Truck News


The cost of jumping ship

Every year for the last 17, we've been honoured to select the Owner/ Operator of the Year. And every year for the last 17, these incredible individuals have shared with us key insights into what it ta...

Every year for the last 17, we’ve been honoured to select the Owner/ Operator of the Year. And every year for the last 17, these incredible individuals have shared with us key insights into what it takes to be a successful owner/ operator.

Driving truck is one of the toughest jobs in the country, and doing it as an owner/operator is harder still.

I remember a Statistics Canada survey finding that almost seven out of every 10 drivers felt their work and personal lives were very to somewhat stressful.

But owner/operators were far more likely than any other type of driver to report feeling stressed -and that was back in the time when the economy was still chugging along.

Many drivers try to escape stress at work by jumping from one employer to another, constantly in search of a fatter paycheque and better working conditions.

Back in the days when signing bonuses were being dangled in front of drivers like carrots before a horse, drivers didn’t even have to be unhappy with their employer to consider jumping ship.

But Howard Brouwer, our Owner/ Operator of the Year, advises against such moves.

He’s worked 17 years straight for one company and he has a perfectly logical reason why: “You talk to so many guys who work for two or three companies a year. It’s just a different coloured truck, you still have the same issues. You just have to work through those issues with management and let them know what is bothering you. One company may pay for border crossings and another for loading, another may pay for base plates but it’s just how it’s sliced, if you really look at the numbers. Really with the cost of changing jobs and learning a new company’s processes, it’s not worth the change.”

Brouwer, who believes firmly that you can’t be a successful owner/operator if you don’t know your costs, jokes that he has a calculator in hand so often his wife says it’s going to drive him crazy. I don’t know if he’s actually taken the time to work out the cost of regularly changing jobs, but a few years back the Truckload Carriers Association did.

They hired a research firm to calculate a realistic cost to the average driver who will change jobs eight times over a 30-year career. That’s close to working for a new outfit every four years, which I would say is fairly conservative.

The study was focused on US drivers but serves as a good example for Canadian drivers nonetheless. Assuming the average driver was earning 33 cents per mile after three years and averaging 9,028 miles per month, here’s the calculated losses that driver would suffer over 30 years of driving due to changing employers:

• Will be unemployed four months throughout their career for non-compensated time off which is associated with job changes. Reduction in earnings: $11, 014;

• Will have 21 months without medical coverage from a company. Cost of uncovered medical expenses: $3, 696;

• Will have 84 months of non-eligibility for pension participation. Potential pension losses due to non-eligibility: $115,000;

Total associated costs : $129,710.

Driver turnover hurts the entire industry but drivers may be bearing the largest part of it.

-Lou Smyrlis can be reached by phone at (416) 510-6881 or by e-mail at can also follow him on Twitter at

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