Wednesday, September 17, 2008


So you want to buy a truck and lease it on to a company, but you don't know if its right for you? The first thing you need to know is if you enjoy driving. Do you really love love love driving a truck? Most people who have never driven a truck before should go through the paces and obtain a license through the normal channels of the typical company truck driver route. So lets say that you have done this and are happy with the way you get around inside the company.

Companies take care of their equipment and expect you to tell them when something needs to be fixed. Hmmmm. What else do they typically do? They provide you with health insurance, possible retirement plans and a practically guaranteed paycheck. Your miles at the company will depend on how long you want to stay out and how good you are at being on-time. You get new equipment to use most of the time. If you have a problem on understanding your obligations, there is someone there to hold your hand and walk you through whatever is going on.

Here are some key things that you absolutely have to know if you intend to be an owner operator leasing onto someone:

1. Don't ever ever ever purchase a truck from a trucking company and haul for them at the same time for some ridiculously low percentage. Most trucking companies have these lease/purchase programs set up to bleed you dry and make more money off of you than when you were a company driver.

2. Always look for a company with a majority of people with years of experience that are owner operators.

3. Look for a company that allows you to pick your freight rates and load choices.

4. When you drive your own truck, you want to keep maintenance and overhead to a minimum. and the best way to do this is to drive slow and carefully. What I mean is that you are no longer trying to drive the most miles in a day that you can for a fixed (per mile) rate. Ideally you have chosen a company that allows you to obtain the highest rate per mile on each load that is available and at a pace that wont stress your equipment out too much. Number 4 is a long one. So you want to drive around 57 to 60 mph ALWAYS! You want to conserve your brakes in favor of using your engine brake ALWAYS! You want to get monthly oil changes and weekly grease jobs ALWAYS! (Oil Changes and Grease Jobs are the cheapest mechanics you can hire).

5. You want to be able to take off whenever you want without being hassled. To me this is the point of being an owner operator. Otherwise stay at your company.

6. When you become an owner operator leased to a company there are some important things to remember. The freight is endless and the companies are always needing drivers so don't feel obligated to haul a load by some needy salesman (broker/agent) who is claiming that all hell will break loose if this load doesn't get hauled. Too bad because the customer should have ordered whatever it is earlier. Lack of preparedness on your part does constitute an emergency on my part. Agents/Brokers/Salesmen in the trucking industry are EXACTLY LIKE people that work at carnivals. "Hey step right up and win a little stuffed giraffe! Everyone is a winner!" They will sucker you in with anything they have access to.

7. Reputable agents who are established don't need you and could care less if you ever called them to start with. There are agents who have contracts that you could retire in 5 years by doing and the competition for these is cutthroat to the extreme. Drivers make up stories about other drivers to get them kicked out and sometimes lie to each other to try to slip the other drivers up. When one load pays enough to allow you to take a month off in Aruba, you can bet that every driver that knows about it is going to be fighting like a dog to get it no matter who gets in their way.

8. Some new agents (I like to say agents because it is shorter than broker and salesman, but they are all the same) have new customers and are starting to build a reputation. They need good drivers like The Pope needs Catholics. They don't always get the good freight, but if you get your foot in the door with one of them while they are starting up and they go on to attain the good contracts, then there is a good chance that they will rely on you to help them succeed.

9. You have to know how to maintain your equipment. This could be up there at number one if you were numbering these out by importance, but I am not. You don't have to necessarily do the work, but you must understand what the mechanic is doing because sometimes the mechanic doesn't know what he or she is doing. This can be difficult because I have been ripped off by both reputable dealers and people with decades of experience as well as the little shops that claim to be trying to get a good reputation. They will all take your money and not all necessarily for the right reason. You have to find a shop that behaves as if your truck is a person and you are taking him or her to the doctor's office. You wouldn't go to a doctor that just started replacing things without knowing what to replace or why. If you are unsure about them, then leave and make sure that you document everything.

10. Shops that work on trucks have a few MUST DO'S. You must get a written estimate and write on the estimate that no further repairs are authorized, unless you are first informed of what the cost is in writing. Make sure that you write that any deviations from the estimated repairs are brought to your attention and that no approval or payment for any unauthorized repairs will be given without your notification.

11. Make sure the shop's personnel are certified to do the work. Not everything carries a certification with it, but if you are having engine work done, the shop should be an authorized dealer for the engine in question. This is the case for the tranmsission as well. ASE certification is necessary so ask if the shop's personnel is ASE certified. Small shops have warranties only through their shop. Nationwide chains have warranties nationwide, but you may have to wait a little while longer before they can get your truck in. Sometimes if you aggressively pursue an earlier time to get in, they will get you in a week ahead of time if they are really backed up and know that you need the truck and are waiting.

12. Always try to pay with a credit card. If the shop doesn't take credit cards, be leary. Many shops don't take credit cards because if they don't do their job properly, the credit card company can just pull the funds right back out of their bank and it is the shop's burden to prove they did the right thing. Credit card companies typically win these types of disputes. It is easier to get your money back from a bad shop if you don't pay cash.

13. Make sure the shop can fix everything that is wrong. Don't take the truck into a place that only fixes tires, if you also have a brake failure. Don't take a truck to a shop that only does brakes if you have a bad differential. You have to get an estimate in writing that completely diagnoses the issue and spells out everything related to the source of the problem that it could possibly be. Truck manufacturers are the best places to go usually as they typically have all of the tools needed to properly diagnose the problem and these types of shops can usually fix everything from bumper to bumper.

14. Don't assume that because the dealer is a truck manufacturer, that they can fix everything. I have been to places that weren't authorized dealers for my particular engine, yet they were the truck's manufacturer. The bottom line here is to gather every bit of information about the shop that you can before you do any business with them. Especially if you are having the truck towed in somewhere. You want to make sure that your truck repair is being handled in the best business like manner that is possible and that the shop is behaving as much like a doctor's office as can be expected. You wouldn't let a doctor perform surgery on you if he or she was constantly unsure of whether or not they were making the right decision. There are tools out there now to properly take the guess work out of every situation. Don't let someone talk you into kind of thinking that maybe if you do this or that, it will solve your problem. If they don't know, don't go!

15. Don't rush into anything. Being an owner operator requires patience a partially meticulous nature about some things. You must do your homework.

16. My philosphy (Well one of my many philosophies) is that if I don't do it, someone else will and I don't want that. I want the work! I want the paycheck! Not the other person! I am entitled to the business because I will work my hardest and smartest to get it done right. Maybe someone out there is faster, cheaper, and more appealing than me, but that is their business, and mine is to do the best with what I have. When you own the truck, you are the boss and you make the final decision. Sink or SWIM. I choose to SWIM.

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