2017 owner-operator income: Flatbedding hot, reefer hauling chilly

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Updated Aug 13, 2017
Flatbed served owner-operators well the first half of 2017, with the segment’s haulers earning more than $1,800 more than in the same period in 2016. Other segments, however, didn’t fare as well.Flatbed served owner-operators well the first half of 2017, with the segment’s haulers earning more than $1,800 more than in the same period in 2016. Other segments, however, didn’t fare as well.

Net income for leased and independent owner-operators dipped about $255 in the first half of 2017 compared to the same period a year ago, according to ATBS, the nation’s largest owner-operator business services firm.

Mileage in the first half of the year was up compared to the same period in 2016, meaning owner-operators worked more to earn less.

Income losses for reefer haulers drove the declines for leased operators. Flatbed operators had strong gains, while dry van haulers saw net income rise slightly.

Independents on average made $29,642 in the first six months of the year. Leased operators on average took home $29,291.

Todd Amen, president and CEO of ATBS, said, “Income being down a couple percent is not surprising, given the difficult freight environment we’ve been in.”

Fuel costs rose more than $3,000 for all segments despite cheaper diesel prices. Amen says relatively cheap diesel, however, may be partly to blame, as owner-operators typically drive faster, thus burning fuel at a high rate, when diesel prices are cheap.

Independents drove almost 500 more miles on average, according to ATBS data, and average revenue grew $4,055. Higher fuel costs, $3,060, ate into the stronger revenues.

Reefer haulers took the biggest hit in the first six months. Leased reefer operators’ net income dropped $2,947 to $24,213. Owner-operators in the segment drove 1,123 fewer miles in the first half of 2017. Revenue, however, was up nearly $1,500 on average. Higher fuel costs and maintenance costs sunk reefer haulers’ net income. Fuel costs rose $3,297 in the six-month period, and maintenance costs climbed $1,111.

Flatbedders, meanwhile, earned $33,130 in net income — $1,849 more than in the first half of 2016. They drove nearly 1,000 more miles, and revenue climbed $5,428. Fuel costs jumped by $3,795.

Van haulers’ income rose $75 to $29,763. Owner-operator van haulers drove more than 316 more miles in the first half of the year, and revenue climbed $3,544. Fuel costs also climbed, up $3,377.

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