Buying-Strength in Numbers
Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association
Vipar Heavy Duty
HDA Parts Network
For many years, owner-operators had limited options for affiliating with a larger entity that would afford them group-buying discounts. That’s no longer the case, which is good news when it comes to taking advantage of discounts afforded to group purchasing.
Participation in a buying group boosts average annual income. One-truck owner-operators belonging to such groups last year reported average income of $43,800, according to the Overdrive 2002 Owner-Operator Behavior Report. Others averaged $39,700. Discount buying doesn’t account for all of the $4,100 spread. But it’s one of the savvy practices, such as tracking cost per mile, that the most successful owner-operators employ.
“As buying groups expand and become more user-friendly in how you get the actual discount, the opportunity cost between belonging and not belonging is probably going to widen,” says Chris Brady, of Commercial Motor Vehicle Consulting, who prepared the Overdrive report. Brady notes that one user-friendly benefit is giving refunds or other incentives based on purchase volume.
The most common owner-operator affiliations are with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and carrier-managed programs. OOIDA’s offerings are mainly financial services, such as insurance, debt collection, license plate service fees, IFTA returns and operating authority applications.
Larger carriers often make fuel, tires, parts and maintenance available at a discount. However, a carrier might limit its programs to single suppliers, or it might mark up prices to the point that you don’t save much.
Some online buying groups have sprung up. One of the best known, TruckersB2B, caters to fleets and owner-operators. It offers discounts on a wide variety of expenses, such as 10 percent to 30 percent off lodging. TruckersB2B also covers fuel, tires, insurance, office supplies and many other things.
More traditional group buying sources for owner-operators, particularly for parts and maintenance, include programs affiliated with truck stops and truck makers, wholesale truck parts distributors such as Vipar Heavy Duty and HDA Parts Network, and discount retailers such as Sam’s Club that cater in part to small businesses.
As the industry’s manufacturers and service providers continue to form alliances, and as more purchasing options becomes available online, it’s probably true, as Brady predicts, that the gap will widen between those who find the best possible deals and those who just pay as they go – and pay too much.
If you’re not taking advantage of any of group buying opportunities, check them out. Even when there is a membership fee, as in OOIDA’s case, it’s possible the benefits will outweigh the costs.