Double time

James Jaillet | September 01, 2010

Downtime can be much more costly for teams than for solo drivers because of the freight demands and frequent higher rates. “You’re making more money, so you might want to spend a little extra to make sure you don’t get stuck on the side of the road,” McNeely says.

Good communication does a lot to help a relationship, says Kiersten Coleman, who has driven team seven years with her husband William. “It gets tough being in a box together 24-7,” she says.

Lacy says team driving works ideally when suitable freight is available to support it. The highest earners at Prime drive team, he says, but they have to find the right loads to maximize their advantage.

Topping the list for team loads is any time-sensitive freight, like reefer, but flatbed and dry van hauls can pay off, too, says Bredigkeit. “The industry has some great opportunities for teams in every segment, but you have to find something that plays into the strengths of your operation,” he says. That means a team evaluating lease prospects needs to find a fleet that offers the right type of hauls, which usually translates into long-distance, time-sensitive runs.

Hale started driving a dedicated team run from northern Utah to Pennsylvania in May with long-time friend Randy Feik. Hale says the team operation has enabled him to double mileage from roughly 2,500 miles a week solo to about 5,000. “Now the truck doesn’t stop for more than a short period,” he says. Hale’s business brings in about $30,000 per month in revenue.

McNeely says he and his wife are able to run 1,200 or more miles per 24-hour period. The Fort Worth, Texas, couple say while carrying a time-sensitive load, they either eat in the cab or grab food from truck stop convenience stores and limit restroom stops.

McNeely spent 10 years running solo before his wife joined him 10 years ago. The couple is leased to Landstar Systems, but is self-dispatched. “A lot of teams out there are working for pennies a mile running 7,000 miles a week,” he says. “We don’t do any drop and hook freight. We run a lot fewer miles for dollars a mile.”

He adds, “Running as a team and hauling the freight we haul make it possible for us to make more money. You have to match your freight with your abilities.” McNeely and his wife pull in roughly $25,000 per month in revenue.

Bibb says teams should “take advantage of times when freight is really hot. That’s when teams can really capitalize on the advantage they have over solo drivers,” she says. “When the freight is here and available, you have to turn as much of it as you can.”

Owner-operator teams leased to Con-way average more than 20,000 miles a month, says Brian Taylor, senior operations manager. “If the demand for freight stays where it is now,” he says, “the advantage will be for owner-operators to carry more freight and make more revenue.” n

Dividing the pay

Not all teams are spouses sharing the same business and personal finances, so how team pay gets divided can become a “bone of contention,” says Steve Bredigkeit of Boyd Bros.

“There are a variety of ways of attacking the problem,” Bredigkeit says. “There can be some real negatives, but nothing that communication beforehand can’t mitigate.”

Fleets normally pay “to the truck” for an owner-operator team, says

Gordon Klemp, president of the National Transport Institute. It’s a simple matter when the truck is owned by a two-person business, such as a married couple with joint finances. Robert and Kathryn Keeran, an owner-operator team from Tampa, Fla., are leased to FedEx Custom Critical and co-own their truck. After they’ve paid the bills each week, they pay themselves the leftovers, Robert Keeran says.

  • shelby townsend

    How does one get involved with being an owner operator wanting to delivery goods using a 24 box truck making around $3500 a week? Does anyone know how to get started? Please share. Thanks

  • Todd Dills

    Depends on a lot of things, Shelby — you’ll need authority to haul if you’re moving interstate, customers, etc. Assuming you have your own truck, which it sounds like you may. If you’re running a Class 8 truck and are interested in doing what the teams here are doing, primarily expedited freight, call around to some of the companies mentioned and inquire about leasing opportunities. You may well be more attractive to them if you have a team driver, but that’s not exclusive. I’ve talked to solo drivers leased to expediters, too, of course. Good luck. strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.