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Driver Lifestyles

Is The Grass Greener? Changing Carriers

By Jeff Jensen, Editor
Posted Jan 22nd 2013 11:54PM

Reprinted from ExpediteNow.com

eo2006image_001.jpgThe following is a composite of posts from the EO Forums that we've seen over the years:

How do you know when it's time to change companies?  When I started with my present carrier, things were great.  I was running just about every day and the loads were pretty decent mileage runs.  That lasted a couple months, but for the last four weeks or so, my revenue has dropped by almost half. 

This is supposed to be prime time for expediting, but now when I'm offered a run, it's usually a short load that doesn't pay anything with lots of deadhead attached.  I have a couple of friends with this company and they seem to be doing alright with good long runs that pay well, but I'm getting nothing but junk.

I've talked to the dispatchers and the higher-ups about this, but they don't have any answers except that things will get better.  My question is:  How long should I give it before I jump ship and get with another company?  

There's the million dollar question that many of us have asked during our time with a carrier.  Even if we've been satisfied with the carrier we're leased to for 99% of the time, there are those occasions when business is slow or we've suffered a slight at the hands of the company or we're just not happy with the status quo.  That's when our thoughts turn to the greener pastures of another company and whether it's time to change our vocation's location.

First off, this is not a move that most owner-operators enter into lightly.  Tony Celender is the owner of Pitt Express in Pittsburgh, PA.  Tony has worked as a driver for a few companies before starting his own, and he says that making a carrier change is never easy.

"Leaving a company is not something you do haphazardly, you've got to weigh all of your options because it impacts your life dramatically.  There are a lot of extra costs involved so, it has to be a well-thought out decision." 

"It impacts your whole life, especially if you have a family.  It's like starting all over again.  It's more than just taking one company's name off your truck and putting another on it."

Tony says that his reasons for leaving varied, but he says that most often it's a lack of revenue and respect.

"I left my first company because I felt that they were not giving me the respect I felt I deserved.  They treated me as a beginner even though I had been there a while and had grown into the job.  The dispatchers kept me in a novice position and when I tried to set up meetings with these people, nothing came of it."

"I also left one carrier because of the stress imposed on me by the company - they always wanted more and there was never a word of encouragement or praise.  I guess I was with that carrier for a couple of years altogether. They created so much tension that it literally made me sick." 

Tony says that the job had been satisfactory up to the point when the management of the company changed and his revenue changed drastically.  "I began to get those runs with 100 miles deadhead to the pickup for a 70 mile run.  You don't like to refuse them because the run might put you in a better area, but you can't make any money with those.  I couldn't afford to take the time to adapt to the new management or have them adapt to me, so it was time to make a change."

Dave Corfman has experienced this issue from both the perspective of an independent contractor/driver and as a fleet owner. 

Regarding the change of carrier scenario, he says, "You never know if the grass is really greener, you might be trading a problem for a problem.  You've got to really research any kind of change of carriers."

"You can't assume that revenue will be consistent year to year.  An example of that is, we had a truck on with one carrier, and things were going well.  The company had a major automotive account and the runs were low deadhead and consistent.  But, the company lost that account and the revenue went south.  It was time for us to take the truck somewhere else."

When you've been with a carrier for a period of time and the revenue has not met either your expectations or what the carrier originally suggested you might enjoy, what's the next step?

It's imperative that you discuss your concerns with the carrier's management, and regardless of his/her title of contractor coordinator, contractor relations or driver relations, describe your method of doing business.  Hopefully, that individual will have either road or long-term expediting experience and can analyze the runs you've had. 

You may be doing everything right, but it could be as simple as you've got the wrong size vehicle for the company's freight, i.e., you have a cargo van and the company is hauling larger loads.  Or, the company has more of the longer-mileage loads and is better suited to teams as opposed to your solo operation.  Either of these scenarios is a real possibility if the carrier's recruiter was less than forthcoming when you were looking for a carrier.

When addressing the revenue issue, Dave Corfman suggests that in addtion to talking with the company representatives, also talk to the other contractors at your company to see if their revenues differ drastically from your own.  If they answer that they're doing well, it's time to ask some more questions about the kind of loads they're getting, where they're find the freight, etc.

So, you've met with the company and expressed your concerns.  They've assured you that your low revenue period is only temporary and "things will get better", how long do you give them before you say goodbye.

Tony Celender suggests that with a smaller company, the results, if any, should be more immediate if it's a matter of dispatchers or operations finding better freight for you.  With the larger carrier, nothing happens overnight and it might take some time for your issues to become known down the corporate food chain and for the wheels to be set in motion.  Tony says to give them 90 days.

When asked for a time period, Dave Corfman agrees with Tony: "I would give the carrier 90 days and take note of the areas that you visit.  If every location seems to be full of your carrier's trucks, then they have too many trucks for the freight.

For a different perspective, we go to Chet Merithew, a driver who has experienced the change of carriers scenario as well as changing truck owners.
 
"I left my first owner and carrier because I was driving a real piece of junk truck.  The manager told me that he would get me a new truck, but it kept getting pushed back.  When it was finally set to arrive, he told me that he was going to give it to a team, so that's when I decided to move on."

"I then ran as a single for an owner and I just about went broke.  I thought that I could survive on the small percentage he was paying, but I didn't realize that the miles wouldn't be there.  That lasted for three months."

He continues, "It was about that time that my previous owner offered me a new truck, so I figured I'd try it one more time.  I went back to his company and things were fine until I decided that I wanted my significant other, Brenda, to travel with me.  It turned out that the owner's insurance was quite insistent that she have two years experience, which of course she didn't have.  I had to leave for that reason."

It was then that Chet says he thought he and Brenda should try running an 18-wheeler together.  They signed with a major truckload carrier so she could obtain her CDL and Chet could take advantage of a refresher course.  He says that there was a misunderstanding about the compensation and it turned out that the couple would receive half of what they thought they were supposed to receive. 

Chet says, "Driving for any of those big trucking companies, they really stick it to the trainees.  At least in expediting, from the first day, you receive full pay."

Since that foray into truckload, Chet and Brenda have moved back into expediting where the couple seem to have found a happy home:  "We've got a great truck and a great owner.  Things are going well!"

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