Business Partners

As the economy continues to pick up, owner-operators will be in greater demand as more and more carriers look to add capacity. Not surprisingly, the No. 1 factor owner-operators look for when determining which carrier to work for is compensation, cited by 48 percent of respondents in the 2003 Overdrive Market Behavior Report. Rounding out the top five factors are no forced dispatch, amount of home time, carrier reputation and operating region.

But while pay leads the field by more than 10 percentage points, it’s also the one area owner-operators find the most difficult to understand. Nearly one-third of owner-operators surveyed find it hard to estimate revenues from carriers’ advertised compensation packages.

This communication gap spells trouble. It can lead to unrealistic pay expectations, which will eventually tarnish the business relationship between the carrier and owner-operator. Best case, the owner-operator is disgruntled. Worst case, he leaves.

Ironically, owner-operators who do switch jobs over pay often go to carriers who offer more loads or loaded miles, but not necessarily higher pay.

Given the industry’s high turnover rate, carriers need to make every effort to structure their pay packages so it’s easy for owner-operators to estimate earning potential. Anything else will lead to mistrust and, eventually, a failed business relationship.

The bottom line? If you’re an owner-operator, don’t lease on with a company until you fully understand its pay package and what it means for you and your family. And if you’re a carrier who’s trying to woo new owner-operators – and keep those you have – make sure your advertisements are clear and straightforward. Make your goal a strong, trusting business relationship that works for both parties.