Kevin Rutherford’s case to brokers for stronger partnerships with owner-operators

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Updated Nov 7, 2016

It was perhaps a unique scene — former owner-operator/small fleet owner Kevin Rutherford, whose close involvement in the launch of Overdrive‘s Partners in Business program two decades ago led him down a path toward education and advocacy through a variety of efforts within the owner-operator world, addressed the mostly-broker audience at Connected 2016 user conference in Dallas yesterday after lunch. How he broke the ice, which you’ll hear in the audio above and at bottom: “Many of my listeners think the majority of this room are lying, cheating scumbag parasites sitting in a room with a phone and an internet connection sucking all the profit out of the load.”

If you’re using brokers for freight as an independent, have you sat down face to face with your broker lately?

Truth is, brokers serve a distinct purpose in trucking as the outside sales force for many an independent owner-operator, a model for freight movement that Rutherford views as perhaps the most efficient in trucking all around. In this talk, he spelled out for the brokerage audience why he’s on a mission to help strengthen the relationships between brokers and independents toward better profitability for owner-operators and a more healthy industry.

The view Rutherford notes of owner-operators about brokers, however, has its companion on the other side, of course, which later in the talk Rutherford brought up. “Most of you believe owner-operators are no good … because that’s what we’ve been conditioned to see,” in part due to the nature of most contacts between the two sides — in the heat of tit-for-tat haggling over the price of a load. More owner-operators need to make the time to sit down with their brokers, and vice versa, to do the truly hard work — those things you tend to put off, things that don’t need to be done right now but that you know you should be doing — to build relationships that can serve both parties long-term, he says.

Technology has a role now and will have an even greater role in the future in reducing the friction that comes with haggling-type negotiation, thus facilitating freight partnerships, Rutherford believes. But it’s closer business partnerships, real relationships with respect on both sides, that hold the best hope for expansion of the independent owner-operator model.

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Rutherford floated the idea of a broker track of sessions in his weeklong CMC owner-operator educational program — click here for details on the event for 2017. He’s hoping brokers hear his message as much as owner-operators do toward a goal of “bringing together everybody that has a stake in” the independent owner-operator model at the event and into the future.