Friday, August 05, 2011

Be your own boss . . .

AH, THE JOYS OF THE OWNER-OPERATOR. The freight biz has changed over the last 30 years; railroad freight declined, and humongous 18-wheelers took over. With the advent of cheap PC's and bookkeeping software, the corporate accountants realized that they could get rid of all the fleet driver jobs and capital acquisition costs: enter the "independent" owner-operator, who gets to finance that $150,000++ tractor and worry about maintenance costs, like, say a new clutch for the Fuller Roadranger 13-speed transmission (depending on the rig, a clutch can run from $1,500 to $3,500, just the parts cost — then there's "Re & Re", aka labor, on top of that).

Well, like everything, life appears to be getting tougher. JALOPNIK's Dan Hanson has a thoughtful piece, worthy of your attention: "What you don’t know about the truck driver you just flipped off". Why should you care? Depends on how good you are with "situational awareness" — it's your butt, do check your six before you wish you had.

Everything you buy at the store and everything you order online moves by truck. Planes and trains can't get it to your house or grocery store. We are dependent on trucks to move product from the airport and the rail yards to the stores and our homes.

Every day, experienced and qualified drivers give it up because the government, the traffic and the greedy companies involved in trucking have drained their enthusiasm for this life.

They take a job at a factory if they can find it, and are replaced by an inexperienced youngster dreaming of the open road. This inexperience leads to late deliveries, causing shortages and higher prices at the store, and crashes that lead to unnecessary deaths.

Times change. It seemed a little more human, before the accountants got at the industry.


Offroad Artist said...

great post. It's a tough life all right. Just imagine when other complications come into play with a trucking career - like broken homes, single parents, substance abuse, etc., when your income depends on long haul trucking

Mark Francis said...

Long haul by train is more organized, and gentler on personal schedules. The crazy life of 'interstate' truckers, the smog they help cause and the street traffic they add to are all externalities not accounted for in the prices we pay. Trains are better in so many ways for longer hauls, except they are harder to manage for just-in-time delivery methods.

Steve said...

Thats why we should be putting more passengers on rail and leave roads for commerce. That said most long haul should be on rail and trucks just serving local hubs.

Edstock said...

The good news is that rail freight is coming back, and sales of local-delivery (SWB non-sleeper) class 7-8 tractors are growing.

It's been especially grim for Canadian owner-operators, as with free trade, US trucks can deliver and pick up in Canadian cities. So can Canadian trucks, in the US.

Problem is, the trucks based in Michigan were paying one hell of a lot less for fuel. Drive to Toronto, pick up, deliver to the US, tank up again in the US. Big tanks. Observation of an O-O for Wilson, out of Pickering.

And now, on both sides of the border, we have the "rolling wounded", the victims of this Darwinian market, who cut back on maintenance, as we see when the provincial police like the OPP, hold a highway truck safety-blitz.