Bottom Line
It's Your Business
Arm yourself – with information

Donna Ryun
OOIDA Information Services

Every day I receive e-mails and letters from truckers who have questions about subjects ranging from how to join OOIDA to where to find trucking industry statistics. Just when I think I’ve covered every single trucking-related question imaginable, someone comes up with one I haven’t heard.

This is good, because I learn new things right along with you when I dig for the answers.

People who send these e-mails and letters will sometimes preface their inquiry with, “This might be a stupid question, but ...”

I know you’ve heard it before, but at the risk of sounding trite, I have to say it: There are no stupid questions.

In fact, I admire those who ask a lot of questions because I know that arming yourself with information is one of the best moves you’ll ever make in your trucking career – or any career for that matter.

Here’s a little more ammunition to add to your information armory.

Q: I’m planning to sign a lease with a carrier within the next couple of weeks, and I want to make sure I get a fair deal. Can you offer any advice?

A: Some time ago, I sat down with OOIDA’s special projects guru, Gary Green, and together, we brainstormed to come up with a list of questions to ask a potential lessee. While we were at it, we also made a list for employee drivers to use when considering a company.

You can find both lists on our Web site at ooida.com under the headline, “Swimming with Sharks.” Click on the links titled “Interviewing the Interviewer,” and you’ll discover how to turn the tables on recruiters when it’s you asking the questions instead of them just shoving a contract and a pen in front of you. It’s a great resource, so please check it out. If you don’t have a computer, call me and I’ll send you a copy. It’s a toll-free call to 1-800-444-5791.

Owner-operators who are looking for a lease will always benefit by having a copy of the federal leasing regulations handy. This document is your bill of rights, so be sure to compare any lease contract that you’re offered with the information that it contains, and do it before you sign your name.

You can find the leasing regulations on our Web site at ooida.com. Scroll down the left side and click on “Regulatory Documents.” Then scroll down to “DOT Leasing Regulations” to read or download the eight-page PDF file.

If you don’t have computer access, just call and I will send you a copy of the regs. If you need help with a review to make sure a lease is in compliance, you can always call on a representative in OOIDA’s Member Assistance Department.

Q: I want to charge my customers a fuel surcharge to help me survive during these times of high fuel prices. I know there must be some paperwork that I have to file with the government folks, but I can’t locate any forms. Can you help with this?

A: You don’t need government approval or a truckload of DOT forms in order to implement a fuel surcharge. Any owner-operator or motor carrier can do it, and with the price of diesel spiraling higher and higher, you should protect your business with a fuel surcharge now.

Begin by notifying your customers that you’ll be implementing a fuel surcharge based on the U.S. National Average Diesel Fuel Index. Be sure to express your appreciation for their understanding and support in sharing the burden of high fuel prices.

You will find a sample letter to use as a guide on our Web site, also under the “Swimming with Sharks” headline. You can also use the charts that we have posted in order to determine the amount of your fuel surcharge. That same sample letter and charted information was included in the June 2006 issue of Land Line in an article called “Better business.”

Keep in mind that even if you are leased to a carrier, you still can – and should – negotiate for a fuel surcharge. Make sure the terms are written into the lease so you will have written documentation if there is ever a dispute.

There’s always something new to learn, so don’t ever hesitate to ask questions. Arming yourself with information is the smart thing to do, whether you’re an owner-operator with your own authority, a leased owner-operator or a company driver. And, it doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned driver or a newbie, ask away and we’ll do our best to answer all of your questions.

Q: I’ll need a loan for some new equipment soon, and I want to make sure everything’s in order with my finances. I heard that I can get a credit report for free now, but I don’t know how to order it. Do you have any contact information?

A: You heard correctly. Now, in all 50 states, you can get one annual credit report free, and you are smart to take advantage of this. Truckers who want to get a copy of their credit report can do it three ways:

  • Order it on the Internet at annualcreditreport.com
  • Call 1-877-322-8228
  • Complete an Annual Credit Report Request Form available through the Federal Trade Commission and mail it to:

    Annual Credit Report 
    Request Service
    PO Box 105281
    Atlanta, GA 30348-5281

Be prepared to provide your name, address, Social Security number and date of birth, as well as some information that only you would know in order to verify your identity.

While you’re at it, you should also obtain a copy of your USIS/DAC report. When you make your request, just send a copy of your driver’s license and Social Security card to:

USIS Transportation Services 
Consumer Department
PO Box 33181
Tulsa, OK 74153

You can also order a copy of your USIS/DAC report online at the Web site, usis.com.

If you have questions about doing business, please e-mail them to donna_ryun@ooida.com or send them to PO Box 1000, Grain Valley, MO 64029. We can’t publish all of your questions in Land Line, but you will receive a response, even if your letter is not published.

March/April
Digital Edition