The Owner-Operator Solution

Remember the driver shortage? It was quite the buzz until things went south in 2000. Now, industry experts say, it’s coming back as the economy picks up. That’s good news for truckers, especially owner-operators.

“As tonnage increases, we expect demand for new drivers to create a driver shortfall,” said Gordon Klemp, president of The National Transportation Institute, which publishes the National Survey of Driver Wages. “The result of this will be a very sharp increase in driver pay.”

Klemp was one of several speakers at our recent 2003 Randall Trucking Symposium in Tuscaloosa, Ala. He said 72 percent of the publicly traded fleets he surveyed last year expect to grow largely by using owner-operators. “It’s going to stay awfully competitive,” he said.

That’s especially true for owner-operators, who once again are getting bonuses dangled in front of them by fleets, said Chuck Johanns, recruitment and retention analyst for Dart Transit. Many new drivers lack the work ethic and business training to succeed as owner-operators, he said, so proven owner-operators are a valuable commodity.

When it’s time to expand, many fleets, shy about buying new trucks after two or three years of slow business and a sputtering recovery, will feel much more secure with the flexibility afforded by owner-operators.

“This is a great time to be a survivor,” said American Trucking Associations economist Bob Costello, quoting an executive from a large fleet. That’s also true for owners of one-truck fleets. You who have survived slow freight and expensive fuel and insurance deserve to profit from the extra business and potentially higher rates in the coming months.