Driving with a partner offers income, lifestyle opportunities

| August 08, 2013

This multipart feature put the spotlight on several team operations, including that of Landstar-leased Jon and Miriam Brown, who reap some of the primary benefits of a team operation. The decade-plus the self-proclaimed “accidental truckers” have teamed led to the 2011 custom-building of this beautiful 2012 Volvo VNL300 daycab custom chassis converted by Showhauler Motorhome Conversions with a maximum of creature comforts. outfitted by Showhauler Motorhome Conversions pictured here. With no freight on the hook, the rig is a cozy camper, as you can see.  

Poll on team advantagesThere’s a reason so many young and ambitious company drivers and owner-operators tend to gravitate toward team driving, says Rick Duke. He’s a former team driver who’s now a solo owner-operator of a 2013 Kenworth T680 in a lease-purchase arrangement with Swift Transportation.

“I think it’s just the drive, the motivation” in excess of what is typical for older people, Duke says. “You want to succeed quickly” – and teaming is one way to do just that.

In the right niche, of course, and affiliated with the right fleet.

Duke estimates his prior team arrangement with a good friend based around St. Paul, Minn., enabled him to increase his take-home pay by as much as “10 percent, maybe 20 percent on a good week,” he says. “Running team as an owner-operator was where the money was really good.”

Jeremy Campbell, a Maryland-based company driver now with small fleet Sabatino Trucking, recently ended a team stint on a dedicated account with J.B. Hunt hauling mushrooms from Pennsylvania to the Midwest and back on a weekly turn. Paid mileage on the company-driver job and paired with another Hunt operator, Campbell says teaming allowed simply more mileage than otherwise would be possible.

Team experience pollOperators also earned more stop pay, given the speed at which they were able to unload as a team on their multiple-stop outbound loads. The team partner “makes it easier to keep pushing through” on a live unload “when you’re getting tired,” Campbell says.

On Campbell’s team runs, he and his partner were getting 56 cents a mile to the truck, split equally, plus accessorials that added up on the multiple-stop loads they typically hauled, a common way of approaching pay to teams either driving for or leased to a larger carrier – pay goes to the truck and splits between the drivers.

Whereas the most Campbell ever had made driving solo was about $68,000 a year before taxes, he was looking at almost $93,000 in the dedicated team – had it lasted.

Teaming also is more attractive to empty-nesters adopting second careers and/or bringing family on after a solo driving career. Such has been the case for countless husband-wife teams now in expedited and other segments.

Teaming can make operator income such that it's possible to have a wide latitude for enjoying time off, say Tom and Tina Evans, team owner-operators of a 2005 Freightliner M2 expediter leased to Load One. The pair typically take the entire month of July off, culminating in a trip to the Expedite Expo show at the end of the month.

Teaming can make operator income such that it’s possible to enjoy a wide latitude for maximizing time off, say Tom and Tina Evans, team owner-operators of a 2005 Freightliner M2 expediter leased to Load One. The pair typically takes the entire month of July, culminating in a trip to the Expedite Expo show at the end of the month.

Load One-leased owner-operator Tom Evans’ 13-year expediting history wouldn’t have been possible without Tina’s ability to join him when their children were well into their teens and being home alone for extended periods was viable. Keeping business in the family was the second most common answer – following better income – in a poll of team operators at OverdriveOnline.com probing the advantages of teaming. Father-son and sibling-based teams also are common.

Improved lifestyle factors and companionship on the road can be a benefit of such family arrangements, but the simple reality of team work dictates the need for a driving partner you can trust with your life, whether related to you or not, and especially when one partner is sleeping.

“I never had issues sleeping when Kris was driving,” says Duke of his time spent teaming with his best friend. “I already trusted him with my life.”

“Some guys just can’t sleep in a moving truck,” says Kent Victorian, partner of an Alabama-based owner-operator leased to expediter Tri State. “It’s an acquired thing, for sure.”

Good team partners learn to drive softly, says Victorian, who tells the story of a previous team arrangement. “I was trying to sleep, and I noticed every time he came up on somebody, I found myself hanging onto the bed. After a couple days of this, I said, ‘Let’s talk about coming to a smooth stop.’ ”

Jon and Miriam Brown, team owner-operators leased to Landstar, say the elimination of the sleeper split put a damper on their on-highway sleep habits. The elimination ignored, says John, the reality of rest on the road. A five-on-five-off sleep-drive schedule “worked great for us. When the rules banned the split and we went to a 10-hour schedule, a lot of us teams didn’t like that. To think somebody can soundly sleep 10 hours in a moving vehicle is unrealistic. The nice thing about the split was, depending on the kind of day you’re having, if you woke up and you weren’t feeling the best, or it was a day you’d worked hard the previous day, you could simply adjust the split. You had options.”

Even “after almost 15 years,” adds Miriam, “there’s nothing like being parked for sleeping.”

If you’re not in a position to bring on a family member, says Victorian and others, finding the right partner can make or break a team business. “I have been with drivers that I didn’t have good common interests with,” he says, which can make for a dreary time on the long road.

The other side of the coin is that a family member might not work out because of the closeness of the personal relationship. Not all marriages have a dynamic that enables a team arrangement to work well.

“Running team as an owner-operator was where the money was really good.” --Rick Duke, pictured with his 2013 Kenworth T680

“Running team as an owner-operator was where the money was really good.” –Rick Duke, pictured with his 2013 Kenworth T680

When it does, a productive or wisely choosy team can make their time pay with the right carrier. “Because there aren’t as many teams out there as solo guys, there’s more freight available” for better rates, often on quick-turn dedicated operations like what Duke had teaming while leased to Swift. He and his driving partner could put down as much as 7,400 miles a week on a dedicated Con-Way subcontracted account.

“We both had our hazmat licenses also, which made us even more valuable,” Duke says. “A lot of these companies are trying to get the freight moved so quickly, team freight has increased for all of us.”

The Teamwork series of team profiles:
**Chris Litzinger and Henry Kuperus, leased to Minnesota-based Brenny Transportation
**Jon and Miriam Brown, leased to Landstar
**Martin and Carolina Hill, leased to CRST Van Expedited
**Tom and Tina Evans, leased to Load One

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  • Jimmy the Greek

    Right I ran team 30 years ago and after you are cooped up with someone a week or two you are redy to murder the SOB

  • martymarsh

    That is a fact, I did it with my brother for 2 weeks and we wanted to kill each other.

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  • RickG

    If team driving is so beneficial how do you explain 100%+ turnover in the OTR sector? The drivers featured here are the exception to the rule. The majority of team drivers make less than solo drivers and get home a couple of days a month compared to local drivers being home nightly and regional drivers being hoe at least a couple of days a week.

  • Frank

    If you manage your finances and live out of one household, two people can retire in 5 years. I know because I have done it. A good team that can control their emotions and act professionally, can net over $200,000 a year if they keep the truck rolling. If they want to take a week off every month and go bicycling, kayaking, or travelling to other countries, then a good team would be looking at around $150,000 net. That is still enough to put into retirement. The team’s truck alone is worth $300,000 and assuming they only put 20% down on it, they will have $3000.00/month payments plus insurance and they are still hanging out in RV parks.

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  • John

    What most of the drivers don’t know (and they are deliberately kept in the dark about) is that if they don’t drive, the rates go up. In essence, the reason the industry sucks as a whole is because of the drivers. You can’t compete with someone who will work for free. It’s a free country after all and if someone can get a CDL and sit behind the wheel for free, then they will. And you wont be able to compete. They get to see the country and barely get paid enough to eat, but HEY! THEY SAW A NEW CITY! and the carrier gets their labor for next to nothing. There is a better way and these intelligent people have found it. They aren’t complaining. It is the opposite. They are doing better than their college educated CEO counterparts and they know why. For some it will only get worse, and for others, they will retire in style with their CDL’s in hand and a smile on their face. It’s a free country. You decide which driver you will be. I chose the latter. I am not complaining one bit.

  • No Reform

    Man aint that the truth….used to be 2 drivers earning 8 or 10 CPM….really exciting….

  • No Reform

    Not to mention how many drivers are Killed while sleeping in the bunk and their dumb “buddy” crashed the rig….not really all that great.

  • No Reform

    Sure the industry WANT to return to the 2 Low Paid drivers are available 24/7…instead of sleeping on a 10 Hour Break.
    This recent article on Trucks up from MEXICO dpoing “so well” has 2 drivers as the Globalists prefer…paid some insanely LOW WAGE and they cant Read or Speak English and their trucks are trash…FMCSA shows what those trucks are about….their CSA files..on those trucks mentioned.

  • martymarsh

    As he was screaming, hey Charlie, get up you are don’t want to miss this.

  • Steve

    I wonder how much that thing weighs, they sure can’t haul 45k in that trailer. I wonder if they do blanket wrap, military, or some other type of light freight. If you find a niche you can do well, they must of found it. But then, they didn’t say if the rig was paid for, or if they’re just renting it from the bank.

  • Dave

    Wow! This editor needs to do some more research. If you noticed one of the teams were from Swift. Nothing more need to be said about that one. Unless your driving with your spouse and all the money is coming to your house. Theres know money to be made. Tried it with a friend. I made less and he made less than solo driving. If you can live off of 400 a week. More power to ya. I’m not staying out for weeks for that kind of money. Most of these team runs can be ran solo. You might have to wiggle in a couple hours. The one team i just noticed. He made 68,000 for one of the years solo. Should of stayed that way! Then only 93,000 with a partner. 25,000 more! I guarantee they split that. Which means he made less on .56 a mile split. A weekly run from PA to midwest and back. You figure it out. Ill stick to my gig. O/O FOR 25YRS. Ill survive or sink. Go down kicking and screaming. STAND UP FOR FAIR LAWS FOR THE TRUCKING INDUSTRY.

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  • mousekiller

    MOST solo drivers that go teaming really don’t know how bad a driver they actually are. Hard braking. Too fast on curves. Shifting like their at the Indy race truck or drag racing. It takes the co driver to tell them . It sometimes takes a punch in the nose to make the point. . Poor drivers will bounce around in the bunk their co driver like a
    bb in a box car.

  • mousekiller

    It’s not that easy for most. It depends on several things. Experience of the driver. The carrier they are leased to ..
    The rate that is paid to them. Mileage or %. Routes they run.dedicated or not. If PERSON can get it to come together then the earning are there. My Mty Wgt is 36,000 lbs. I will NOT put on more than 38,000 lbs on the trailer.. I just don’t understand why some drivers will haul heavy for the same pay I get for hauling light.

  • NancySue

    Frank – Seems like you are one of the few that has positive input on the income / retirement in this field of employment … anymore. I realize that there is positve and negative in any type of employment ….. sometimes it’s just a matter of what we personally want to get out of our employment. But ….. never the less ……. I find your post intriguing . If you receive follow up posting feedback ….. I would love to communicate with you concerning your knowledge of this subject matter. :)

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