Set your own record

If you followed business news much in late October, you probably heard of several trucking-related companies reporting record third-quarter earnings.

“That’s great,” some of you are thinking. “The big boys get rich while I’m struggling for mediocre earnings. How come none of the economy’s good fortune rubs off on the guys doing the real work?”

Fact is, it has. Among the owner-operator clients of American Truck Business Services, net income per mile rose to a record 40 cents during the April-June quarter. And not only did that level hold for the third quarter, but the highest of those three months was September. While post-Katrina diesel spiked to a record (at the time) $2.90 a gallon, owner-operators’ net income rose still further, to 41 cents a mile.

“Fuel has become a non-event for our customers who manage their fuel costs and get a good fuel surcharge,” says Todd Amen of ATBS.

Granted, those are big qualifiers. Some owner-operators neglect the practices of good fuel economy. Others don’t get a decent surcharge. But as more owner-operators are discovering, a good surcharge becomes a bonus plan when you run good equipment in a smart way. If your surcharge is based on 6 miles per gallon, every 10th of a mile you can average above 6 mpg is financial gravy for you.

Of course, there’s more to running profitably than fuel management: everything from your carrier’s compensation plan to your choices of loads and routes. If you haven’t taken a close look at your own key numbers, make an appointment with your accountant and do so. Wouldn’t it be nice to report – even if just to yourself – that you, too, are enjoying record earnings?
–Brad Holthaus

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