Anyone who has read my past articles knows- I am the quintessential job-hopper. During the ten years I wrote for Ten-Four Magazine, I went through about as many jobs. In my 30+ year career as a trucker, I went through over 100 jobs, not counting my own businesses. (I had attempted about a dozen or so business ideas- a few worked out OK, most didn’t.)
There are many different jobs that one could pursue like a businessman or a doctor. Some people choose to go to school for their nurse degrees and others go into construction, personally my life is in trucking. Well, I have mentioned more than once in my writings that I have had over one hundred jobs in my career. With all of the options out there a career choice can be hard to make, but when asked which out of the 100 jobs I’ve worked was the best? Well, it’s a hard question to answer in short, so I thought I’d give you the detailed answer.
First the short answer- When it comes to making money, I made the most when I was an owner operator. But, if I had to pick one company driver job, I couldn’t do it- they all have their ups and downs. But I will give you a few names that were at least good in some areas- Heartland Express, US Xpress, NFI.
Now the long answer- the whole truth. Once I bought my own truck, there was never to be any going back. There’s nothing like the feeling you get when you can choose your loads, choose your time off (when and where, as much as you want), and just the liberty of having a business that you are totally in control of.
Being able to set a pace I was comfortable with was something I struggled for years to find. That’s because I never liked the long miles and high miles lifestyle. Most drivers, and most owner operators too, think they have to run over 3000 miles a week to make money. But it’s just not true.
You’ll make more money by slowing down. The reason I got into heavy hauling was because it paid well. I could do one run in two days, and be done for the week.
I had three trucks over a ten-year period (one at a time). I never had the ambition to try and grow it into a company with umpteen trucks, I just wanted to have a decent income and enjoy life with my wife (she always used to go with me.)
By far, the best owner-operator outfit I ever leased on to was Sammons Trucking Co (STC) out of Missoula, MT (their Heavy-Haul division). Like all the others, they have their ups and downs too. But when they are up, they are way up! And when they’re down, you don’t mind because they pay so well when you do get a load.
Here’s an example of a typical month at Sammons:
You’re at home, and you check in to see what they have- nothing yet. You call a couple of agents in the area, and again, nothing yet. But they’ll call when they find something. (They give you a list of agents- two or three for each area.)
An hour or three (or a day) goes by, and, you get a load. It pays around $4 to $6 a mile, and it runs about 1000 miles. (I’ve had them pay less, and more, but a lot of them fall in this price range.)
After you do that run, you might wait another day or two or three for another load. But you don’t mind because your truck already grossed $5000 for the week and it’s only Tuesday. So if it takes until Friday to get a load, fine. And on those busy weeks, where you get two or three loads in, your truck is grossing $8000 to $10,000.
Of course, when it’s really slow, like it was for a couple of months in the winter of 2008, you might just want to pick some short runs. That way, you can just deadhead straight back home. I did it this way for several months and made out quite well:
I’d get a load for $4 a mile going 600 miles. Make $2400 gross and be back home in two days. Take a few more days off at home, then do another.
The great thing about Sammons is- they let you choose your loads. You will develop relationships with agents who get some good paying freight too. I had a favorite agent out of San Antonio who used to get me some $10 a mile freight, every month or two. When he called, I didn’t care where I was- I could be in South Carolina- But when he had a few loads I would shoot to Texas and knock them out- and in the process gross about $10,000 in five days.
If you don’t own a truck, now is a great time to buy one. Find about a six or seven year-old truck for $20,000 or 30,000 and put a couple thousand down. That’s the best way to buy in my opinion.
Sammons does have a lease-purchase program, but it is very limited- I recommend buying your own truck outright. If you have any questions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to answer them.
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