Act Like An Owner-Operator

Are you an owner-operator? Or a company driver with a truck payment? To hear many owner-operators talk, you would never know they are independent businesspeople. They complain about the companies they chose to lease to. The price of diesel fuel, they say, will put them out of business. The new hours-of-service rule makes it impossible for them to earn a living.

Successful owner-operators, on the other hand, understand that they control their own destinies. They take responsibility for their success – or failure. They accept the challenges this industry throws their way as the price of admission for going independent.

Take their response to the new hours-of-service rule, for example. Whether the rule has a positive or negative impact on an owner-operator depends on his business philosophy, says owner-operator consultant Kevin Rutherford.

“The guys who just run hard but don’t watch their expenses will be hurt,” Rutherford says. On the other hand, “people who have always watched expenses closely will weather this fine.” He points to owner-operators he works with who over the past three years of high fuel prices and slow freight still managed to make more money every year.

For those who work to turn challenges into opportunities, a tough business climate can be a catalyst toward new, potentially more profitable ways of doing business. The first step, Rutherford says, is for owner-operators to learn as much as they can about how any new challenge will impact their operations. If you decide the new hours rule will have a negative impact on your business, for example, look for a contract that’s not as affected by it – a dedicated run, regional haul or any operation that doesn’t require a lot of loading and unloading time.

The new hours rule is just one of many challenges you’ll face. The price of diesel fuel will continue to be volatile. Tough emissions regulations mean your next truck will cost more and will get lower fuel mileage than the one you’re currently driving. By 2006, you’ll be running on low-sulfur diesel fuel, which will cost about 5 cents more per gallon than today’s diesel.

But such are the realities of life as an independent businessperson. As Rutherford says, “If you don’t want that added pressure but also that added opportunity, go drive a truck for someone else.”

Stay in the game, however, and you may not only survive, but thrive. “If only 50,000 owner-operators have the business savvy to go out and do it right,” Rutherford says, “that 50,000 will make more money.”

The Business Manual for Owner-Operators
Overdrive editors and ATBS present the industry’s best manual for prospective and committed owner-operators. You’ll find exceptional depth on many issues in the 2021 edition of Partners in Business.
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