‘COMPANY DRIVERS GET NO RESPECT’
Until last fall I was an owner-operator for Landstar Systems. After several years with them, I decided to sell my 10-year-old truck and stay at home as a Mr. Mom for a while. It was easy being at home through the winter; I usually stayed close to home at that time of year anyway. Then spring came, and I became interested in driving again, but not buying a truck.
I applied to several companies. I received plenty of responses, but all of them promised things that no company could really do. Most of the companies wanted to get me into a lease/ purchase program, the kind where you pay all of the big expenses and get treated like a company driver.
I thought a private fleet might be better than a common carrier, but the short answer is they are not. I realized quickly why I became an owner-operator in the first place. Company drivers get no respect. I know this is not new, but it was certainly an eye-opener for me. They either had me working day and night, or they had no freight. There was no middle ground.
The company put road drivers in cramped sleepers with little storage and tweaked the horsepower so low that I was constantly downshifting. I then realized that management had thought little about how these things affect driver turnover. I certainly never expected a big condo sleeper with a 500-horsepower engine, but I did expect more than what I got.
I strongly suggest to anyone going into trucking: Try to maintain the value of ‘Work to live,’ and not ‘Live to work.’ It seems most companies prefer the latter. America needs to stop this 24/7 work mentality. If I were to return to trucking, I would return only as a true owner-operator with my own truck.
Mount Morris, Ill.
RESEARCH, BUDGETING KEY TO STABILITY
The information in “Let’s Burn Some Rubber” [Dollars & Sense, June] was good, but there are other ways to prevent overdrafts. Some alternatives do have a cost, but they save a lot of time and aggravation.
I perform account management services and tax preparation for truck drivers. My husband, an owner-operator, has a laptop computer. With his Verizon air card for wireless Internet access he can check our bank balances, make online payments and do nearly anything else that I can do from home. I pay the monthly bills, but he incurs expenses on the road, and it helps him to know where he stands. With both of us able to access the account, there are no overdraft fees or “over limit” charges.
Most banks offer the ability to link checking and savings accounts to avoid the costs of using “overdraft protection.”
What is missing too often is the lack of willingness to do a little research and budgeting before one hits the road. Using bank statements, receipts and notes, one easily can determine the average monthly cost of being on the road. From there, you can establish a budget that reflects that amount and add $200 to it for leeway, then open a separate checking account just for the driver, with purchases made by debit card.
An owner-operator should have business checking and savings accounts and should use only those accounts for work-related expenses.
If the driver needs someone to deal with the bills and deposits, then he or she should hire an accountant. The cost of the accountant’s services is tax-deductible.
IS THE FIX IN?
My son is an owner-operator and I keep track of his bookkeeping, so I have firsthand knowledge of his business costs.
The cost of diesel fuel is higher in most locations than 87-octane regular gasoline. At the refinery level it costs about 30 percent less to refine diesel fuel than it does to refine gasoline. I am old enough to remember when diesel cost 20 cents a gallon.
Before Hurricane Katrina, diesel fuel was slightly less than gasoline. After Katrina, diesel fuel was quite a bit higher than gasoline and it since has come down to a little more than gasoline. If it costs 30 percent less to refine diesel fuel, why, then, isn’t diesel fuel priced at about $2 per gallon? Seems to me this is price gouging.
NEBRASKA, TREAT TRUCKERS BETTER
This is an open letter to Nebraska lawmakers:
Do you have any idea the hardships you have placed on truckers going across Nebraska? By the thousands, we travel your state, bringing your food, clothing and the nice bed you sleep on. We miss our family reunions, outings with friends and Sunday afternoon naps – everything you take for granted.
We fight road conditions, weather, road rage, loneliness, exhaustion, fuel prices, DOT inspections, log books and hours of service violations because the customers wanted their shipments yesterday. We wait to get loaded and wait to get unloaded and miss the next re-load because we were late.
You have put up steel posts along the rest areas, so we can’t park. You have instructed state troopers to wake up drivers, give them a ticket and send them down the road when they are out of hours to drive.
When are you going to have any compassion and try to make our job a little easier?
GLEN and DONNA HAJEK
Send letters to Write On, Overdrive, P.O. Box 3187, Tuscaloosa, AL 35403, or fax to (205) 750-8070, or e-mail [email protected].
Letters are subject to editing for length and content.