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Fuel for Thought

The Rise of FO

By Greg Huggins
Posted May 30th 2017 11:12PM


Evolution is inevitable.

The rise of FO. Many see the rise of FO as a decline to their way of life, while others may view the rise of FO as a benefit or a necessary evil to our industry. Everyone, even the dreaded FO (according to some drivers), has it’s place. Whether you consider FO as a friend or foe, may depend on your past encounters with FO or just hearsay from fellow drivers. As with anything else, heed advice from those who might know, but do your homework and sort through the gossip and get down to the facts to make your own informed decisions about FO.

In it's infancy, expediting was primarily owner operator based. As the need for more expediters grew, carriers would add more and more owner operators. As owner operators grew, the logical next step for expansion was more trucks and drivers for them. And just like other segments of the trucking industry, Fleet Owners(FO) became a part of expediting too.

It was just a few short years ago that the Fleet Owners started to rise in numbers. Some speculate it may have been the economy that spawned the rise in fleet owners, and the rise in the size of the fleets of fleet owners. This may in fact be the best explanation for the increase. When the economy took a nose dive, and languished for a long time, it may have put many in a financial situation they could not sustain. For the owner operator, in a lengthy down economy, it can be difficult to maintain the level of service, maintenance and emergency funds needed to keep a one truck operation afloat. Higher costs to operate coupled with diminishing income and available loads, can lead many owner operators to lose all they have worked to build. Once their business is lost, it is that much more difficult to get started back again, if they even want to try it again.

New drivers looking to get into trucking during the down economy, may not have the funds, or may not want to put all they have into an uncertain venture, so they look for other avenues to enter this field of work with as little investment on their part as possible. This is where the fleet owner is able to fill the gap.

Rise of Fleet Owners

There has been a love/ hate relationship between fleet owner and drivers for as long as the two have coexisted.

Fleet owners have earned a bad reputation from drivers for various reasons, the most common being pay (or the lack thereof) related. Drivers have earned a bad reputation from fleet owners also for various reasons, the most common complaints from fleet owners about drivers seem to be misuse or abuse of equipment, poor time management and a lack of responsibility for their actions.

In my opinion, fleet owners that elevate their drivers who aspire to be owner operators are among the best fleet owners around. It can be a double edge sword though, if a fleet owner sees the potential of their drivers and helps them to become successful owner operators, will lose those drivers, but if they do not help them grow, they might just have mediocre drivers in their own fleet and the good fleet owners are not striving for mediocrity. However, as their great drivers move on the become owners, they will, in turn, have no problem promoting their previous fleet owner to prospective drivers.  

Owner operators are becoming fewer as fleet owners are increasing, both in the number of fleet owners and the number of trucks/drivers in each fleet owners business.

Will there still be owner operators in the near future? Or will every carrier just go to fleet owners?

As an owner operator, I do not see us going away. I can see our industry changing, but the need for owner operators and the need for fleet owners will be in demand for years to come. We each have a place in our industry and both serve specific purposes. For the most part, and there are certainly exceptions, owner operators take more pride in their work and their equipment than drivers who have no vested interest in their job, because owner operators generally do not even see it as a job, but as a business and a career. Carriers and shippers also recognize the difference as well.


See you down the road,











  • teamcaffee - June 1, 2017
    Greg this is a great discussion as we have watched fleet owners grow during our time as expediters and we are considering joining the ranks of the FO. The FO in your blog reminds me of the mega fleets and their drivers. The times are changing and the driver and especially a good driver is in short supply and if you get one it is best how to keep them or as you say help them move on. I know a few fleet owners that do not fit in with the style of the mega carriers or the fleet owners you speak of and not only do they have a good business they have good drivers with a win win situation. Another thing we have seen change over the years in the first time truck buyer not being able to afford the down payment for the truck or they want the castle instead of starting in an apartment and building up to the castle.
  • lmccord - June 1, 2017
    Greg, we see this trend as well and it is having a significant impact in our industry. Smart fleet owners can leverage their fleet size into buying power. They can negotiate better fuel discounts and more. That's good. We see it impacting our expo as well - we already have more FO's registered to attend than ever before, while that's awesome - 1 FO can represent 10 drivers in the aisle or in some cases 50 or even 500. Since drivers for fleet owners don't have buying power like an Owner Operator or an FO, an event like the expo is not as necessary. They generally don't make the decision where to fuel, trucks to buy or insurance to sign up with. So we are seeing our show grow into a Fleet Owner & Owner Operator event. Great blog - keep them coming!
  • Greg - June 2, 2017
    TeamCaffee, good FO's are definitely out here. And your point about starting in an apartment instead of a castle is spot on. Some drivers do not want to be owners and that's great if it works for them, but FO's need to recognize each driver individually as far as their abilities and goals instead of just using the "dime a dozen" driver model to keep their trucks filled.
  • Greg - June 3, 2017
    Lawrence, that's a great point about the number of attendees to the expo, a few can represent so many. I would like to see the O/O side to pick back up and be a stronger presence there. I think more individual owner ops can bring more to the table than just a few FO's deciding for everyone.

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