Overdrive Staff | July 01, 2011

Owner-operator pay to rise

Following two years of improving freight levels, carriers are turning to owner-operators to increase capacity.

More than 42 percent of fleet executives responding to a May TruckGauge Market Pulse survey said they plan to add independent contractors in the next six months.

Such demand means “owner-operator pay is poised to take off” and could increase as much as 6 cents per mile over the remainder of this year, says Gordon Klemp, president of the National Transportation Institute, which tracks driver pay.

Many carriers, such as Barr-Nunn Transportation, have already started to bump pay. A series of increases has brought Barr-Nunn’s basic owner-operator pay package to $1 per loaded mile, a figure Klemp calls “pretty aggressive.”

More carriers would have already raised pay but for one missing factor: churn. “Many owner-operators are still convinced the economy is fragile and because of that they don’t want to change jobs if they feel they are with a secure carrier,” Klemp says. “If that changes I think we’ll probably see wages – and churn –really pick up.”

More carriers will also offer lease-purchase programs, Klemp says. Barr-Nunn’s program, launched in 2009, more than doubled the number of owner-operators leased to the carrier.

Crete Carrier Corp. plans to “help as many of our drivers become owner-operators” as have the desire to do so, says Director of Recruiting Richard Snyder. Crete had stopped hiring owner-operators during the recession and focused instead on keeping the ones it had. But today the company is adding owner-operators and is revamping its lease-purchase program to combat a limited supply of late-model used trucks and a tight credit market, says Todd Amen, president of owner-operator business consultant firm ATBS. For the next couple of years, lease-purchase programs may be the best alternative for aspiring owner-operators to get into the business, he says.

— Linda Longton

Researcher trashes hours studies

The American Trucking Associations on June 9 said an internationally recognized safety researcher has questioned the cache of studies submitted recently by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to support its hours of service proposal, saying the studies contain many problems.

A former Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration researcher refutes recent safety studies the agency is reviewing in considering hours of service rule changes.

 Dr. Ronald R. Knipling, former head of FMCSA’s research division, questioned the validity of the studies the agency inserted into the docket on May 6 after closing the comment period for its proposed rule.

FMCSA reopened the comment period until June 9 for discussion related only to the new documents. The agency does not comment on rules while they are open for comment.

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