Cover Story
Keeping your head above water

By Donna Ryun
OOIDA communications director


Why do you work? If you’re like most of us, you fall somewhere between “I love my job” and “I love to hate my job,” but the most practical answer to this question is so that you can make money to support yourself and your family.

Sure, you like the view from your window, whether it’s from your corner office or through the windshield of your truck, but let’s be honest – it really boils down to the money, doesn’t it? You have to eat and keep a roof over your head.

It’s not enough that it takes your blood, sweat and tears to earn it; you also have to figure out how to keep your money. That’s no easy task when you think about all the sleazebags out there with axes in hand, ready to chop down that tender little money tree you’ve worked so hard to cultivate.

If your goal is to earn and keep as much money as you can, you definitely need a plan. A good place to start is to track your costs of doing business. Once you know what it is costing you to run your operation, you’ll soon be able to figure out how to tweak those costs to benefit your bottom line.

Don’t worry; you don’t have to be a mathematical genius to figure your costs of operation. Just keep track of your fixed and variable expenses, along with the miles you run. You normally have this information anyway, so it’s just a matter of transferring it over to the cost-per-mile spreadsheet that OOIDA has provided for your convenience on our Web site at Click on “Trucking Tools” and scroll down to locate the OOIDA Cost Per Mile Spreadsheet.

There’s a lot of helpful information on the Web site, so be sure to read it all before you open the spreadsheet. If you don’t have a computer, that’s no problem. OOIDA members can call the Association’s Member Assistance Department toll-free at 800-444-5791, and staff will explain the necessary steps.


Information is power
Knowing how much you need to earn in order to meet your goals is essential when you’re making decisions about freight rates and which company(ies) will be the best fit for your trucking business.

A carrier or broker that recognizes your desire to maintain a profitable operation, and teams up with you to help you achieve your goals, can be difficult to find. However, good companies are out there if you know how to search for them.

Asking the right questions during an interview, checking the credit reports of brokers and thoroughly reviewing contracts and lease agreements are all essential elements to help ensure that your interests are protected.

The staff in OOIDA’s Member Assistance Department spends hours each day reviewing operating/lease agreements and looking for areas of noncompliance or one-sided terms that are not in the best interest of the trucker. They also review broker-carrier agreements to ensure they do not contain provisions that are harmful to our members.


Is the check really in the mail?
Once you’ve earned the money, it follows that you’d want to be paid. However, sometimes, collecting the check proves more difficult than it should be. Although they say that patience is a virtue, you can’t let that guide you when you’re waiting to be paid for the services you’ve provided. Remember, the company won’t work for free, and neither should you.

 Small-business owners who haul for brokers are encouraged to check credit ratings through reporting services such as RTS Credit ( or 800-506-7438). RTS offers a 30-day free trial period. Checking a broker’s credit rating before you haul a load for that broker is simply a good business practice, so don’t hesitate to do so.

Additional information and assistance can be found on OOIDA’s Web site ( under the “Swimming with Sharks” heading or in our Members Section under “The Check is in the Mail” feature, which lists brokers, carriers, freight forwarders and shippers complete with payment histories.

Knowing your rights is essential to getting paid according to the agreements you’ve made. Federal regulations require motor carriers to pay their leased owner-operators within 15 days after the submission of logbooks and load information. And, no, you don’t have to wait until the carrier has been paid to get your money.

Escrow funds are to be returned within 45 days of termination of a lease.

If you use brokers, and they fail to pay on a timely basis, you can file against their broker bond. You shouldn’t hesitate to begin this process once the payment date has been missed, because a $10,000 bond will quickly be exhausted if the broker is not meeting its financial obligations to not only you, but other freight haulers as well.

If you’ve been blindsided by a company that is reluctant to pay or that refuses to pay, you should know that OOIDA’s member assistance representatives are prepared to help Association members collect what is owed. Don’t hesitate to call for help. LL