Think before you jump

Brad Holthaus

Trucking is often a leading indicator of the economy. That seems to have been the case with first-half 2008 turnover figures released by the American Trucking Associations.

The rate for large truckload fleets (more than $30 million in revenue) dropped from 103 percent in the first quarter to 85 percent in the second. That’s the lowest level in 10 years. Small-fleet turnover also fell, and the less-than-truckload turnover rate dropped to 6 percent, cutting itself in half and then some.

These numbers come from a period that, compared to recent experience, is like a waltz in the park. If carriers were tightening the belt in the face of a slowing economy, you can count on them to do so even more as credit dries up, and with it new construction and other spending as a whole.

Likewise, if drivers in the first half of 2008 were looking more closely than usual at how green the grass was before risking a jump, they’ll be even more inclined to learn to love their current partner, no matter how disappointing the relationship.

However bleak things look, you don’t necessarily have to settle for just getting by. The five standout owner-operators featured in this issue’s “Dream Hauls” story make it clear that it’s possible to rake in a lot of cash and not kill yourself doing it. Jack Berghorst of Taunton, Minn., for example, has been averaging $3 a mile in revenue on all miles hauling wind-energy equipment, leaving him plenty to keep.

Like many of the high earners we’ve profiled in Overdrive, Berghorst, who’s leased to Daily Express since 1994, and others like him show that it’s smart business decisions – not hopping from carrier to carrier – that have advanced their careers.

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