posted on Jul, 6 2022 @ 11:39 AM
As most of you know, I have kept my finger on the pulse of trucking since leaving the industry. I left for the same reason so many others left: the
pay was not enough to justify the sacrifice.
Of course, I never drove as an Owner-Operator. I never saw the advantage in it. Sure, the money is a lot better, but the operating costs skyrocket as
well. A person driving as an Owner-Op has repair costs which are literally astronomical, maintenance costs, and registration/insurance costs that a
company driver doesn't have. Many Owner Ops I talked to were on the verge of hanging it up just over the rising costs. So I never bothered even
trying to buy my own truck.
One exception: after Hurricane Katrina, I actually had serious thoughts about buying a dump and spending some time helping out in New Orleans. But
then I heard about some of the conditions they were having to work in there, so I decided it wasn't worth it.
I do have a tenant (he doesn't pay rent, but he helps out around the place when he's in) who is an Owner Op. His Peterbilt is paid for and leased on
to a pretty decent company. He's pulling in some good cash driving, and they have him on a semi-dedicated route to boot. But then something happened
that made me sit up and take notice.
All trucks are required to have a DOT inspection every year, performed by a certified mechanic. In addition, most companies require DOT inspections as
well, sometimes more often, to ensure their leased-on trucks are not going to get a ticket if stopped. Recent changes in DOT regulations make
equipment violations not just a black mark against the driver/owner, but against the company they drive for. Too many violations and the DOT comes
down hard on the company... and remember, the DOT can shut a trucking company's doors with the stroke of a pen. So companies are scurrying to ensure
that none of their trucks have any equipment violations.
Also, the term "equipment violation" does not mean what most think it means. The average truck has thousands of feet of pneumatic line running
through it... the air runs the brakes, the air bags, and the suspension. One leak in those thousands of feet of pneumatic line is a major equipment
violation. If one light is burned out or missing, even if that light was not required in the first place, that is an equipment violation. Any engine
alert is an equipment violation, even if it has nothing to do with the operation of the truck. In short, every truck on the road has to be in 100%
perfect operating condition at all times, regardless of how old it is. Even tire tread has specific regulations.
So that has already made it hard on Owner Ops. Some spend quite a bit of time sitting making nothing while they pay mechanics high prices to correct
minor issues. That was always considered just part of the job... yeah, at any time, one might find themselves out of work for a few days while some
shop repairs their truck. Welcome to trucking!
Well, my friend had an air leak a while back. Not a big one but any air leak is a problem. So he started trying to find a shop to have it fixed.
That's a couple of hours work, usually in and out in the same day. Might make one load a little late, but not enough to be a problem. The problem was
that he couldn't find a shop to fix it! All the way along his route, right up the center of the USA, major roads, and not one truck stop was able to
get to it for a minimum of two weeks!
That's two weeks in a motel, paying for it, not working, receivers demanding the load on the truck, and the semi-regular loads going to someone else,
and then having to pay for the repairs. Now who can afford that? So he brings the truck home... being local to here, surely he can find someone to fix
a simple air leak, right?
We tried everyone within a 50-mile radius. There are more truck shops now than there were when I was driving, but for some strange reason every one of
them is backed up for at least two weeks. Finally we found one... one... who said they would at least look at the truck and see if they could
work it in, just past that 50-mile radius. So he took the truck there and when they checked it, the air leak was gone! We have no idea why, and we are
both concerned that it will simply come back, but it can't be fixed until it does.
OK, so he can now get his DOT inspection. He drives by a truck stop and there's a bushing in the steering that is worn out beyond specs. Not a big
job either... but their shop can't get him in for two weeks. The place he just left says they will have to order the part and that alone could take a
week. No other shops can fix his truck in a reasonable length of time, so he can't drive!
We finally found a shop close that had someone cancel and said they could let him have that slot. He's dropping the truck off today. They will have
to see if they have the part, order it from Peterbilt if not (which can take anywhere from 2 days to a week), and then take whatever time it takes to
actually do the repair. What choice does he have? He can't drive without a current DOT inspection, and that one minor thing means he can't pass a
I should also mention that this particular shop does not have a glowing reputation... which is likely why they were able to see him.
I keep hearing we have a driver shortage, but what I am seeing is that poorer quality on new trucks, more complex systems on new trucks to satisfy the
"green" people, and a serious lack of available shops is the real shortage.
Now, consider this: larger companies do not have this problem. Most of them have their own diesel shops in house to make repairs. However, it is hard
(bordering on impossible) to get approval to use a company shop unless one is either driving a company truck or still under lease to buy the truck
(which means it still belongs to the company). Owner-Ops are being left out in the cold here, forced out of business at the same time that we are told
there is this driver shortage. And I see no reasonable explanation... we do not have a sudden shortage of shops that closed up.
So what's going on?
I don't have all the information yet on why this is happening, but I will... and if anyone else has any insights I definitely want to hear them. It
looks to me like someone is trying to drive the independent driver out of business so the companies will have an oligarchy on the industry. And it's
quite likely that this ties in with the regular shortages we see, because everything comes to your neighborhood on a truck. Is all this, the
shortages, the faltering economy, all because someone behind the scenes is trying to gain an individual advantage for themselves at the cost of
Something's just not smelling right...