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Driver Lifestyles

Emergency Funds

By Sandy Long
Posted Jan 2nd 2013 8:54AM

There is nothing worse for a truck driver or owner operator to have an emergency come up and not have any money back to cover whatever it is; and it could be anything.  “If it has wheels and an engine, it will break down and need repairs” is an old adage in trucking.  Storms come through and damage houses, people get sick or die at home, or a truck is hit by someone else and cannot operate are just a few other situations that come up that can put a person in the red in a heartbeat.

As a driver, I have always made it a practice to have enough money accessible to either rent a car or buy a plane ticket to get me home in case of emergency, or worse case scenario, my boss decides to fire me 1000 miles from home.  Of course, I have an emergency credit card, but still, that card will need be paid off while at home, expenses continue during the emergency or while finding a new job.

Working with new and prospective drivers, we run into folks all of the time that do not plan ahead or want to jump into buying a truck without thought to emergencies.  It is explained to them that they will need six months of home expense money plus enough money to have major repairs done to a truck before they buy one, approximately $10,000 in the bank.  For people who just want to be company drivers, we advise them to keep the six months of home expenses back plus money to get them home.  Many are just starting out, so will have to build those amounts up during the first months of driving.  This is good advice to a current owner operator too.

To figure out how much money to reserve, add up the cost of rent/mortgage, utilities, food, medicines, insurance spent per month for the family, add $100.00 and multiply by six.  This gives the company driver the amount needed to keep the family operating comfortably.  For owner operators, they should do the same, but add truck payments, interest, insurance and taxes for the truck then multiply by six to get their six month figure.

Figuring out what to have in an emergency account for repairs is somewhat different depending on many factors; type of truck, age of truck, type of engine and whether it is your own trailer or not.  New or newer trucks may have warrantees that cover usually the drive train and some components, however, things can happen where warrantee is denied or delayed.  Some types of engines are more expensive to work on.  If one pulls reefer or temperature-controlled freight, then reefer repairs need be figured in.  Trailers also add more expense for tires, brakes and lights.  Do not forget an APU if you run one and its maintenance repair costs.  Well-informed owner operators put aside a certain percentage of each load or check to cover short freight times, maintenance or repairs/downtime.  This percentage is usually between 10-20% from what some owner operators say.

There is nothing worse than being broken down or needing to get home quickly and not having the money for the repair bill, downtime costs or the fare home.  With proper planning, there is no reason for any driver not to have a stash of emergency funds put back for when Murphy comes to visit.

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