What are you doing to out perform your competitors? You are an Owner-Operator and your are self-employed, even though you may be leased to a large carrier, every other truck out there is your competition. You may think I'm only one man with one truck how can I compete with the 5 million other trucks in North America? The answer is you don't compete with them, you compete with YOURSELF!
Take a look at yourself, your family, garage and especially your truck. Are they all perfect? Of course not, however they all should be a work in progress. The most important item in your life is your body and health, we all know that without health we have nothing and how are you going to improve the other aspects of your life if you can't physically do it. Walk more each day, eat more vegetables and fruit.
Brad Ekstam the owner of the FASS Fuel Systems told me he just lost 21 pounds by eating a large lunch and just vegetables for dinner. I'm doing that now and just lost 9 pounds. Get rid of those cigarettes and cut way back on the alcohol. Minor changes over a period of months will make a difference. Being self employed, your physical appearance does make a difference. A dress shirt with your company name and your personal name helps people to know you and sets you ahead of the next guy.
Even flight attends on an airplane will treat you better when you are wearing a company shirt. I know that one from experience. You can purchase these dress shirts at most department stores at the end of the season for $12.00 then have them embroidered.
In your home and garage, never set anything down unless it's in its proper place. Yes I realize your are tired after driving all week, so take a nap in your reclining chair after dinner for 20 minutes, then force yourself to get up an get something done. It's amazing what you can do in 30 minutes if every day or the days you are at home.
Garages collect so much stuff that before long your car, pick up truck and semi truck are parked outside. Get rid of the junk or organize it and get it off the floor. Use the broom or shop vac after every job you do in the shop. It only takes a few minutes to keep it organized and clean, however once it's all junked up it takes a weekend to clean.
Dispatchers, shippers and receivers, are they happy to see you? You have one main item to offer them, SERVICE, once the freight is on your trailer your goal it to get it to its destination safely, undamaged, and on time.
Before I got into the diesel engine business I spent 8 years in traffic and transportation and worked with company drivers and owner-operators and the owner-operators were my saviors, I could count on them to get the freight delivered without a problem. Dispatchers, shippers and receivers main goal it to get the freight delivered without a problem and it's your job it make that happen. The better you do it, the more freight they will give you. You really want these 3 people to smile when they see you walk through the door.
When I was traffic manager for Dravo Corp. on Neville Island, just south of Pittsburgh in the Ohio River an owner-operator by the name of Jeff Lang was my best carrier. He had 3 flat bed trailers and would spot 2 of them at our plant and we could load them at our leisure. We make grading at this plant and most of it went to Paco Corp. in Chicago and had to be trapped, most people did not want to haul it because it would tear the tarps. Jeff found a way around the tearing and had 2 to 3 loads per week to Chicago and pulled it with a B-Model Mack. His service was excellent and I never had a problem with him.
People that you come in contact with often, you really want them to be happy to see you. Back in the 1980's I used to spend a week an month at the Cummins Engine Plant in Columbus, In. and I made it my goal to be liked and learn from all of the engineers I would meet monthly there. It's not necessarily what you know, it's do you know who to call for the correct answers and do they like you!
When you see that a shipper, receiver, or a mechanic is having a bad day, ask them if you can help them, all it may take is a donut, may be a short walk down the street to get them a hamburger or sandwich. Little gestures will go a long way to improve your life. Little things like this will put you ahead of the competition.
Now next to your body the semi truck is very high on the list of importance, after-all this truck is what makes your money and you spend the majority of your life in this vehicle. Look at the truck every day and say to yourself, what can I do today to improve my truck? When was the last time it was greased, oil changed, cleaned and detailed, minor things repaired.
Never wait till something fails to do the maintenance, if your have need a new clutch, have the transmission taken apart and new bearings and seals installed. The driveshaft has to be removed to remove the transmission so take it to a drive shaft shop and have new universal joints, carrier bearing, and the shafts straightened and balanced. Driveshafts are only good for 500,000 miles and good drivers get more than that out of a clutch so do the driveshaft once its out.
Right now you're saying that is a lot of money to do all at the same time, however a semi truck wears out at about 7 to 8 cents per mile, so it you set aside 10 cents per mile into a maintenance account and only use that money to maintain the truck. Some owner-operators are doing that and they average between $18,000 to $28,000 in the account so when repairs are necessary the money is there.
Please don't forget the crankshaft damper and mercury filled engine balancer, they also need changed every 500,000 miles.
Many of the articles compiled here where written by Bruce Mallinson. Attribution to other contributors is given in the specific articles.