Dollars & Sense

Kevin Rutherford

You can be a change agent

| January 14, 2013

Only one of every five owner-operators tracks fuel mileage on every tank. That means most operators aren’t working effectively to reduce their No. 1 expense.

Only one in 10 produces and analyzes a monthly profit-and-loss statement. If you’re not measuring your business, you’re not working to improve it.

Participation in continuing education, such as Overdrive’s Partners in Business program, is one way to improve the efficiency of your operation and develop skills you can pass on to others.

Virtually no owner-operators receive any in-depth continuing business education. I know, because I have one of the few comprehensive programs in the nation, and I train only about 150 owner-operators a year.

So it’s no surprise that many struggling owner-operators, looking for an easy fix, bounce from carrier to carrier, yielding turnover rates that are absolutely embarrassing. Fleets have lease-purchase programs that try to create owner-operators, but most are massive failures.

The public perception of owner-operators is horrible. Partly because of it, groups lobby the federal and state governments to regulate us even further. Honestly, I don’t blame them. Look around. Our industry needs help – and I want you to help me make it better.

The philosophy I have used over the years to help owner-operators improve their businesses and become industry advocates is based on a book by Seth Godin, “Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us.” We need more of the common-interest groups that Godin calls tribes, and I want to help you create and lead your own. This industry is full of great owner-operators who need to step up and become leaders.

One benefit of doing so is that the best way to learn something is to teach it. By instructing owner-operators on how to run a better business, I’ve learned much more for my own business. You, too, will see ways to grow and expand your business and your influence among your peers.

There are opportunities not only in terms of business but safety, compliance, efficiency and time management. You can start now with the carrier you are leased to or the owner-operators you spend time with. Here are some ways:

**Start a mentoring program for new owner-operators with your carrier. Offer to be the first mentor, then find other business-minded owner-operators there and get them involved.
**Create and deliver training seminars within your carrier.
**Start a blog around one specific area, and become the expert on that issue.
**Write articles for your carrier’s newsletter or other correspondence.
**Get involved with your state’s trucking association.

The opportunities for engagement are endless. Be creative.

If you are intrigued by author Seth Godin’s ideas, e-mail me at, and I’ll explain how I would like to start a program to create leaders in our industry.

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  • ilovdieselsmoke

    Beware of state or local trucking associations. Check them out before commiting any of your time or effort. The ATA is mostly concerned with the interest of their motor carrier membership not the small independent contractor. It’s better to join a group that has your own interest in mind. NO, that doesn’t have to be OOIDA but maybe a local trucker group who has a meaningful relationship with a few state legislators, their staff, media contacts, and a few good sources with the DOT. You may be surprised but many of these folk actually want your imput on trucking issues……..

  • mousekiller

    I have found over the years that if I just stop and talk to a Highway patrolman it can lead to a lot of help in how laws are enforced. Some times they are in the corner in a truck stop; or just parked behind the big roll of hay just waiting.

    We may talk about how to be aware of things that may be harmful in certain areas. It has turned out that I have friends that are law enforcement officials and I get some information from them on a voluntary basis. Getting the trust of some Leos is not easy. It has to be earned. In 08 I volunteered to drive the TOPS truck for KS . It was a learning experience for all of us involved. In doing this I found that we are just doing a different job . Information can be exchanged and ideas passed. What is nice is to be able to do ride a long and see how they do their job from their perspective out their windshield. It does not have to be them against us but us and them working together. We talk about ideas, How should changes be made, or how some laws are not right but in effect. We can work as a team like back in the good ol days. Most agree that there is too much government intrusion in every one lives especially the trucking industry.

  • Linda Caffee

    Kevin really good article with good ideas. Your new program sounds very interesting and promising

  • Andrea Sitler

    Great ideas. If each company would take an interest into their O/Os; all could benefit. Most O/Os are good at driving but are not business minded. I have some great drivers but their business sense is horrible. No foresight. They don’t see the big picture and how it affects them. All they see are the loads for today. I would love to have ideas on how to reach them and see other companies reach out to their O/Os and help themselves by helping the O/Os become successful.

  • Pande Transportation

    Kevin this idea is a good O/O need help the big broker co are running o/o out of business

  • martymarsh

    Hey Kevin, not many keep track because they don’t have someone driving their truck like you do. Time is money.

  • Adam

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