - what if you were to get sick or hurt doing something that wasn't job related and you were out of work for two or three months? Unfortunately when you're the business owner and the operator the reality is you're in a precarious position. If you owned a pizzeria you could let someone else make the pizzas for a while. If you were cleaning carpets you could hire a new guy for a while. But you're not in any kind of a position where you can just hand the keys to someone else while you go recover for three months.

Not only that but you're also getting by because you're running team and training students. Heaven forbid a student wrecks the truck and you get hurt or you wreck the truck and the student gets hurt. You could be looking at legal issues for years after that.

Yeah, things are going fine for you right now. But as a long time business owner myself I know all too well that the only thing you can count on over the years is one catastrophe after another happening that you'll have to overcome somehow or lose everything quickly. And often times it's no fault of your own. Maybe the business climate changes or an unfortunate accident occurs that wasn't your fault or God knows what. It's always something when you're in business.

Look at ITT Tech closing down without warning. 130 campuses, 40,000 students, many thousands of teachers, and entire industries that revolved around marketing and student leads and serving food and making deliveries to all of those people and all of those campuses. It's just another business catastrophe that's going to have a huge domino effect on tons of others businesses that hadn't done anything wrong.

So to have the very limited upside potential of making a little extra when things are going really well but the humongous downside potential of losing astronomical amounts of money when things don't go well makes for a pretty scary risk/reward ratio, especially in a business as risky as trucking where your life is on the line every day and you're the owner and the only operator available. You're kind of walking on the edge of a cliff all the time and you're saying, "Hey, a lot of people fall off and die but I'm doing great." Yeah, until one rocks rolls out from under your foot and off the edge you go. That's the reality of running the business you're in.

And that's not me giving you a hard time. That's me talking hard reality as a business owner myself. And I'm sure with 30 years in business Old School could tell you about one catastrophe after another after another where he almost lost his business a number of times and had to take quick action to recover and keep moving forward. And I don't have any idea. He's never said a word to me about anything of the sort. I just know that's how it works when you're in business.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar
Bud sorry it didn't work out for you, failure rate is pretty high. You're story is probably more the norm than mine.

And I meant to say that your story has only just begun. Are you confident this is going to work for the next 10 or 15 or 20 years? Because you're talking as if you're one of the few survivors in a business where most people die out or struggle mightily but you've barely begun this journey.

C T.'s Comment
member avatar

I too had a conversation with an o/o this weekend. Very interesting to hear how things have changed since the 80s and 90s. He shot it straight and said the only difference between me and him is that he can go where he wants when he wants. He advised against it and he owned his truck and trailer.

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar
He shot it straight and said the only difference between me and him is that he can go where he wants when he wants

But at what cost, right? He really can't just go home and hang out for a few weeks. I mean, he can, but he'll lose a mountain of money. He can't just run Florida to Texas all the time. I mean, he can, but he'll be losing a ton of money because there is better paying freight in other areas.

So what he's really saying is that he has the choice of losing all of the money he would like to lose if he wants to go home a lot or turn down better paying freight for easier freight. He has that kind of control. But is that really a choice? I mean, years ago my family owned a pizzeria. We decided what hours we would be opened or closed. We had the right to close down to go on vacation or close down on Friday nights to go partying. But we would have lost mountains of money and would have gone out of business if we had done that so we slaved away for 12 -16 hours a day because that's what it takes to stay in business.

So to say you have control is one thing. But to say that something is your choice when making that choice would put you out of business really doesn't mean you have that choice, do you?

C T.'s Comment
member avatar

Yeah you're right brett. Sometimes I have the choice of spending more time at home or leaving Sunday to get parked for a Monday delivery. I have the option to leave Monday but at the cost of my entire week lagging behind. I can only imagine how o/o feel

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