OTR work-life balance in a down market: Is there such a thing?

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Updated May 7, 2023

When the going gets tough, owner-operators get going -- at least traditionally, they did. When rates fall and/or costs rise, historically the miles-run averages for owner-operators grew as those behind the wheel attempted to compensate for dwindling income with boosted production. Yet business services firm ATBS, partner with Overdrive on our Partners in Business manual for building and growing a trucking business start to finish, showed some evidence recently that suggests more owner-operators are placing ever-greater priority on home time than in years prior.    

In 2022, as we all know, fuel costs soared and rates took a dive. Yet miles run actually ticked down a full 10% for the average compared to 2021, a boom year for spot rates. There’s a lot in the miles-run measure for 2022 -- parts/maintenance delays, unprecedented fuel prices and rates swings -- yet there’s some evidence owners, particularly among younger generations, remained steadfast in routines set in the boom time. 

Owner-operator average miles 2003-2022Over the long term, too, the trend toward fewer miles is even more clear -- ATBS' long-term tracking shows an absolutely huge reduction in annual miles over the last two decades for its owner-operator clientele.

Fact is, more are looking for that elusive goal of work-life balance, with healthy profits and maximum time efficiency on the road to justify time spent on other pursuits.

In a webinar scheduled for May 23 -- part of an Overdrive/CCJ series and sponsored by the Bestpass company — two men who’ve been in those shoes before will present strategies to gauge and achieve balance to improve quality of life for yourself and/or your operators. That's whether you’re a one-truck owner leased to a carrier or with authority, or a small fleet owner hoping to deliver better balance to drivers and, ultimately, to yourself.  

At this link, register to attend the May 23 presentations and a discussion/Q&A with Innovative Logistics Group founder and managing director Adam Wingfield and Overdrive 2021 Small Fleet Champ Jason Cowan, founder and leader of Silver Creek Transportation out of Henderson, Kentucky. 

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Catching elusive work-life balanceJoin Wingfield, Cowan and Overdrive May 23 by registering for the online seminar via this link.

Wingfield's story of balancing life on the road and the needs of a one-truck business with those of the family back home ultimately draws on experiences and lessons learned during the Great Recession and very difficult conditions, particularly in 2007-'08. "It was extremely rough," he said of that time, as his dedicated direct freight tailed off and he spent more and more time away from his home area. Involvement of the family directly in the business became part of the strategy to keep his home fires burning, so to speak, as he ran the roads to remain profitable. Those experiences have continued to inform Wingfield's work with scads of owner-operators and small fleet owners through the consultancy and carrier services firm he now leads in Charlotte, North Carolina.

[Related: 'The spot market is not where you need to live': On building steady business with authority, growth, more

Overdrive's owner-operator Truckers of the Month thus far for 2023 all have provided examples of individuals who've worked hard through equipment choices, effective use of downtime on the road and operational adjustments to keep a healthy balance, living out some of the lessons Wingfield learned himself the hard way and seeks to impart daily to the carriers he works with.   

And there's much more to Wingfield's personal story and those lessons learned, of course, likewise Cowan's efforts to adjust his operation for better support delivered to the 30 or so operators Silver Creek Transportation today employs or leases on

Bestpass logoThe May 23 webinar is sponsored by Bestpass, the well-known provider of toll collections options as well as a myriad other services. Find more about the company via its website.Cowan notes shifts in the wider economy and operator expectations that contrast sharply with those of many truckers of the days of yore. "The new generation coming in," he said, putting it bluntly, isn't "committed to beating themselves into the wall" to succeed over-the-road. "They want more time off" to pursue family-oriented or other personal goals

"We’ve looked inside of our own company," Cowan added, closely analyzing Silver Creek's back-office systems of support for employed drivers' and leased owners' goals. Experiencing big growth in the last four-five years, "are we spread too thin?" Cowan's routinely asked. 

In the end, his experience speaks to what any small fleet owner can do to create a culture within the organization that places real value not only on the work an operator does but on enhancement of the "full picture" of their lives, he said. Cowan notes he's forever trying to answer this question for himself, too, when it comes to those working with the company: "What can I do to help them have a better life?"

What are his answers? Join us May 23 for much more from Cowan as well as Adam Wingfield about how you can work to improve work-life balance for your own company's operators or, as the case is for most owners in Overdrive's audience, for yourself. 

Upcoming Webinar: Catching elusive ‘work-life balance’ as an owner-operator, small fleet owner

DATE: May 23 at 1:00PM Central

More are looking for that elusive goal of work-life balance with healthy profits and maximum time efficiency on the road to justify time spent on other pursuits. In this webinar — sponsored by Bestpass — two men who’ve been in those shoes in a variety of roles present strategies toward gauging and achieving balance to improve quality of life for yourself and/or your operators, whether you’re a one-truck owner leased to a carrier or with authority, or a small fleet owner hoping to deliver better balance to drivers and, ultimately, to yourself.