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Decelerating and downsizing


I need to tell a short personal story, only for the purpose of setting up the main topic.

In June 2016, our small company sold our U.S. operation, retaining only my own tractor. I bought an RTAC B-Train, and have since worked only one truck only in Ontario. The biggest reason for this wasn’t the rate wars, or the increasing cost of doing business. The honest explanation was, we’re tired.

Tired of 80-hour-plus workweeks in a business where no matter how you twist reality, sensible growth at realistic revenue was near-impossible. Tired of the dysfunction that many employees brought to the mix, if you can even hire any to begin with. Tired of not being respected for a job we did well, just because we didn’t have several dozen trucks. And yes, tired of previously good customers jumping to budget carriers.

After selling, with only part-time work of our own, I was offered an occasional job not previously on my bucket list: driving a truck pulling a fuel tanker. Now that I’m older, and less resistant to change, I took it. No regrets, but several pleasant surprises. Unlike other sectors of our industry, training and testing is extremely thorough, with no shortcuts. Also, while being trained by the best fuel hauling professionals of our area, I’ve seen procedures followed explicitly, every load, no matter how busy the schedule, or how miserable the weather. Operating otherwise could be catastrophic. In my opinion, very few experienced freight haulers adhere to safety procedures so rigidly.

This proves that an older, incredibly stubborn driver, can try something new, and not only live to tell the tale, but enjoy it, something that most experienced drivers won’t do.

I’ve met countless owner-operators who stubbornly stayed with a job they hated, refusing to apply elsewhere because they felt all carriers are the same. I talked to a driver recently, now a company driver working where he’d been a long-time owner-operator, who told me “There’s no money in being an owner-operator.” When asked what other companies he’d approached, he answered: “Nobody. Why bother? They’re all the same.”

Our last pay system paid percentage, pulling a company flatbed (occasional van), with a guaranteed minimum pay of $1.80 per mile, home weekends, only tarping four or five times per month. Our freight loaded and unloaded quickly, nothing was over-dimensioned, time consuming, or just plain ugly. Applicants either ran screaming from the flatbed – even with the obviously higher revenue – or insisted on traveling in specific geographical areas, regardless of rates.

There was the ridiculous version of the job security argument. Admitting that we’re sometimes slower in July, and early January, parking everybody for Christmas, had some folks concerned about job security, yet not concerned enough to do the math. When your annual earnings are still higher, what’s the problem with spending another 20 days per year at home? The thought of the wheels not turning every day terrified some people. I’m a proponent of earning more, while working less.

Did I just describe you? What’s holding you back? Your duties include driving expensive, heavy equipment, hauling valuable freight, in the worst weather, sometimes in chokingly congested traffic, surrounded by idiots. How can trying something different for your own betterment look even slightly intimidating?

If someone as bull-headed as me can try something new, anybody can. Any change can be interesting, but if there’s financial gain, even better. Again, what’s stopping you?
One final note: This is my last regular Truck News column. Upon reflection, I think it would be disingenuous for a one-truck operator, only working part-time in the industry, to continue to represent the views of small fleets. There’s enough dishonesty in this industry; a game I don’t play and don’t intend to start. Okay, maybe not my last column ever. I’ll continue to chime in with submissions as new issues rear their head. Thanks for reading, and for all the feedback.

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Bill Cameron and his wife Nancy own and operate Parks Transportation. Bill can be reached at williamcameron.bc@gmail.com.


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