Looking For A Mid-size To Small Company

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Carlos O.'s Comment
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Hi everyone: I am currently working for a very large trucking company and I think I would like a smaller company, but I'm not sure who to contact. What size of fleet is considered mid size or small for a trucking company? Does anyone work for a midsize or small company that they like and would recommend? I am in the state of Washington.

thanks! Carlos

Big Scott's Comment
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Why do you want to make a move? We don't recommend leaving your first company in less than one year. Sometimes the grass is not greener on the other side. I drive for CFI, we are not the biggest company. We could be considered large or medium. You can look through these reviews as well. Good luck. Trucking Company Reviews

Brett Aquila's Comment
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Carlos, there are a ton of people who will tell you to stay away from the large carriers and go with a smaller one. I've worked for every size company there is. I've worked for companies with 5 trucks, 11 trucks, and several with between 500 - 5,000 trucks. The experiences I've had with large companies are far better for a long list of reasons and I wound up spending the last 6 years of my OTR career at US Xpress. I had over a million safe miles before I even started with the company and could have gone anywhere. I chose one of the large carriers and stayed there because it's so much nicer have a big, powerful, highly successful company behind you.

The large carriers have:

  • Very strong finances behind them
  • Brand new trucks with the latest technologies
  • A variety of opportunities within the company for different types of freight and different divisions
  • National accounts for fuel, tires, repairs, towing, lumper services, and hotels
  • Competitive pay and benefits
  • Lots of other perks like health hotlines, travel discounts, and individual or marriage counseling

Why do you feel you would be happier with a smaller company? I know it's something I've been hearing people say for 25 years but no one ever has any legitimate reasons why they feel that way. It's one of those things that everyone seems to hear and then repeat without any real facts or experiences behind that opinion. Tell us your situation and we'll give you some ideas about what to consider.

We've covered this subject quite a bit. Here are a couple of articles and a podcast that might help you understand your options better:

OTR:

Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

Brett, I'm going to play Devil's Advocate today. My brother-in-law has driven trucks for 17 years, including time with Swift. For the last 18 months he's been in a Big M truck. He's happy there. Big M is based in Mississippi, they have over 300 trucks.

They seem like that "family style" operation some drivers are looking for. They run all 48 states. I've been to the terminal , the truck's were all late model.

I'm not sure what they do with new drivers. My sister-in-law went from non-driver to first seat with them, with her husband's help.

I bet there are plenty of medium companies an experienced driver could be happy with. But like Trucking Truth policy, a newby's best bet is to get started in the Bigs for a year or so before looking around.

Terminal:

A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.

Gladhand's Comment
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Being concerned about the size is silly to me. I think you should be more concerned about what you want to do. Such as hauling west coast only, western 11 regional , some sort of dedicated, food grade tanker, etc. It's not always true that the small companies pay more either, some do but a lot of the time the employee is 1099 or it's specialty (i.e. oversize, explosives, etc.)

If you want to leave your big company just cause of miles, have you done anything to fix it? You have to speak up or you will be forgotten.

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.

Robert B. (The Dragon) ye's Comment
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I have to piggy bank with Errol on this one. Not every smaller company is bad. The company I'm with now has 160 drivers between the open deck division and heavy haul which I'm in (only 35 of us). We run brand new equipment, have insurance etc and you can reach someone at any time 24/7. The owner is available to anyone, call him or walk right in his office, he's very approachable and also a driver. They really care about their drivers and everyone in the offices knows everybody by name. I make just as much, if not more in this division running half the miles most folks have to run every week and I'm home every weekend if I choose to be. I think the big key is that you'll have to search harder to find a comfortable fit at a smaller company than hopping right into one of the mega carriers but its certainly possible. As has been mentioned before, it really depends on what you want and need and not everyone needs or wants big fancy terminals and such. I'd rather watch my bank account grow and have less stress than having to worry about running 3k miles every week but that's just me.

Terminal:

A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar

I'm sorry. I need to clarify what I mean by a "smaller" company. When I refer to a small company I'm thinking less than maybe 15 or 20 trucks. 300 trucks is not a "family size" anything. Neither is 160 trucks. I would still consider those large companies because of the statistics in this industry.

It's something like 93% of all trucking companies, which does include owner operators with one truck, have fewer than 6 trucks. 97% of all trucking companies have fewer than 20 trucks. Only about 1% of trucking companies have greater than 100 trucks and only about .1% have greater than 500.

So Errol, even a company with 160 trucks or 300 trucks is rather large and pretty rare statistically.

So when I say to watch out for smaller companies, I should clarify that I mean less than 20 trucks. That's not to say you should avoid them altogether. I'm just saying that you have to be aware of the fact that most companies under 20 trucks are on extremely tight finances and they're not going to have all of the perks that a large carrier will. You're normally not going to have national accounts to handle everything, big beautiful terminals with rec rooms, a fleet of brand new trucks, a 20 bay shop full of highly certified mechanics, free health hotlines, top health benefits, and things like that. They're mostly going to be barebones operations.

I worked for a company with 11 trucks that was going bankrupt, and did in fact go bankrupt a few months after I left there. They had no national accounts for anything so we had to pay manually for every single thing we did. No one would provide us any services unless we paid up front because the owner had bad credit and owed a lot of money to a lot of people. There were times I had to wait around for an hour to get something done because the owner of the company was haggling with the place I was at to get discounts or credit. Whenever I went to a tank wash or a customer we were always the smallest company so we had to wait in line while bigger companies got preferential treatment.

I worked for a company with only 5 trucks one time. The office was the size of a bathroom. Everything was done on paper instead of on computers so forget about anything getting done quickly or getting looked up easily. With so few trucks you could forget about an extra day off for any reason. You were 20% of the entire fleet. They needed every driver all the time. The pay wasn't very good and the benefits were minimal. We didn't even have a shop so when something needed to be done to the truck they had to call road repairs or send it to the dealership.

Most of you guys are used to large carriers with hundreds or thousands of trucks so you don't know how good you have it. Go to work for a tiny, struggling mom-n-pop operation somewhere with 10 or 15 trucks and then you'll understand what I'm saying.

Terminal:

A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.

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.
PJ's Comment
member avatar

Robert you are so right, small does not mean bad. There are 8 of us and other than the spare mine is the oldest truck in the fleet. It's a 15 and just hit 400k. These companies are indeed much harder to find, but they do exist. I get home every weekend and make the same and most weeks more than when I was chasing miles with the big boys. Granted we have no fancy anything other than our truck and trailer but that suits me. I couldn't be happier.

PJ's Comment
member avatar

Brett I like your point about national accounts. When I got here they didn't have any. I found that hard to believe because we go all over. I talked them into setting up some and it has worked out beautiful. The owner has been extremly pleased and the drivers are happier too. They don't get as deep a discount but they still get something, which is better than full retail.

Brett Aquila's Comment
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Brett I like your point about national accounts. When I got here they didn't have any. I found that hard to believe because we go all over. I talked them into setting up some and it has worked out beautiful. The owner has been extremly pleased and the drivers are happier too. They don't get as deep a discount but they still get something, which is better than full retail.

That's a great start! That kind of stuff can really add up.

Yeah, you'll find a lot of little inconveniences that can add up to a much different experience when you're at a small company, and in my experience I can't think of a single advantage to being at a small company. You'll see what I mean after you've been there for a while.

For instance, wait until you want to take a few extra days off sometime. They might give it to you, but then again they'll lose 12.5% of their fleet and their revenues during that extra time off. In an industry with 3% profit margins and a company with only 8 trucks that's some really bad math. How often do you think they can afford to have those trucks sitting? Then if they give you that extra time off every guy in the company is going to know about it and then they'll all want extra time off. Yay family atmosphere where everyone knows everyone's business!

rofl-3.gif

Another thing I loved about a large carrier is the sway they can have. For instance, if you go into a repair shop on the road. With a tiny company you're nobody to them. You go to the end of the line and wait it out. With a large carrier you might be doing significant business with that shop. One phone call from your company's maintenance foreman and suddenly your truck is in the shop getting repaired while everyone else is sitting at the hotel for 3 days.

People talk about "everyone knows everyone at a small company." At the large carriers I worked for I got to know the right people and they took great care of me. When I needed something they all knew who I was. And like I said, at a large carrier they can give you special favors and it doesn't hurt the company any, and none of the other drivers will even know.

The biggest concern of all though is the finances. What if, God forbid, two of your drivers got in accidents within a couple of days of each other and a third guy happens to quit. You just lost almost half of your fleet! Money is tight at these small companies. It doesn't take much to create a crisis when you only have a few trucks.

I'm not trying to sway you or anything and I hope you're with the best little company in America, I really do. But I've lived through all of this so I know what can happen. It's nice to be able to let you guys know what I've experienced over the years so you're aware of the possibilities and you can make better choices for yourselves.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
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