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Running Lights Blog

The future’s so bright, we gotta wear shades

If you’re old enough to know the song and video I’m referring to in the title, then you’re likely close to my age – give or take. And if you’re still trucking, you’re probably enjoying a nice career that you’ve made for yourself.

The question – one I hear routinely from long-time owner-ops – is whether or not you’re a dinosaur, a species on the verge of extinction.

Many industry veterans are frustrated, and understandably: more and more regulation (much of it, arguably, to the benefit of big fleets), high fuel costs (who’d have thought the current slide toward $3/gallon would be a blessing, since just 10 years ago it was still under $2 – but that was the beginning of the end, now that I look at the data), new equipment that’s incredibly expensive (and for a while there, less efficient and reliable – again, thanks Uncle EPA) and, most critically, stagnate rates.

I know plenty of owner-ops who’d planned to retire, or at least cut back on the miles, by buying a few extra trucks and letting others do the driving – but they lost those nest eggs in the recession. And they were much more than just frustrated with the business: Many became, gasp, company drivers again.

So a lot of folks have quit, and who can blame ‘em? Of course, more than a few have come back to trucking because, well, that’s what they do.
But the thing is, somebody is still going to have to move the freight – and there’s going to be more freight than ever. (See the graphic.)

Believe it or not, those of you who are still rolling, those of you who’ve managed to turn a profit – or at least keep the bills paid – have done a lot of things better than most, and there’s going to be more opportunity out there for owner-ops and small fleets who run smart.

My goal, as the new editor of American Trucker, isn’t to tell you how to handle your business – I’m not out there every day hauling freight. But I am looking at the world – at equipment, the economy, government policy, technology – from the perspective of small business truckers. I hope to pass along what’s important, but I’ll need you to keep me honest and to make sure I’m getting the information you need to make good business decisions. So keep in touch. Drop me a line anytime or, even better, if you see me wandering around a truck stop with a notebook and a camera, introduce yourself.

Of course, all this isn’t really any different than what my friend and colleague Sean Kilcarr has been doing here for several years, but running American Trucker was just one of his six or seven jobs. We decided American Trucker needs to have somebody focused on nothing else – because, contrary to what you might have heard, owner-ops aren’t going away.

The supply chain demands flexibility; lean and nimble gets the freight. Why not you?

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