As I moved my way along through my progression from company driver to small fleet owner-operator over the years, I have always made it a point to educate myself and never stop learning. Even to this day my mind is forced to regularly soak in new knowledge to continue thriving in this extremely competitive industry. I am always trying to take folks under my wings and help them learn from my “hard-knock” lessons, which is why I have enjoyed my position as a Pro here at Team Run Smart, where my trials and tribulations over the years have hopefully helped aid others in becoming more successful with their trucking businesses. However, there are a few things that I wish I would have been told prior to going from a one truck owner-operator to a small fleet. Having known these things would probably have saved me some time, headaches and worry during my expanding.
1. Fuel for Thought
Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes I made when I was a single truck owner-operator was not taking advantage of a fuel discount card. Though my fellow Team Run Smart Pro counterparts had always urged me, I had settled on using the same local fuel stop all the time that offered great pricing, so I figured it would be of minimal use. Once I expanded and had trucks running different routes including out of state runs, as well as using a good cumulative amount of fuel between all the trucks, the discounts were more substantial than I thought. Even a little three truck fleet can qualify for some MAJOR discounts when set up correctly and has led to a great savings fleetwide!
2. The Real Driver Shortage
I am a firm believer that there is no shortage of drivers out there, so much in fact that I am approached by several a week that want to drive for my company. The truth of the fact is that there is a shortage of good drivers, or since I am super picky about whom I consider, more like a shortage of excellent drivers! From a small fleet perspective, I probably haven’t expanded as rapidly as I would like because I am so picky about whom I bring on. I don’t want to be the “stepping stone” for a mediocre driver as much as I would like for them to join “our family” of professional truck drivers when they come on. So yes, it is extremely hard to find quality drivers out there as a fleet owner/manager and that can hinder your growth progression timeline significantly.
3. A New Level of Thin
Though I would like to think this topic was in relation to my healthy eating and staying fit, the “thin” I am referring to in this is directly related to the amount of time you will now have to yourself. If you think a one-truck owner-operator is spread thin, wait until you have a small fleet to manage. In the fledgling stages of expansion, you don’t quite have enough on hand to hire a full staff, so you might be lucky enough to have a wife or family member hire on part time for some of the back office work. If not, you are now wearing the hats of owner, manager, payroll clerk, human relations, compliance manager, safety manager, accounts payable clerk, accounts receivable clerk, dispatcher 24/7 and maybe even still the role of driver too!
4. Dimes Will Add Up To Dollars
This topic from a fleet owners perspective is two fold. Patience is the first part, with knowing you are not going to get rich right away expanding the right way. The saying that “An honest buck is the hardest to make!” is 100% accurate in trucking and its not worth doing things sideways or taking advantage of those that help you build your company to get there. I pay my drivers above the industry average when it comes to their percentage-based pay package, so they get a great majority of the extra “fat on the steak” left over on every load. Nothing wrong with a little gristle! I didn’t get into this to get rich, just to make my drivers a better place to work and the ability to earn a livable wage without killing themselves to do it. That leads into the second part of this topic which is don’t take the dollars from your drivers, take dimes that eventually will add up to dollars from the hard work they put in for you!
5. Finally…The Reward is What You Make It
Though it may seem intimidating and downright frightening to some, moving into the role of small fleet owner opens the door for you to create your own legacy. The importance of how you expand should never be underestimated, so be sure to take the right steps to get where you want to be based on what paths others have forged along the way. Never be afraid to ask questions, take advice from other fleet owners and learn from mistakes quickly. Attend trade shows and talk not only to peers, but to those you project yourself to aspire to as well. If you want to be the next 50-truck success story, start talking to those that currently are there and emulate their success in your own way. Create your niche and do it better than anyone else! By taking the role of fleet owner, you have the ability to make the reward as great as you want!