Choosing a Carrier

Max Kvidera | April 01, 2011

Before the recession, “carriers would take anyone they could get,” says David Wolff of financial services firm ATBS. During the recession, drivers and owner-operators were in low demand. Now, as the recession lifts, carriers have “taken time to weed out the deadwood and they don’t want to rehire it.”

One reason they’re trying more than usual to avoid unsafe or otherwise bad drivers is the implementation of the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program, with its strict accountability on inspections and accident data. It means good carriers cannot afford to lower their ratings by hiring sub-par drivers.

The growing demand for drivers, driven by the economy and CSA, is reflected in compensation. Trucker pay began rising the first quarter of 2010 after declining from 2007 to 2009, though it hasn’t recouped what was lost.

Driver pay rose most aggressively in flatbed, led by Maverick and Boyd Bros., says Gordon Klemp, principal of the National Transportation Institute, which surveys mid-size and large carriers. Both increased pay 6 cents a mile in the first half of last year. Dry van and refrigerated carriers raised pay 1 and 2 cents, respectively, in that period, Klemp says. In a 2010 survey, 88 percent of carriers said they would have to raise pay 2 to 4 cents a mile through this June.

Klemp estimates that 35 percent of flatbed carriers, 27 percent of refrigerated and 13 percent of dry van companies now offer sign-on bonuses. They range from $250 to $2,500 for solo drivers, with $1,000 being the most common amount. Bonuses for teams are running $5,000 to $10,000.

WANTED:Better lease arrangement


Independent Eyes Expansion

Garry Grant owns two tractors and 15 trailers and has operated under his own authority for two years as Garry Grant Carriers & Logistics near Orlando, Fla. He’s talking with investors to finance an expansion that includes adding at least two trucks. He’s leased on to Landstar, but is evaluating other carriers for when he expands.

“We don’t want to be limited to one carrier,” Grant says. “This will give us more flexibility who we haul for.”

Grant does self-dispatch with Landstar and is looking for a similar arrangement with another carrier. He wants to keep his truck colors and logo and grow his independent fleet under the umbrella of multiple carriers. “What I’m looking for from them is the flexibility of total independence,” Grant says.

Grant, an owner-operator since 1994 who plans to stop driving when he adds to his fleet, is asking carriers about their compensation packages — how fast settlements are paid, availability and amount of fuel surcharges, access to repair shops and parts discounts. He’s looking at company size, loads, routes and safety records. The latter is important because he maintains his own electronic logs and wants to team with a carrier that has a good standing with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Leasing for the First Time

For the past three years, Karl Phares has been running under his own authority, primarily hauling heavy equipment in the Cincinnati area and greater northern Kentucky. Now he’s eyeing a carrier for his future.

Before signing with a carrier, Karl Phares has a date with the U.S. Army in Iraq.

In May he’s scheduled to depart for Iraq, where he will work with the U.S. Army’s “Last Man Out” mission designed to wind down operations. If his assignment unfolds as planned, he’ll return to his Kentucky home in January. strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.