Choosing a Carrier
He plans then to use his 1998 Kenworth with 650-hp Caterpillar to pull medium-size equipment. Eventually he wants to transport heavy equipment and other challenging loads. He will be leasing on to a carrier for the first time.
His research consists of talking with other truckers on the phone and chat boards and reading industry magazines. He’s discussed carriers with friends who are long-haul truckers. Important considerations include where the carrier operates and its loads.
Size, too, matters. He’s interested in a smaller carrier where he can “be treated as human being rather than just a number,” he says. “Some companies I want to stay away from will hire anybody with a CDL. What kind of customers do they have? If they have customers that are a pain to deal with and slow to pay, that’s usually indicative of a carrier that is not well run, either.”
Searching for Better Pay
Owner-operator Fredrick Elkins wants to lease to a carrier that tells the truth about pay and perks. He’s been burned in the past, he says. A “friendly, open staff you can talk to and won’t lie to you about what they’ll pay” is near to top of his list of requirements, he says. “Everyone promises you the stars, but you barely make the moon.”
The Orem, Utah, owner-operator wants a minimum of $1.20 a mile and loads that carry a fuel surcharge that is fully paid to him. He’d also like to find a carrier that offers health insurance contractors can buy into.
Elkins estimates he’s contacted more than 60 carriers in the last six months. He’s narrowed his list down to four, and his next step will be to find drivers with those carriers to discuss their experiences.
“You can go online and read bad things and good things about carriers,” he says. “Unless you can find someone who drives for that company, you can’t find out if it keeps its promises or not.”
Turning over a new leaf
Glen Rice says more than two years ago his carrier asked drivers to take a pay cut to help the company stay solvent. Last year, he says, the company reported record earnings but the pay cuts were never restored.
“They kept taking away pennies here and pennies there,” says Rice, Overdrive’s 1996 Trucker of the Month. “They weren’t paying me for my accessorials and the paperwork was tremendous.”
Rice began reading industry magazines and interviewing carriers. He paid attention to carrier safety scores coming out under the new Compliance, Safety, Accountability program. He called friends who had moved to Michigan-based Express 1 and decided to lease there at the first of this year.
Rice travels with his wife, so he’s comfortable being on the road for several weeks at a time as long as the pay is right. Now he’s making $1.75 a mile for average dry van loads to $1.99 for higher-profile loads, plus a fuel surcharge of 34 cents a mile.
Another reason for that choice was that Rice, who specializes in expedited hauling, wanted a carrier with interesting loads. “When we go to receiving or shipping, we like to be welcomed instead of being frowned at as just another trucker,” he says.