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Logbook Q & A
How many miles is it?
Sometimes, the difference in routes costs a driver hundreds of dollars in "uncounted" miles

Question: Could OOIDA make an issue of the fact that when a truckdriver is paid by the mile, he is cheated because the motor carrier pays according to routes a truck is not able to use? Sometimes, the difference in routes costs a driver hundreds of dollars in "uncounted" miles. I think they should have to pay actual miles. If they can put the entire encyclopedia on a chip the size of a pinhead, they surely can be more accurate with the mileage.

Answer: OOIDA has been making an issue of this injustice for many years now. The association feels that owner-operators and professional drivers should be paid for the miles they actually drive. "Not paying drivers accurately for the miles they drive is totally unacceptable," says OOIDA's Todd Spencer. "It's like a factory hiring a worker and saying they pay $14 an hour, but then telling the worker that hours in their factory are 68 minutes long."

Motor carriers are the only ones who have any direct control over how miles are calculated for pay purposes. It is not regulated by the DOT, or any other government agency. Before the demise of the ICC in 1995, when carriers were required to submit rates for publication, the Household Movers Guide was the only legal way to determine mileage for rating purposes. Most carriers simply paid drivers using the same method. Today, carriers are no longer required to publish rates and carriers and shippers may use any mutually agreeable method for calculating miles for rating purposes. Calculating miles for paying owner-operators and drivers is (or should be) a separate issue.

Each individual carrier decides which of the available commercial mileage guides to use when paying owner-operators or drivers by the mile, and which routing option to select. Many carriers pay on "shortest" routes. These routes tend to include city streets and back roads, and are not something a reasonable human being would choose, regardless of whether he or she was hauling freight or taking the kids to grandma's. Some carriers pay on "shortest practical" miles, which may include more highway miles, but still often require more driving time than most truckers deem reasonable.

For safety reasons and to make the best use of their time, professional truckers choose the easiest, fastest routes to reach their destinations. In mileage guide terminology, this usually translates into "practical" or "most practical" routes.

The best defense against finding yourself donating miles to a carrier is a good offense. Before signing a lease or agreeing to drive for a carrier, ask how miles are calculated. If you are uncertain about the mileage guide or method the carrier names, ask for a printout of a sample route - one that you know well. Compare what you know to be the true miles with the sample the carrier provides. If there is an unacceptable discrepancy, you may be able to negotiate a better deal. (If your negotiations are successful, be sure you get it in writing.) Otherwise, you may want to shop around for a carrier who pays based on real-world mileage.