Driver Inc. was bad for me. But it isn’t going anywhere.

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We have a lot of very good people in this industry and its related trades.

I recently had the chance to catch up with one such person, whose thoughts and opinions I value, at an industry function. It’s always nice to have a chance to talk shop with Angela Splinter of Trucking HR Canada.

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(Image: iStock)

At our table, the discussion turned to, what else? Driver Inc. Angela asked what my thoughts are on the issue as a professional driver and former owner-operator.

I have gone out of my way to avoid the topic as much as possible, because what I have to say will not be received well in certain C-suite circles. Or maybe it will be received well. I don’t want to assume either way.

Nor should I leave it for you to assume what I think, either. So, I’ll attempt to clarify my position and why I feel it is a waste of time to continue trumpeting how bad this model is for our industry.

Let’s go back in time to our own beginnings in trucking. I think mine was fairly typical in the mid-to-late ’80s. I was a farm kid/country boy driving progressively larger equipment, and at 19 I got my first commercial licence.

I hadn’t really planned to make it a career, but I wanted a back-up plan. I promptly moved to the East Coast U.S. and that back-up plan became the A plan, which included an upgrade to C licence (before the CDL).

Like many other young drivers, once I had a taste of the lifestyle, I wanted to run my own truck. Guess how I did that? Yup! The Driver Inc. model…or a version thereof.

I moved back to Canada and trucking again became the B plan, until it was the A plan once more.  

Much to the consternation of my wife, it seems like I have always had at least two things on the go at any given time. So, while I adopted the Driver Inc. model to get the experience needed to get myself into my own truck, I was getting a good portion of my gross income from my farming gig.

Driver Inc. hurt in ways I didn’t see coming

I haven’t done Driver Inc. for many years, but I must like it right? Tap the brakes there! I don’t like it. It hurt me in many ways that I didn’t see coming.


From a tax standpoint, you need to be really disciplined in order to stay out of trouble. Even if you’re disciplined in putting money aside, you’re giving up on your retirement. Why? What is another benefit of being a legitimate owner-operator? Tax write-offs! One former boss told me that showing income is a good thing for two reasons: retirement, and when you need money to expand your business. Oops. Try thinking about that in your 20s.

Here’s another issue: What happens in a slowdown? Yep, you get cut.

What happens if you get injured? So sad, too bad. Sure, you can buy your own insurance, but cash in on that once and you’ll not be able to buy it again, based on my personal experience.

If you’re Driver Inc., it’s very tough to get ahead to the point of being able to become your own boss. The advantages are generally slanted in favor of the employer or general contractor.

So why do I wish the big players would be quiet about Driver Inc.? The politicians will never change the laws. Done right, Driver Inc. is legal. For a good reason. Who do you employ, mega carrier, when you don’t have enough power to manage all your loads? You hire a third-party, which very often uses the Driver Inc. model. I won’t name names, but many players trumpeting against Driver Inc. are using these companies. I even know of office staff who have been encouraged to adopt the Driver Inc. model.

It is hypocritical! I’m not talking about brand new startup companies, either. Well-established names are doing this.

I appreciate the associations and their work, but what percentage of drivers do they represent? Not the majority. Guess who cares about that? The politicians. There are up-and-coming groups who are getting increasingly more attention from politicians.

Let’s move on from Driver Inc.

So, please. It’s time to get off Driver Inc.

It is everywhere, in all facets of business. Your house cleaner may be a contractor. I know a lot of construction people who are as well. Taxis. Farmers. There’s no such thing as a level playing field.

So, if you feel threatened by smaller players eating your lunch, then do better. Stop hiring them as third parties to move your freight. Treat your drivers well, so you become a destination employer. Only deal with companies that match your standards. Stop taking loads just to move a truck, for little pay.

Beg the government to fix our roads. Implore them to close the loopholes for unsafe carriers. Reward your long-term drivers with the respect they’re due. They may tell you things you don’t like to hear, but there’s a reason for that.

There are so many issues in trucking that matter to those of us on the front lines, and Driver Inc. doesn’t even make it onto my list.

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David Henry is a longhaul driver, Bell Let's Talk representative and creator/cohost of the Crazy Canuck Truckin podcast. His passion is mental health and presenting a better image for trucking to the public.

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  • Well said when I have pushed to make it so drivers will want to work on payroll for the larger trucking companies I get a lot of push back. Driver Inc can be very good for drivers than can buy a used tractor in the $25 000 to 99 000 to do seasonal work in construction or agriculture. Have used this model with a non-profit group and two different religions that I have worked with for drivers that were in bad contracts to come to Canada often as foreign ( students) drivers to make their lives better

    For drivers that may leave their families in a lower rent country or who spouse has a good job or a extended family their. They can work 7 to 8 months in Canada and spread the income
    over 12 months for income tax purposes
    My big problem with driver Inc or lease ops is when they get sick or injured the cost of care and housing is the taxpayers expense or the non-profit groups. I also see this also happening to payroll truck drivers. I want to see the treatment of truck and Uber drivers improve.