Where’s the ‘sweet spot’ size for small fleets? And other insights into owner-op growth

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Updated Jan 19, 2021

Is there an ideal size for an owner-operator as he/she adds trucks, drivers and freight? The answer to that question is, well, it depends. It’s certain, though, that whether leased or independent with carrier authority, any owner is bound to reach a point where administrative and other demands outstrip the ability to handle everything — and still haul.

For Cadle Trucking owner Ben Cadle, about whom I wrote a little yesterday, he’s just about there, and feels he may have reached his “sweet spot” of sorts at 11 full-time drivers and trucks in operation (12 if you count him and his “Joy Ride 3” cabover, too, though his hauling frequency seems to be less and less as time goes on). His fleet’s size has doubled over the course of the last five years, and “I don’t want any more trucks at this point, he said, “It gets to a certain point, it’s like, ‘Yeah, I’m good.’”

As have so many small-fleet operators I’ve talked to through the years, Cadle credits his drivers as the bedrock of his success. Not that he’s getting rich, he emphasizes, but rather “trying to get to a comfortable point, and that’s about it. Trying to secure the future.”

As are no doubt the three finalists from this year’s Overdrive‘s Small Fleet Champ competition you’ll hear in today’s edition of the Overdrive Radio podcast. All three offered insights on hiring and retaining the best drivers, on the issue of size and manageability, on learning to delegate, on the huge challenges that small-fleet owners with motor carrier authority are facing with insurance costs when it comes to primary commercial auto liability. And more. Take a listen:

Voices from this edition, with further reading about the owners at the links: 

**James Davis of JDT, Inc. out of Central Point, Oregon, the inaugural 2020 Small Fleet Champ in the contest sponsored by Pilot’s One9 Fuel Network.
**Evan Guckien of Indiana-based Ed Burns & Sons
**Louisiana tank hauler John McGee Trucking