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Fuel for Thought

Small Loads = Small Pay? Nope.

By Greg Huggins
Posted Feb 26th 2018 3:30PM

New equipment is very costly nowadays. Fully equipped new tractors and van trailers can run upwards of $200K - $230K. Fully equipped new class 8 straight trucks can range from $175K - over $300K. How can you possibly justify these costs? Better yet, why do some people believe that a straight truck, admittedly with less capacity, should run for a lesser rate than a tractor trailer?

It is often assumed that the straight trucks, having less capacity, should run for less pay. If you just compare the equipment costs alone, this logic goes right out the window. Many times a fully equipped straight truck (custom sleeper, liftgate, pads, straps, load bars, pallet jack, etc.) will by far cost much more than a comparable tractor trailer (tractor, dry van, liftgate, pallet jack, pads, straps, etc.).

So why does the perception exist? Assumption?

While there are many tractor trailers on the road today doing essentially the same job as an expediter straight truck will, there is the difference that sets expediters apart from your usual dry van tractor trailer. Bumping a dock, as it is called, requires a driver to be skilled at driving, while expediters routinely provide additional services beyond getting the load to destination quickly and safely. Many expediters perform the loading and/or unloading of the freight with their own equipment, no dock needed. Utilizing their liftgate and pallet jack, even using hand trucks and 4 wheel dollies on occasion, to get the load exactly where it needs to go within the building at destination. More risk than dock to dock deserves more pay.

Justifying the cost of any new equipment can be an enormous undertaking, especially for new drivers entering the owner operator arena. Many long term owner operators have grown slowly to fit into new equipment. When just starting out, good used equipment is normally the way to go.

You have to crawl before you can walk. There is a lot of nice, shiny new equipment on the roads today and many of today’s new drivers looking to join the ranks of the owner operators on the road want to jump into the comfortable, shiny new truck right from the start. If you are just starting out, consider the overhead of new equipment costs for a fledgling business. Build slowly so as to not out spend your POTENTIAL income. Was your first car a brand new one?

Deciding to buy a new truck should be carefully considered. Does the cost of a new truck outweigh the maintenance of a used truck? Is dependability a factor or do you just want a shiny new truck? How long do you plan to keep it? If you buy used, what will the truck be worth when you decide to sell it?

Whether you are looking to buy a tractor trailer or a straight truck, a lot more goes into the decision than just which color. If you are looking to get a straight truck and haul expedited, specialized freight, know what your services are worth success will follow.


See you down the road,



  • terryandrene - February 27
    Greg, in keeping with your comments, I have often thought of the disparity in revenue compared to the vehicle cost of tractor vs straight truck. In expedite trucking, the straight truck must pay for the cargo box; however, the tractor O/O is nearly always provided a trailer by the larger expedite carriers. Therefore, a similarly configured class 8 straight truck generally will have a smaller profit margin for comparable revenue miles of a tractor.
  • Greg - March 1
    Good points Terry, comparably equipped tractors and straights will also have different operating costs which can even out those margins a bit, as long as the expeditor knows their worth and doesn't take less.

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