Choosing a Carrier
Rajkovacz says his choice is percentage pay, with which you often can earn 70 to 75 percent of the contract and another 10 percent if you supply the trailer. “A percentage contract is where you’ll make the jack if you’re a go-getter,” he says.
Wolff cautions against making a sideways move. If you are going to be hauling the same type of freight in the same lanes, you may end up spinning your wheels unless you make significantly more money, can gain more home time or reap some other clear benefit.
And even with higher pay rate, the transition is more costly than it appears. Downtime is involved with investigating prospective fleets, leaving your carrier and turning in equipment, going through orientation and learning the ropes as you start up. Also, out-of-pocket costs such as paying escrows and other front-end fees often accrue.
One of those expenses can be the base plate, which the carrier might provide. Rajkovacz suggests providing your own, primarily to give you more independence in case you want to move between carriers.
Incidental elements of the pay package to consider are if the carrier offers detention pay, layover pay, empty mile compensation and pay for loading and unloading or reimbursement for lumper charges. Does the carrier reimburse for tolls? Does it pay your fuel taxes or are they charged back to you? When are settlements paid?
Also ask about potential chargebacks. Does the carrier charge for primary liability insurance or onboard fleet management systems such as electronic recorders or Qualcomm tracking systems?
Miles and lanes
Ask any carrier you’re evaluating about expected miles and routes, and ask its operators what miles they’re getting, too. You don’t want to make a move for a small per-mile increase only to get fewer miles than you expected. If you can make more money and drive less, you’ll be ahead of the game.
Where does the carrier run and will you have a choice of routes and loads? How often do operators get home?
In assessing routes, loads and miles, you want to factor in the lifestyle you’re seeking to maintain. Ask if certain routes or regions are open that would accommodate getting you home as often as you need to be. Same goes with the availability of anything you want to specialize in, such as heavy haul or high-touch loads.
What age truck is the carrier willing to take? Long-haul in a 10-year-old truck might be an issue.
Does the carrier require occupational accident or workers’ comp insurance? Most states limit workers’ comp to employees (company drivers, in the case of truck driving); occupational accident coverage is more common for owner-operators. Whether or not you prefer having such coverage, be aware of any carrier requirements for owner-operators to have it and how much it will cost.
A sellers’ market means higher pay
One key ingredient in searching for a carrier is assessing the current supply and demand situation for owner-operators of your experience level. You’re selling your services, but how much are carriers willing to pay?