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Thread: Choosing a Carrier

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  1. Default Choosing a Carrier

    Do you want to drive alone, or do you plan to drive with another person? Some companies provide better opportunities for the solo driver than others. Other companies can many times keep teams much busier than others. This article should help you determine how to determine which carrier is the best selection for you.

    Driving solo can be a very lonely existence; however driving with another person will present an entirely different set of adjustments on your part. While there are many successful teams from different households, most long term successful teams are made up of husband and wife or significant others. Team drivers are the most valuable to national carriers, where a good percentage of the traffic consists of loads traveling more than 500 miles. The DOT hours of service rules do not allow a single driver to reasonably complete most of these runs exceeding the mile limitations mentioned above and as a result the team drivers are given the large majority of long distance runs. While running solo can be very lonely for some, others find the solitude enjoyable, and the adjustment to running with a partner, whether a significant other, spouse or stranger to be totally undesirable. The choice of running as a solo or as a team is one of personal preference, but will also determine the range of travel for many. If you want to travel the entire country and Canada, your best choice is to team with another person. However you must remember the adjustments you will have to make as stated in the first of these articles.

    There are literally hundreds of expedited carriers spread all over the United States, Canada and Mexico. Some use company owned or leased vehicles, some use owners and owner operators and some use a combination of any two or all three. The marketing philosophies of these companies are widely varied. Many of them specialize in specific types of industrial and commercial traffic, while others attempt to provide service to any and all. Some have specific equipment requirements costing significant sums of money. That same equipment that may produce additional revenue for the truck with one company can become a negative factor for securing loads with another. Owners who have been in business for a few years have a strong awareness of what has worked for them in the past and have developed specific strategies for their fleets. Some carriers specialize in local, some in regional and some in national service. Most carriers have a list of owners seeking drivers and can put you in contact with these owners.

    Selecting the carrier that best suits your requirements may be the difference in your success or failure in this sector of the trucking industry. Those seeking home time with any regularity at all would probably be best directed to a company specializing in local service. These carriers are scattered throughout the United States and Canada and normally have some percentage of their business involved with the air freight industry. There are hundreds of Air Freight Forwarders, some of which serve customers all across the nation and Canada, some having only one office and a majority of the rest having a limited number of offices in major cities. Their customers however require pickup and delivery service from virtually any and all small towns throughout the country.

    Most Air Freight Forwarders have a network of expedited delivery companies that handle their pickup and deliveries from airport cities where the forwarder does not maintain an office of their own. These expedited surface carriers are required to make pickups and deliveries to meet the demands of the forwarder for service to their customers. These are normally short haul runs that move freight in one direction only. Either from the shippers door to the airport or vice versa.

    The local expedited carriers then arrange with company drivers, owners and / or owner operators to handle the demands of the Air Freight Forwarders customers. Individuals interested in this kind of work will have certain advantages available to them. The first is that of home time. Only on occasion will you find yourself away from home for a night or two. Other customers served by the local carriers will be companies producing materials that require occasional rather than routine deliver to customers within and outside the immediate metropolitan area.

    Most of the cargo being handled by local expedited carriers will fit in non CDL trucks eliminating the need for fuel taxes and many will escape the scrutiny of the DOT by licensing trucks with less than 10,000 lbs GVWRS. Some local expedited carriers have company owned trucks, some use owners and owner operators. Some expedited carriers pay per one way mile, while others will pay a percentage of their charges to the owners and / or owner operators. Some company drivers are considered employees, and earn an hourly rate while others are, through vehicle ownership arrangement, considered independent contractors. There are advantages to each, and the potential drivers must sort their priorities in this decision.

    Regional expedited carriers normally have a marketing plan that keeps them within a specified territory which normally encompasses one or more states. Regional expedited carriers may or may not handle shipments outside their normal self imposed boundaries.

    These expedited carriers use all three kinds of drivers. Some have a network of customers that allow drivers to stay within the region and find loads from any one point to another. Other regional carriers with more limited resources will provide drivers with one way loads and leave it up to the drivers to either find a return load or deadhead back to the home base. Some regional carriers with the network can be very attractive and profitable for the solo driver. Others will leave drivers with either marginal profits or with the additional responsibility of finding return trip freight. Regional carriers will typically allow for greater amounts of time at home than national carriers........

    National expedited carriers will handle freight to any and all destinations within the US and some into Canada and Mexico as well. National Carriers normally have large customer bases that allow the drivers to move from one shipment to the next without the need to deadhead back to the base office location. Many expedited drivers will travel for months at a time without the need to return to the carrier’s base office. The national expedited carriers also use one or more of the options for drivers stated above. Most national expedited carriers expect their drivers to stay available for shipments for three or more weeks at a time. National carriers normally allow solo drivers to handle shipments of approximately 500 miles, more or less in order to conform to the DOT hours of service limitations. Many of these carriers will not dispatch a solo driver to handle shipments exceeding their mileage limitations for a solo driver, even when the time constraints of the shipment are such that the delivery could be made on time and legally with a solo driver. Obviously team drivers are more valuable to these carriers and are highly sought. National carriers vary in size from one or two trucks to well over one thousand trucks, and marketing plans, areas serviced and freight lanes are almost as varied as the number of expedited carriers.

    You will also find that some of the national carriers will have specific requirements for equipment in and on your truck. A few require that your truck is equipped with a lift gate and some will also want your truck to have a refrigerated box. This equipment can and will add tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of the truck. These additional costs must be warranted by the percentage of loads which pay a premium for these additional expenses or you will quickly see that the owner has invested in equipment without justifiable returns. Newbies entering the market who invest in this equipment and find incompatibility with the carrier will soon find out that the equipment requirements of one carrier can negatively affect the loads possibilities with others. For example, an insulated box necessary for a reefer unit will not allow side by side placement of 48” wide pallets, and most automotive companies will not allow a truck with a lift gate to handle their shipments. Be very careful if you decide to enter the market as an owner operator, as recruiters’ promises and actual earnings can and often vary greatly. I strongly advise against reefers and lift gates for the novice expediter.

    Decisions about which carrier is best for you will depend on a variety of factors. You and you alone will have to determine which carrier best fits your desires. Don’t take the recruiters word for gospel and remember that their job is to get you to work for their company, so take all information with a grain of salt and investigate on your own the incomes made by their drivers.

    In recent months I have spoken to several drivers who have researched the market, listened to the advice of the professionals and then somehow are swayed by ambitious recruiters, less than honest truck sales people and often by reports of those who have reported incomes of unrealistic proportions and have proclaimed the work involved as “easy to master”. They somehow hear only what they want, and believe that their superior work ethics, education or past business experience elevates them to a level above that of the average person entering the expedited market. These people generally buy used trucks at over inflated prices and then find that they cannot make or can barely make the payments on the truck. Advice from those with limited experience about equipment needs and claims of income that exceed those of the high level white collar professionals, are misleading. Those giving that kind of advice are considered irresponsible and dangerous, by the true professionals of the expedited industry.

    Once in the industry, some of these individuals are determined to succeed regardless of how lopsided the deck is stacked against them. Some make it a couple of years before they realize that the only money made is being spent on the truck and the charges from the expedited carrier.

    Oh yes! There are charges for operating the truck that must be paid to the carriers. Most carriers will deduct charges for insurance of varying kinds, Qualcomm equipment, service fees, and advances on your pay. You will have to pay the carrier various charges at your orientation. Most charge application processing fees, drug screen charges, installation of a Qualcomm system, require or entice you into applying their company identifications logos on your truck, and you will be required to escrow several hundred dollars to insure that if and when you leave, that you return the Qualcomm equipment, and cover other cost that you as an owner operator will be responsible for paying. Those various charges include but are not limited to various state permits, IFTA registration and sticker charges, and state fuel taxes. Make no mistake that the carriers will not pay these charges for you and will in fact bill you for any debits on your account if you should leave their company before a sufficient amount of escrow has been deducted from your earnings.

    I would suggest if you intend to ignore the vast majority of the professionals in this industry and decide to enter the market as an owner operator, that you spend a great deal of time interviewing the recruiters of several companies, taking notes on exactly what requirements and charges for which you will be responsible. Prior to signing on with any company, place your notes into an organized typed statement, and ask the recruiter to sign what they have told you. If they fail to sign the statement, ask them what needs to be changed in order to gain their signature. If they refuse to sign, walk away and talk to your second choice repeating the process. Again, remember that these individuals are trained to tell you what you want to hear in order to get you to sign on with their company. Not all recruiters operate in this manner, and some, while enthusiastic about their companies, will answer honestly if the question is posed properly. Also remember that statistics can be manipulated to show you whatever you wish to see.

    To recap the advice given in this article, a prospective driver should learn as much as possible about the company for which they plan to work. Are they local, regional or national? Do they run one way or will you be loaded from each delivery point or nearby area to the next delivery point? If you plan to solo, what is the maximum distance that your prospective company allows single drivers to handle? What expenses will you have as an owner operator? What expenses will you have as a driver? What amount of money is required for their escrow? What will be deducted from your escrow when you leave that company and which expenses will the escrow cover? What is the standard of pay for your particular size truck? How often are you paid? How are you paid? What weekly charges will be withheld from your settlement charges? How many different ways can you receive your income? What happens if your paperwork does not enter their system by the cutoff date for that week?

    There are many additional questions that you should know the answers to before deciding which carrier seems to be right for your needs. Once you have completed an entire check list for all carriers, you should call a recruiter from several carriers and conduct your interview or series of questions taking notes the entire time. After you have accumulated the information on each carrier, put the recruiters to the test and ask that person to sign what they have told you to expect from their company. Then investigate on your own by taking a few trips to the nearest truck stops to talk with their drivers.

    Few drivers will lead you astray. They know the companies sales pitch and the reality of the actual driving and incomes possible. Once again, one driver’s opinion should be compared to several drivers of each company. Combine the results of your interviews and find the average response. Some driver’s may overstate their earnings and others may not be quite as successful. Ask the drivers how long they stay in service, and factor those answers into your results for an average income. Do not rely on mileage pay alone, but combine the mileage pay, average miles, and deductions to obtain the average net income of the average driver for each company. Try to get an idea of how much deadhead is involved for their average driver. Do not take the word of one driver or the recruiter to estimate the earnings for you. Averages are obtained from the entire spectrum of the drivers, from the highest earning to the lowest. The amount of time you spend in collecting these figures will have a direct correlation to the accuracy of your findings.

    When you feel you have made a selection on which carrier appears to be your best fit, it is time to find an owner to work with or time to buy a truck. We hope that you heed the advice given here and choose to find a truck owner who is looking for a driver. The expense in trying out the industry then becomes a year or two of your time, rather than the same amount of time and a possible loss of everything that you have worked for your entire life. Think about risking your credit, and possibly your house to try a new profession that you may not enjoy at all. Now think about learning about the industry without the financial obligations of truck ownership. It’s a no brainer! If you decide you cannot handle the lifestyle as an owner operator, you will face serious financial penalties. Learning about the industry as a driver for an owner allows you the freedom to walk away with little if any expense.

    This article is property of Expediter World™ ©2005-2006
    OOIDA Member
    I'm an idealist. I don't know where I'm going, but I'm on my way.

  2. #2

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    Default Re: Choosing a Carrier

    Hey Harry I have a question about choosing a carrier I have been searching for a company and I came up with one that seems to be what I need, maybe you can feel me in on Landstar Express.

  3. #3

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    Default Re: Choosing a Carrier

    Be afraid...be very, very afraid...

    Loose
    NO OFFENSE INTENDED

    You want to make a difference?...leave cheap freight where it belongs...at the dock...

    There are two rules for ultimate success in life:
    1. Never tell anyone everything you know.

  4. #4

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    Default Re: Choosing a Carrier

    What is wrong with Landstar?

  5. #5

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    Default Re: Choosing a Carrier

    Quote Originally Posted by Rita View Post
    What is wrong with Landstar?
    If you know how to work their system, you might stand a chance...if you don't mind taking a chance on
    brokered freight that gets dispatched right out from under you, you might have a chance...if you like sitting
    for days on end waiting to get a load, you might have a chance...anything else you need to know?...I have
    an "in" with a former Landstar dispatcher, if you need more information, just drop me a PM...

    Loose
    NO OFFENSE INTENDED

    You want to make a difference?...leave cheap freight where it belongs...at the dock...

    There are two rules for ultimate success in life:
    1. Never tell anyone everything you know.

  6. #6

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    Default Re: Choosing a Carrier

    well thank you for that bit of info, do you recomend a company that is consider one of the better expediters companies.

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