Chasing the Green

Todd Dills | January 01, 2012

Among other wind-energy haulers at Daily, says Recruiting Manager Erik Thompson, are blade runners and those like owner-operator Jack Berghorst who haul the generator module of the turbine on open-deck heavy-haul trailers.


Year 2010 was big for international and domestic container movement in the United States, and the trend continues. Third-quarter statistics from the Intermodal Association of North America showed domestic container movement up 9 percent from the second quarter, and at levels not seen since 2006.

Intermodal could take up an even larger share of the truck-freight market, representing a shift in opportunities for owner-operators. “As fuel has risen in price … it makes rail intermodal that much more attractive,” says Transcore’s Mark Montague. “Shippers ship more of the long-haul traffic to train, and the long-haul trucker gets hit in the pocket,” he says.

However, intermodal offers advantages compared with general freight, says Sarthak Verma, director of J.B. Hunt’s growing pool of intermodal owner-operators. “The intermodal drayage world is very conducive to someone who wants to earn,” he says.

A couple reasons for that:

Much less waiting. Verma says pay rates are similar to those in general van freight. James Butler, leased to J.B. Hunt, grosses an average $1.40 a mile, counting fuel surcharges. He gets the miles he wants because of less time spent waiting at docks.

“One of the legs of the move has to go into the rail yard,” says Verma, and it’s usually drop and hook.

Butler’s among Hunt’s regional operators, moving five container loads a week between Chicago and his native Ohio. Typically, he leaves his home in Sidney on Monday morning and is home Friday afternoon.

Deadhead miles are well-paid. Butler gets paid the same rate to his 2004 Volvo tractor, with fuel surcharge, on loaded and empty miles. He signed on with J.B. Hunt intermodal last February. In November, with an average 2,200 to 2,500 miles a week, his take-home income was averaging $1,500 to $1,800, or between $78,000 and $96,000 yearly business income, much better than he’d ever done with OTR and local delivery.

Bradley Coddington, with a 2000 Kenworth T800, found favorable mileage-pay rates for any load longer than 20 miles in the operation of Milwaukee, Wis.-based J.R. Long Transport.

Other intermodal carriers Coddington had hauled for paid by the load, with no accounting for detention time. With Long, his detention pay clocks in at $8 every 15 fifteen minutes after the first two hours spent waiting.

Long pays miles both empty and loaded at the same rate and covers his iPass tolls, which can get high in and around Chicago, where he runs.

Deck specialized

The various niches within specialized open deck hauling, such as removable goosenecks, step decks or load-height-limiting flatbeds, can offer high-revenue opportunities.

  • Big R Phillips

    Congrats Tim! I too have an older truck i’m trying to get leased on with G&W Tanks in Savannah,Ga. 1996 KW W900l 3406e cat. Maaan i am busting my hump to get away from these containers! As of today my truck is down due to air compressor problems and i dont have enough money on hand to finish the repair. I have to borrow money from my company i’m leased on with to get back rolling. I know two guys that have signed on with G&W and thier revenue has doubled with out working thier trucks to death and good home time with the family. And they have older trucks too. You can keep your truck in great condition if you make enough money to set aside for not if but when something breaks. And you dont have to beat your truck up to make the money! Congrats again and God Bless!

  • localnet

    The oil patch is good money… ;) strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.