Be systematic in finding a carrier
Last month we discussed designing your owner-operator dream job and creating a business plan to make it happen. Those design steps are:
1 List your likes and dislikes – long haul vs. short haul, lots of stops vs. lots of miles.
2 Choose the parameters of your perfect operation – the hours you want, where you want to drive.
3 Compile your answers to develop a picture of your perfect business.
The next step is executing your plan. Look at industry magazines and search the Internet for carriers that pull the kind of freight and run in the geographic area you are interested in. List as many as possible. Watch for trucks and carriers on the road that fit your criteria. Even in a specialized segment of the industry, you will be surprised how many choices you have.
Most people will try to find one name that fits all the preferred criteria. Take the opposite approach. Pick a name on the list and start looking for a reason not to choose that one. Maybe the company requires more experience than you have or requires a newer tractor. Eliminate many of the companies early in the search.
When you find a carrier you can’t eliminate for any reason, put it on your short list. When you reach five, stop and follow these steps:
• Contact the carriers and request a copy of their lease agreement. Read each lease from front to back and make notes. Create three lists – things you like about the lease, things you don’t like and things you don’t understand. If they can’t or won’t send a lease agreement, scratch them off the list.
• Call each carrier again. You need to make sure you understand everything, and you need to see how cooperative and supportive the carrier is. If you can’t get straight answers about the lease now, for example, odds are you’ll have the same obstacles if you decide to work with that carrier. In most cases, these conversations will get your list down to two or three.
• Schedule a visit to each company. If there are multiple locations, visit corporate headquarters. It might be expensive and time-consuming, but you are designing your business. It will be worth the effort and the expense.
• Explain to your company contact that you want to spend time with someone in each department you would deal with as a leased owner-operator. Again, this could further narrow your list. If they don’t have time for you now, do you think they will have time for you after you sign the lease?
• Prior to your visit, write down questions for each department, such as dispatch, safety and compliance, operations and settlement. To help generate questions, think about problems you had to deal with in those departments at your current carrier.
These steps will prepare you well for getting the critical information you need to make a wise decision. Once you’ve done so, the business-minded approach you’ve demonstrated will help establish you as a professional who deserves respect.
Next month I’ll conclude the process of executing the plan for your dream job. n
Kevin Rutherford is an accountant, small-fleet owner and the host of “Trucking Business & Beyond,” which airs on Sirius XM Radio’s Road Dog Trucking Radio. Contact Rutherford through his website, www.LetsTruck.com.