It can be hard to separate the truck stop rumors or myths from the facts. As an owner-operator, one of your biggest concerns is revenue. Since most owner-operators are paid on a per-mile basis, this tends to dominate discussions about income because it is easy to measure.

Unfortunately, pay-per-mile is often used as the deciding factor of which carrier to lease with.  While pay-per-mile is important, it alone is not an indicator of success, nor does it mean a big settlement check is coming your way. Pay-per-mile must always be looked at in perspective with gross revenue. It can include mileage pay, percentage of revenue pay, loading or unloading pay, toll or scale reimbursement, etc.

Here are the common Trucking Myths on revenue that are just not true:  

  • Myth #1: Your company is in control of your pay-per-mile. Your company does not have very much influence on the rates it charges shippers; the marketplace sets those rates. Even raising rates a few cents can mean your company will lose loads to their competition. Your company has to make sure their gross revenue stays healthy while keeping rates competitive and operating efficiently. Sometimes the best choice is to lower the rate per mile to increase the gross revenue. You need to be able to recognize the things that will contribute to your gross revenue.
  • Myth #2: Running more miles means more profit.  Often, when drivers feel like they are working hard but still not making money, it’s because their costs are higher than their income. Revenue is only half the equation – costs are the other half. Costs have to be managed as carefully as revenue to be successful.
  • Myth #3: Concentrating on increasing revenue will make you successful.  Increasing your revenue will also increase your costs.  After covering all your costs, only a fraction of every extra dollar you make goes into your pocket. Alternatively, 100% of every dollar saved will go directly into your wallet.
  • Myth #4: More revenue per mile is the answer to all your problems. Pay-per-mile doesn’t change much from company to company, but there can be a big difference in miles, reimbursement, and other fees that affect gross revenue.
  • Myth #5: You can tell how well you’re doing by the size of your settlement check. The settlement check is only a small part of the big picture. Miles driven, loads hauled, road conditions, mechanical problems, time off, and especially costs, all have to be considered to help determine the degree of your success.

Too often operators focus entirely on revenue per mile and overlook the importance of gross revenue. Some will even change carriers for one-cent-per-mile difference, and unknowingly sacrifice $10,000 in gross revenue. By focusing on just one element of revenue, things can get out of balance.

Pay-per-mile is usually consistent from month to month. Gross revenue, however, is much less consistent. Changes in your gross revenue can have great effect on your monetary status. Variables affecting gross revenue can include weather, national and local economies, average length of haul, your company’s sales and customer base, seasonal factors, changes in personnel, communication, lanes of operation, competition, and regulation such as DOT compliance.

Here are some tips to help manage your gross revenue:

  • Determine a reasonable amount of miles you expect to run. This requires careful consideration of factors such as your age, experience, motivation, financial goals, personal and family needs, health, and the condition of your tractor. Once you have established a reasonable number of miles to run each week, month and year, you have goals to work towards.
  • Measure your results frequently. Does your performance match your capacity? Does it match your goal? If it doesn’t, find out why and determine what you need to do to correct it.
  • Manage your time. You are your own boss and in control of how you use your time. The time you spend driving and delivering loads determines how much you get paid.
  • Establish a relationship and improve communication with your fleet manager. Trust is essential to success and is achieved through on-time pickup and delivery as well as good communication.

Conclusion? You can’t believe every myth you hear out there. It’s not just about revenue and pay-per-mile because you have to consider the whole picture.

What Trucking Myths have you heard out there?  Be a Myth Buster and provide the facts in the comment section below. 

Comments (11)

Kaitlin Cathey

Kaitlin works at ATBS with the sales team. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology, from Thomas Edison State College in NJ. She was born in Colorado, but has also lived in Maryland and Illinois. Her favorite things to do are running, reading, and creative writing.

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Motivation - there's my problem. I just can't seem to find it. My wife stays on me constantly over this problem. I really like my company and the people there, but I absolutely hate the area they run. It has been over 2 years since I have been west of the Mississippi River, which I desperately miss. I miss getting a load that takes 2-3 days to deliver. It makes it so much easier to manage my time and just drive instead of wasting it at one, two, and sometimes three customers a day...especially on eLogs. I want to change carriers because of this, but I hate the thought of switching companies, especially when I can't find one that I like.

May 16, 2013 7:21:50 AM

Another thing to look at is some of the benefits offered by some of the companies offering a lower rate per mile. Examples of this would be their fuel programs or insurance and licensing programs. If a company offers 5 cents less per mile but offers you a fuel program getting you a 25 cent discount and pays for your license plate the 5 cents less could be a better deal.

February 25, 2013 8:21:53 AM

Thanks for the info.As a rule its not about the miles,its about the most amount of revenue in least amount of miles.

February 21, 2013 14:55:12 PM

I don't think in terms of cents/mi or other standard means like that, but in dollars/hour. Consider your revenue as the time under the load - from loaded call to empty call and divide that time by the loads' gross pay. A threshold rule of thumb is $40/hr. Over $40/hr is better while under is not so good. You can create your own threshold based on your profit plan. Thinking this way encompasses many aspects/issues of our endeavor; construction, weather, DOT, family, shippers/receivers, carriers, etc. Tell me what you think?

February 21, 2013 8:49:36 AM

From reading the posts, and I agree, it usually always pays to look long term rather than just to the end of your nose. The short term solutions are just that, short term. I love the information being posted on this topic.

February 20, 2013 13:57:09 PM

Good Article Kaitlin - We have seen to many people jump ship when the rates are low without looking at the market. They basically jump out of the frying pan into the fire and have the additional start up costs and learning curve at the new company. Another lure that companies use the needs to be considered is sign-on bonuses. Changing companies for a sign-on bonus can really hurt in the long run.

February 20, 2013 2:26:23 AM

Having experienced both sides of the coin (low per-mile long-haul and high per-mile short-haul), I can attest to the fact that there is a lot to be said for short-haul runs when it comes to high revenue/low cost freight. I happen to make a pretty good living hauling some of the shorter stuff (usually within a 200 mile radius). I often will make more revenue on one 50-mile run than some of my OTR buddies will make hauling a 250-mile run. In the end, I will have made more gross revenue, spent less fuel, and incurred less wear and tear on my truck than them as well. This is also a direct reflection of someone being paid percentage versus per-mile, as I am paid percentage. What this does for me is lets me share in the benefit of higher priority freight that fetches a higher rate for delivery. A per-mile compensation package can help in some instances, like saving you from the "Backhaul Blues". If you are running for a carrier in a particular lane, being at a set compensation rate can sometimes save you from having to take a ding on a low-paying backhaul, which a percentage based driver might feel the ding from a bit more. Do the research though and don't let a high per-mile package lure you in alone, zero miles to a per-mile driver still equals $0.00, regardless of the per-mile compensation rate!

February 18, 2013 19:42:36 PM

Know the cost of your operation, this is the most overlooked number by independents! I know what my cost is roughly week per week adjusted for FSC, costs of fuel, etc. It can fluctuate depending if I'm running in Canada or traveling in the northeast, where it will be higher to operate, versus lower operating costs in the south and midwest. If you know what it costs you per mile to move, then you're going to know what kind of profit you are taking home. I'll add one more thing, companies are in control of rates totally, they just choose to run cheap most of the time and make it harder for the rest of us. But I'm no big fan of big companies or big brokerages!

February 18, 2013 17:56:22 PM

Great info for me in the future or any other entrepreneur.

February 18, 2013 16:06:37 PM

Knowledge is $, I have talked to quite a few people that have failed because of ignorance.

February 18, 2013 15:37:52 PM


Very good way to open conversation on this topic. I look forward to reading the comments.

February 18, 2013 13:37:30 PM