How to Become an O/O
Maintenance will take time and money to replace items such as tires, air bags and brakes, but it will pay off in longevity. “A trailer that is maintained can last 15 years or more,” says Hank Prochazka, vice-president sales and marketing at Fontaine Trailer. Chris Harrington, business consultant at ATBS, estimates budgeting 2 cents a mile in maintenance for a trailer.
An important part of spec’ing and maintenance, Bennett says, is to know what type of loading devices, such as forklifts, typically will be used in loading your trailer. He advises to watch, at least once cargo being loaded, the devices used and what type of pallets are included.
The bottom line is making sure you’re ready to take on the cost and responsibility of owning a trailer. “Buying a trailer is probably a better idea for a more experienced owner-operator,” Harrington says.
Jerry Jones owns three trailers and has owned as many as 10 in the past. He’s always pulled his own reefers. In 40 years as an owner-operator, Mike Davis has owned eight different flatbed trailers.
Jones and Davis say they own their trailers for the same reason — profit. “More money and more control,” says Jones, who runs Jones Truck Brokers. “There are costs associated with a trailer but also profit. You make the money the company leasing the trailer to you would make.” He estimates he earns an additional $400-500 a week using his trailers on runs between Missouri and Texas.
“That’s where the money is,” says Davis, leased to Ace Doran Hauling & Rigging. “It’s more lucrative. You get about 12 percent more on the gross revenue — that’s about 19 cents a mile.”
Jones and Davis take different approaches, though, to length of ownership. Jones holds for the long term. His three trailers are 1992, 1994 and 1996 reefers. His 1996 96-inch-wide unit “is as good as when I went to the factory to pull it home. A good spec’d trailer today, there’s no reason you can’t use it for 20 years.”
Davis trades trailers every five years. He trades before the bushings wear out and before he has to replace air bags and brake drums. “A trailer will hold its value better than a tractor,” he says. “There’s always somebody waiting on my trailer when I’m ready to sell.”