The State of the American Owner Operator Job
Owner operators are a critical segment of the truck driving population. These drivers are living the American dream by independently running their own business as a trucker.
About Owner Operators
Owner operators are small business owners who own, maintain and drive their own commercial motor vehicles. In the last survey done in 2013, there were approximately 350,000 owner-operators in the United States. This has likely grown by 5-10% over the years.
Owner operator jobs can come in many forms, from dedicated runs through regularly contracted work with a company to leasing a truck and driving services for a motor carrier.
According to public data released by the OOIDA, average profit per year (net income, not gross) is about $40,000 after taxes, expenses and deductions. Owner operators make up about 7% of all US highway traffic, yet they pay in excess of 36% of all taxes and fees that make up the federal Highway Trust Fund.
Federal highway data shows that owner operators are the safest drivers on the road and they play an important role in helping small businesses across America thrive.
What Matters Most
The American Driver Network surveyed 258 owner operators in February 2017 to find out what’s on their mind when choosing a job and leaving a job.
Owner operators rank pay, company reputation, equipment, time at home, dispatcher relationship and company recognition as the top five priorities they consider when choosing a new job and when leaving a previous employer.
During the hiring process, owner operators care significantly more than company drivers about overall work load (15% more), opportunities for career advancement (14% more) and unloading/loading requirements (10% more).
When an owner operator chooses to partner with a company, they are looking for:
· top notch business support
· respect of owner’s unique needs in routing and pay
· honesty from company representatives
Why become a driver?
When asked why they became a driver, survey respondents shared an incredible variety of reasons with us. Overall, many drivers felt called to the open road because of a love of trucks from a young age or family involvement in the industry.
Many drivers point out that truck drivers have one of the most independent and supervisor-free jobs that also does not require constant interaction with many people or frequent requests for sales.
What do Owner Operators want?
Whether an owner operator works for a motor carrier or independently contracts with a business, they seem to want the same things: respectful treatment and great pay.
Straight from owner operator’s mouths, they want:
“Management to just say thanks”
“Keep me busy”
“Don’t make me sit for hours before I can unload”
“Pay me for what I do. Don’t cut corners, miles, or communication.”
“I don’t like when the company thinks they own me. I am independent for a reason.”
“Respect my judgment. I’m the one out there on the road.”
The Respect They Deserve
Owner operators just want the respect they deserve. Their job is not exactly easy. Yes, it comes with the freedom of the road but drivers sacrifice the typical American lifestyle to keep freight moving. The unique job of a driver requires complete commitment to deadlines, safety and good old fashioned perseverance. Small businesses and motor carriers that partner with owner operators have the responsibility to pay them well and treat them with respect.