In light of some recent conversations I have been privy to, I would like to discuss a topic that I have thought long and hard about many times throughout my career as a truck driver. I started in this industry as many a “newbie” does; go through truck driving school, put my time in with a major OTR carrier, then venture out to see what else there was out there to better my situation. Somewhere along the way, more than a few times, the thought of owning my own truck started to appeal to me. But what would I do with this truck once I bought it? Would I lease it onto a carrier or run under my own authority?
For those who know me, research is one of my trademark skills and something I do in-depth before I make any decisions on anything. This issue was no different, so I dove right into all the information I could find as I scoured the internet forums, articles, and chat rooms. I took all of the information and did with it something else I seem to do rather well…crunch numbers! Through what seemed like an endless array of spreadsheets and calculations, I come to a realization. Of all the information sets I gathered, I was able to come down to one common conclusion; money could be made either way if I worked hard enough at it!
I get it, the appeal of running under your own authority means not having to answer to anyone and no boss looking over your shoulder. It means you are free as the wind to go where you want while hauling whatever you want. Maybe it appeals to some as a way to fight “The Man”. All too often, the consequences do not thoroughly get considered and weighed against the other options. Sure, as an independent you usually make a great deal more per mile or per load and have a better ability to communicate with direct freight customers that can later help you expand. What about some of the extra overhead, headache, and vulnerability that having your own authority carriers with it? During rough times, might you lose a dedicated account due to being undercut on your rates by a more competitive hauler? Have you also considered the additional costs involved such as cargo liability, freight claims, or truck/trailer registration and permits?
When making a decision to lease my truck onto a carrier, a lot of hard thought like this went into it. Of course I see the appeal of fighting the “risk vs. reward” head-on with my own authority, but would it have been truly worth it in my case? There are many costs involved in operating a truck that are either paid for by my carrier or are deeply discounted to me in their final price. These things can add up to a lot all together. The facts that I do not pay for my apportioned plates, permits, or cargo insurance add up to thousands annually by themselves. Add these things together with the facts that my physical damage is nearly half of that paid by some of my independent friends, my fuel is usually $0.40 - $0.50 lower than the pump price per gallon, my parts and shop labor are discounted, trailer maintenance is on them, and that they have an ample freight base to keep my hungry appetite fulfilled. You may now begin to scratch the surface as to why I decided to lease onto a reputable carrier.
None of this is intended to sway anyone from one side to the other in their decision making process when proposed with this dilemma, since there is no one-size fits all approach to this choice. I hope only to help inform and educate my fellow truckers out there that still are uneducated in what a successful business consists of. The fact that I am leased to a carrier and make a good living, take time off whenever I want to, and enjoy what I do defines my efforts as success over the years. It doesn’t matter if you are a “big strapper” under your own authority or are leased to a carrier as an owner-operator. If you can keep the bankbook consistently in “the black” and still have enough money to live a good life on, you are a success in my book!