In today’s trucking market, hiring and retaining drivers is a constant battle. Many fleet owners are turning to owner-operators to cover their loads. There are many advantages of using owner-operators.
Knowing what to look for when hiring an owner-operator, and properly managing their work is different than company drivers. Here are some advantages of hiring and using owner-operators, as well as some disadvantages to consider at hiring time.
Most owner-operators are professional truck drivers who possess the traits you want your company drivers to develop. The many advantages of working with owner-operators can lead to a stronger fleet with an excellent reputation.
Most truck drivers start out as company drivers. They build their experience and save money to buy their truck. When a driver becomes independent, they are much more motivated to be out on the road.
The experience of an owner-operator will benefit your fleet. An owner-operator is often better organized, and more knowledgeable about routes, equipment, and driving safety. These characteristics and professionalism are an asset and help build your fleets reputation.
From a human resources perspective, hiring owner-operators means you won’t be providing primary benefits. Because you are hiring a contractor, you don’t have to provide insurance, 401(k), and other benefits that, while not mandatory, are certainly expected.
As contract drivers with their own equipment, owner-operators are responsible for the maintenance of their trucks. Truck payments and insurance are the obligations of the owner-operator. One item to be sure to outline in any contract with an owner-operator is who pays for fuel.
Trucking is a competitive business with thin margins of profit. When hiring owner operators, you can negotiate rates on a case by case basis. As you get familiar with each owner operator you hire, you may be able to dispatch them on loads that ultimately increase your margins.
From the value of experience to the reduced human resource costs, and no equipment or insurance expenses, there are significant advantages to using owner-operators.
There are downsides to hiring owner-operators. While “control” might not be the healthiest mindset for fleet managers and owners, when you do hire owner-operators, you give up a little control over the dispatch process. Owner-operators can choose to take or not take jobs as they see fit. This adds a level of uncertainty to your operations.
There’s also something to be said for having your employees making your deliveries. This is especially true for customer-centric shipments where you want your brand to be on full display. With owner-operators, you won’t have your logo on the side of the truck, just like won’t have your logo stitched into the driver’s shirt.
Having long-term loyalty is another benefit of full-time drivers, an aspect that’s hard to realize with owner-operators. If you pay your drivers well, provide training and advancement opportunity, and offer an attractive benefits package, drivers are often motivated to stay with you for years; even decades. This loyalty is a significant advantage to any trucking company.
Each trucking company has different needs. While owner-operators are right for one fleet, they may be wrong for another, while a third may benefit from using a combination of both company drivers and owner-operators.
One variable you need to consider is the consistency of work. If you have shipping needs that fluctuate from month to month, then using owner-operators would be beneficial, as you can hire them when needed and not concern yourself with layoffs and other issues when business slows. If your business is consistent as clockwork, contracting with owner-operators can be done on an as-needed basis, covering for drivers with illness or vacation time.
The advantages of using owner-operators out weight the disadvantages. If adding experienced drivers makes sense for your fleet, then look to an owner-operator.
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