Speakout: Cost per mile key to successful operation

The bad business practices that are causing owner-operators to fold up their tents are as common as in years past, but magnified by the inflated costs to operate.

I well know the pitfalls of being an owner-operator, notably ignorance of cost per mile. If business owners don’t know the cost of doing business, they don’t stand a chance of success, no matter what business they are in.

Trucking has so many variables that it is impossible to have an across-the-board figure that would apply to the industry as a whole. My business requires about $2.10 per mile just to operate, whereas a friend has an operating cost of $2.36 per mile. These figures may be high for some and not enough for others. Each individual driver has to calculate his own cost per mile and include all expenditures to arrive at an accurate figure.

When I hear most operators don’t know their own cost per mile, I know without a doubt these people are destined to fail.

Just because Big Stack Mack can operate for $1 per mile doesn’t mean that everyone can, and just because Big Stack Mack is operating doesn’t mean that he is making any money. I see many of these truck drivers with the pedal to the metal, and in this environment it’s going to eat them alive.

Maybe trucking has a great future ahead of it, since many of these bad businessmen and women won’t be here. The question is: Will their replacements be any smarter?
Devine, Texas

Domestic oil production would help prices
Despite the recent successes in the war in Iraq, the war that we are fighting on American soil with the price of gasoline is ongoing with no end in sight. The price of oil would be reduced if we allowed drilling and exploration in protected areas.

Can we not help control the war on gasoline by the release of this oil? Does anyone care? Has the price of gasoline not yet reached the point of no return for you? How high must it go until we get full unrest from the populace?

As we call on our administration to curtail the war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan, we need to call on our congressmen to curtail the price of oil by releasing oil reserves.
President and founder, TransAlive USA
Fort Worth, Texas

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Conservative Congress will save economy
Why are fuel prices so high? Some OPEC producers are pumping less oil, and speculators buy and hold oil until the prices go higher. Producers and speculators leave oil refiners and consumers no alternative but to pay their price.

Democrats have no solution except to promote alternative sources of energy that use scarce corn rather than abundant oil shale, or electricity from Canada rather than nearby power plants, or oil from the Persian Gulf rather than the Gulf of Mexico.

Republicans would give oil companies tax breaks to develop our reserves, pump more oil and build more refineries. This is the obvious solution, but it looks too much like rewarding the villainous oil companies.

McCain and a Democratic Congress would increase energy costs and thus create inflation, while Obama and a Democratic Congress would give us higher taxes, punitive regulations and politicized spending that would increase costs, reduce profits and scare away investment capital.

A conservative Congress would pressure the president to drill oil in the United States and to cut taxes, spending and regulations to foster economic growth.

What kind of change do we want? A society dominated by government controls, or a free-enterprise ownership society? Vote as if our livelihood depends on it – because it does.
Oakland, Calif.

Who is your hero?
“Muhammad Ali, because of his tenacity. He had a flair for life, living life to the fullest.”
Greenville, Ga. | Dana

“My dad, Jimmy Wright. I’ve always looked up to all he’s done for me.”
McKenzie, Tenn.
Doyle Sims & Sons Trucking

“Jesus. He came to die for our sins, and everything that we have and everything that we are is because of him.”
Max Meadows, Va. | Superior Carriers

“My dad, Jim Huffman. He’s a driver.”
Poteau, Okla. | Novco

“My dad. He’s a good man and always has been. He was always there to help me.”
Dallas | Associated Carriers

“Barack Obama. He’ll change the world.”
Charlotte, N.C.
P.A.M. Transport

” There’s a lot of pressure on a lot of guys. They’re not getting fuel surcharges they need, they’re not getting the pay they need. They’re hustling and hustling.”
– Independent owner-operator Roy Benner to KATU-TV in Roseburg, Ore., on truck drivers pulling back on repairs and working longer hours to make ends meet.

FRANKLIN RICH fondly recalls his first trip to New York City in 1995 during a haul from Rhode Island to Texas. “When I went over the George Washington Bridge, I felt like I was riding a roller coaster,” the Cherokee, N.C., resident says. Once he hit I-95 in New Jersey, Rich got out of his cab and looked back across the river toward the World Trade Center. “I saw for the first time the Twin Towers. It was scary and exciting because it took your breath away.” The memory means more to him since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Several years ago, THERON LEVENS of Granlin, Ga., was tasked with delivering a load for the Pentagon from Lockheed Martin’s facility in Marietta, Ga., to the secretive Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. The trip was tagged “top secret,” and Levens had to get special clearance to make the trip. “I never knew what was on the truck,” he says, but he offers a guess: At the time, the Stealth jet was under development. “I guess that’s what it was,” Levens says.

The large load that RUSS MILLS hauled from the University of Washington’s nuclear accelerator to California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 20 years ago stands out among his career as an independent owner-operator who specializes in transporting military equipment. The native of Rochester, Wash., said that security was vastly different then. “I had a tractor, a trailer and a steering jeep behind it,” he says, noting that military hauls are tracked by satellite now. Mills was impressed with the sheer size of the load: “It was just big. I don’t know how to explain what it was.”

Share your Memories
Trucking’s changed a lot during the past few decades. Tell Overdrive about your early days behind the wheel, whether it’s heartwarming, funny or horrific.

Send your recollection and contact information to Lucinda Coulter, Overdrive, P.O. Box 3187, Tuscaloosa AL 35403, or e-mail them to [email protected]. Include a print or digital photo of yourself, if possible; prints will be returned.

Published submitters will receive a keychain pocketknife and an Overdrive hat, license plate and T-shirt.

The Business Manual for Owner-Operators
Overdrive editors and ATBS present the industry’s best manual for prospective and committed owner-operators. You’ll find exceptional depth on many issues in the 2022 edition of Partners in Business.
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