From there I gave him my response;
Hi Cliff; --- Good
or bad, here it is,
The first thing that you have going for you that my two friends and
I never had, is a backup trade. The burner service & petroleum Tec
is a great backup to have. We only had our commercial trucking licence
to work with. It was a way to put the bread on the table at the time.
It kept us between a rock and a hard place. Not having a trade for a
backup, we could not make enough money off the road to survive, or retrain
for something else. We were stuck with it.
I know what work you are doing now. I hauled de-icing fluid into Pearson,
as well as jet fuel, through TRIMAC. It was a company truck at the time,
and being in the union and at the bottom of the list, I was the one called
on to run these loads during the worst blizzards, weekends, and holidays.
The senior men usually did not want to do the dirty weather. I understand
and know the type of work that you are in now.
The Trimac work years later, became a great place for me as an O/O.
I had some great trips, and made a good living. As usual, things are
not all hearts and flowers in this life. It had its downside too. For
one, the day I turned 65, I was notified that my services would no longer
be required. It was company policy to terminate OLD DRIVERS, even owner/operator
contractors. Unfortunately, I fell under that policy. Hopefully you will
not have to have the experience of having the proverbial cattle prod
stuck up your butt. (In theory that is) Ouch! I parked the truck for
the winter and tried to sell it. Unfortunately, again it was the worst
time. Trucks were being repossessed as fast as they were being sold.
The fuel skyrocket out of sight and the companies did nothing to help
the broker to ease the pain. The rates stayed low and the broker had
to absorb the increase in price. (Again) When the surcharge on fuel was
brought in, most of the companies kept it and did not pass it on to the
O/O. You can probably look forward to it happening again in the near
Six months went by and there were no buyers for the truck. Trimac called
me back and wanted to know if I could come back for a time. It seems
that to their great discovery, the only ones that had the dangerous goods
experience, (Bad-bad chemicals, PCBs & explosives) either had grey
hair or no hair. In other words, they could not find any new recruits
to replace the old guys. I went back under the condition that I would
advertise my truck for sale with the job to a qualified driver. They
Ok’d it. I advertised across Canada and the US terminals, and after
5 months I finally sold to another company driver whose truck finally
gave up the ghost. He knew my reputation for service to my equipment,
and took it right away, rather than go for a new truck. It is still running
coast to coast, trouble free.
What I am trying to say here, is that the profitable days of trucking
are gone. The amount of time and expense necessary to stay in business
is phenomenal. The rates are nowhere near the cost of operating today.
The most popular solution for a transport company to keep costs down
to day is to hire Owner/Operators. The company sets the rates in their
favour. You in turn have to supply the equipment. Even a tractor only,
will cost, fully and properly equipped for the job (no chrome) well over
$100,000 CDN. Now for that kind of investment you should expect to come
up with a hefty profit. Not so, the company rates will not allow you
to make money. That is why they hire brokers. If it was still profitable
as in the old days, they would have their own fleet. They do not pay
pensions, medical plans, insurance, repairs or even payments. If they
do have a medical plan, the O/O's are usually paying the premiums. If
you have trouble getting enough miles to make your 2 to 4,000 dollar
a month payments, that is your loss. If things are slow, and the miles
are low, the payments never let up. In all the years I have trucked,
I have only known of a few truckers who were able to work up enough money
to pay cash for the next truck. In 2 cases, old dad supplied it.
Man, I think that this note is going to be the most negative, in the
trucking industry. Sorry about that. I hate to say it, but sometimes
the truth hurts.
I will try and answer this statement, ---
----- At the Sydney ferry terminal it is a bushel
of activity, trucks everywhere from all over. Some of the companies are
Armour, Cabano Kingsway, Midland Transport, Sunbury and Day and Ross
to name a few.
Most that I can see is that they are dropping a picking
another and back they go. Unless there is a specialty load. The drivers
I see and talk to are not to open about the industry and don't say much
about it, but there trucks are spotless and shinny. Some seem a little
bitter about it. -----
These company trucks that you see dropping trailers at the docks are
in transit to and from someplace different. Most of them end up running
the dreaded Eastern Seaboard. Most are there for the one switch. It is
cheaper for the companies to keep a number of drivers on the Rock side
to deliver and return loads to the docks, than to take the load directly
through. When I was on the PCBs, we could not let anyone use our trailers
or even touch them. We had to do it all from start to finish.
The attitude of the drivers you talked to were probably from their frustration
with a business that they can’t get out of. Yes the glory of the
polished big rig is magnetic. I still like them, but the practical side
of it, is that the O/O will not receive any support, cost wise, and will
be left hanging out on a limb to fend for himself.
I understand that the grass always looks greener on the other side of
the fence. In this case it is not so. Years ago when I first started,
all the drivers used to put in upwards of 100 hrs a week for peanuts.
The thing was that it was actually fun, killing ourselves. We did all
the things that most, but not all truckers, today will not do, like getting
dirty, and doing heavy physical work. Trucking was hard work, stressful
and exciting. Not today. It is 100% stress, coupled with unbelievable
I feel sorry for the drivers that wanted their own truck so bad that
they mortgaged their home for the down payment, only to lose it all,
and in some cases, their families too.
After years of restaurant eating and cramped up sleeping, your health
will start to take the skids. I know, because the 3 of us have our bodies
coming apart now, and at an ever increasing rate. They both have had
heart by-pass surgery, I was lucky; I did mostly heavy physical work,
and kept in pretty good shape all my life. All 3 of us are retired, and
no pensions other than the government. After 50 years each, none of us
made it rich, even with years as brokers. The only ones to make money
today on trucks are the Banks and Truck manufacturers.
Are you getting depressed yet?
Cliff, you have a great deal right now, whether you like it or not.
Let’s be realistic, and look around you, check out the offerings
of trucking companies towards their O/O, and see what they offer. Weigh
it against the cost. Remember, THE MAGIC WORD IN ANY BUSINESS IS ---
NET --- NOT GROSS. Some will tell you that you can GROSS $100,000 a year.
It sounds really impressive. What they do not tell you is that it could
cost you $105,000 a year to operate. It has become one hell of a rat
race, cutthroat business these days.
Look at it this way; you have the proverbial world by the ass right
now. You have two homes; two kids that you are close enough to keep under
your thumb. You get to travel down east. I assume the timing for the
trip is your own decision. Above all, you have the security of a job
when you get back. You are not spending your time off, repairing your
I would suggest that if you are really, really wanting to make this
change why not go and buy an old tractor and restore it as a hobby. In
time when you get it finished, get yourself a fifth wheeler trailer,
to run trips in. No commercial licensing, go anywhere, have your cake
and eat it too. That’s what some other drivers have done, and they
think it is great. It is the best way to bring a dream to reality.
Well I guess by now that you have figured out what I think of today’s
trucking business. In my opinion, it was all over about 10 to 15 years
ago. Check with other O/O and you will find that most all your waiting
time today will be at the Canada USA border. Hours and hours, this will
be charity time for you. Waiting at customers to unload will be a free
donation by you. Figure the number of hours involved in the job and then
calculate how many pennies per hour you are actually making. Then figure
it again after all the bills come due.
My only advice to you on the purchase of a tractor today would be in
my PERSONAL OPINION, --- STAY AWAY…… There are some places
out there that treat there O/O's properly as business partners, but I
have to admit that they are far and few between. Be very thorough in
researching any company that you consider signing on with.
I hope you do not think of this as a doomsday note, but it is what I
have seen and experienced myself. I am telling you like it is. --- Whether
you approve of it or not, the final decision will be yours.
PS; --- For me, the tanker or float trucking were the best divisions
for me to be in. They paid the most for my time, and most all of my time,
(border crossings, and waiting at customers for loading or unloading).
There really wasn't to much free time on my part. The type of work has
to be specialized to get any decent rates.
Well Cliff, I hope I haven’t shot down a dream for you, and speaking
of shooting, I also hope you don’t want to shoot me for this response.
(Ha-ha) --- Drop me a note and let me know how you made out. OK? In the
meantime, you and your family take care. Catch you later, hopefully a
friend, OLD BILL, (Diesel Gypsy).
There you go; this is my opinion on becoming an owner/operator in this
day and age. It certainly has changed in the last few years. Only you
can decide on what is best for you. THE DECISION IS ALL YOURS.
Whatever you choose to do; take care, and drive safe, ---
William (Diesel Gypsy) Weatherstone.