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Things You Need to Ask When Searching for a Carrier

By Jason McGlone
Posted Apr 2nd 2012 3:33PM

Being on a search for a carrier when you're an Owner/Operator isn't an ideal situation for anyone; you'd certainly rather be on the road without the worry of having to find someone new--or having to find your first carrier. At the same time, searching for a company to lease to is a hard truth in the expediting business--everyone has to do it. Unfortunately, there are often little surprises that can happen during your relationship with any carrier. These seem to happen most often when you don't ask questions of your recruiter, or, perhaps more accurately, don't ask the right questions.

We've prepared a reasonably exhaustive list of questions you should be asking to ensure you know (almost) everything you'll need to know during your search for a carrier.

  • What is the pay per mile for straight trucks? cargo vans? tractors?
  • What are your average miles per week for a solo driver?
  • What are your Passenger policies?
  • How often do I get paid?
  • Is there a Sign on Bonus? How much? When do bonuses get paid?
  • Do you have any awards for being with company for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc. years? How much is the bonus?
  • Does the company have picnics or get-togethers during the year?
  • Do you have a contract support person to help you with problems such as payroll, load not paid right miles, fuel surcharge?
  • Are there any potential problems with dispatch?
  • Do you pay layover? How much?
  • Detention pay? How long before you get paid detention, and how much?
  • Do you have trip pack? Who pays for trip pack, and how much?
  • Do you supply envelopes to mail in bill of lading, log papers, fuel receipts?
  • Do you supply supplies log books? If not, how much do log books cost?
  • What is the current fuel surcharge? Is the fuel surcharge paid with the load or later?
  • Do you have satellite communications (QualComm)? How much does it cost? Do you pay to install it? If not, how much does installation cost? What is the cost to remove satellite communications if we leave the company?
  • Do we need a Pager? Can we use a cell phone instead, if it has pager capabilities?
  • Who pays for tolls?
  • Who pays for the Base Plate?
  • Are there any decals that we need to purchase for individual states? Which states? How much do the decals cost?
  • Are there any permits we need to purchase?
  • Do we get paid for Canadian border crossing? How much for Cargo Vans/Straight Trucks/Tractor Trailers?
  • Do we get paid for having shipping blankets? How much?
  • Do you require an Escrow? If so, how much of an Escrow? Do we get the Escrow back when we leave the company? Is there a waiting period?
  • Is there forced dispatch?
  • How many dispatchers are there? Do the dispatchers work 7/365 day a year?
  • How long can we take off to be home before losing lease?
  • How many trucks does your fleet have?
  • Where is you main service area?
  • Do you have ComData Card? How much does loading the ComData card cost? Cost of unloading comdata card?
  • Can we direct deposit money into our bank account? When do we get paid?
  • What are the start up costs?
  • Drug screen/Dot Physical (if needed)?
  • How much do you pay for Dead head miles? How many miles do you have to drive before we get paid for dead head miles?
  • Do you pay for empty move miles? What does this pay per mile? Do you lose your empty move miles, when you turn down a load?
  • Straight Truck: How old can a Straight truck be? What sizes and pay per mile?
  • Cargo Van: How old can a Cargo Van be? What sizes and pay per mile?
  • Tractor: How old can a Tractor be? What sizes and pay per mile?
  • How many rows of E-Tracks ? How many E-Track bars? How many straps?

Many of these questions will likely be answered during the various stages of your doings with a recruiter--but if there are any details that you might consider to be make or break with respect to your relationship with a carrier, it's a good idea to note them ahead of time, just so you don't forget to ask the questions should they not come up during the interview process. Too, the list above isn't necessarily intended to have every question you should ask--it's simply the most common questions Owner/Operators should be asking when they're on a carrier search. Other small details, we understand, will vary from driver to driver.

Ultimately, your decision will come down to what you're looking for and what you want. This is precisely how it should be; if you're comfortable with one carrier over another even though they're both offering essentially the same things, it's generally better to go with your gut. At the same time, however, if you feel like there are any holes in the information you have, it's probably a good idea to go back and ask a few more questions before you sign.

What other questions do you ask recruiters when you're on a carrier search? What details about a carrier are make or break for you?

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8 Comments

  • - March 24, 2010
    Greg-=|=-This has a lot of good information for us that are thinking of doing this for a living.
    Keep up the good work!!!
  • - March 24, 2010
    Greg-=|=-This has a lot of good information for us that are thinking of doing this for a living.
    Keep up the good work!!!
  • - April 28, 2010
    Greg-=|=-another important question...ask if they routinely ship cargo van loads on straight trucks(they pay less)or cargo van loads on tractor trailers.
  • - April 28, 2010
    Greg-=|=-another important question...ask if they routinely ship cargo van loads on straight trucks(they pay less)or cargo van loads on tractor trailers.
  • - June 8, 2010
    Cyndi-=|=-Thank you for this list. I currently drive team and have learned alot. It's time for me to get my own van and go out solo. We have done alot of research on companies and van requirements and these questions have added to what I need to make sure to ask before I sign. It's nice to have it in a list. Your article has been very helpful.
  • - June 8, 2010
    Cyndi-=|=-Thank you for this list. I currently drive team and have learned alot. It's time for me to get my own van and go out solo. We have done alot of research on companies and van requirements and these questions have added to what I need to make sure to ask before I sign. It's nice to have it in a list. Your article has been very helpful.
  • - April 8, 2012
    Ken-=|=-I notice you did not address first in first out.This is very important when a carrier wants to avoid paying one truck a lower rate than another
  • - April 8, 2012
    Ken-=|=-I notice you did not address first in first out.This is very important when a carrier wants to avoid paying one truck a lower rate than another

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