Bottom Line
Secret shopper strikes OOIDA
Truckers often tell the staff at OOIDA headquarters, "You should put yourself in my shoes." So once again, we did just that.

By Kerry Evans-Spillman
Land Line staff


The Secret Shopper struck last time (Land Line, February 2009) to find out how much trucking business could be taken care of in a single phone call to OOIDA.

Now the Secret Shopper returns to investigate what OOIDA membership means when it comes to a trucker’s bottom line.

This time, I thought about calling myself Helen Wheels and telling them I hauled refrigerated widgets, but knowing the folks here at OOIDA, they’d catch on quickly. Instead, I’m still Sally Evans, a trucker driving team with my husband, Bob Evans (not that Bob Evans). I have various issues to cover, and it needs to be done efficiently.

I don’t have a few extra hours for surfing the Internet and flipping through the phone book to find all the different businesses that offer the services I need. Even if I did have that much time, how am I going to know which providers I can trust?

Obtaining authority and running compliant
Making the transition from company driver to owner-operator probably feels like standing at the bottom of a paperwork Mount Everest and looking up. I need an MC number, a DOT number, a process agent, a drug and alcohol testing program, insurance and, depending on what state I’m in, additional requirements.

I’m going to let the Authority Department at OOIDA make it easy for me. After talking to a representative, I know what I need, I know what to expect, and I know what it will cost me (the cost varies depending on the state in which the operation is based).

It really is a one-stop shop for everything I need to obtain my authority and go into business for myself. (Bonus: If I attend an OOIDA Business Seminar, I’ll have an edge over my competitors when it comes to making smart decisions for my trucking operation.)

Once I’m an owner-operator with my own authority, I’m responsible for complying with DOT regulations regarding drug and alcohol testing. No need to dial another phone number. The authority rep simply connects me to OOIDA’s drug and alcohol consortium, CMCI, where another helpful representative answers all my questions, tells me the cost, and enrolls me in the program, while keeping all my personal information private. No employee outside of the CMCI Department can access my CMCI data.

OOIDA collects debts
A sad reality of the business is that truckers aren’t always paid the money they are owed. For example, if a shady broker owes me $1,800, the collections division of OOIDA’s Business Assistance Department will simply need paperwork pertaining to the load to begin the process of reclaiming the debt on my behalf.

The first thing they do is contact the broker to give him an opportunity to pay me. If that fails, they will file on the broker’s bond (if the commodity I hauled isn’t exempt) and go from there.

Here’s the best part: Any amount recovered by OOIDA comes to me. Most collection agencies are going to keep about 30 percent. With my membership, I get 100 percent of any amount they’re able to collect for me. In the hypothetical example, I more than recovered the $45 membership dues by getting to keep the entire $1,800.

OOIDA reviews lease/lease- purchase contracts
When considering a lease contract, I think a second opinion before I sign sounds like a good idea. I could ask my attorney, who charges by the hour, to look it over and advise me. The attorney is only going to tell me if I’m signing a legal contract, not whether the terms of the contract make good business sense for me. This is where I use my membership for access to reliable and trusted information, including lease/lease-purchase contract reviews.

An OOIDA Business Assistance representative will take a look at the contract I’m considering and give me the straight dope, at no additional charge. My membership can prevent me from entering what could be a designed-to-fail lease-purchase deal, saving me untold headaches resulting from the unsuccessful business agreement.

OOIDA means fleet purchasing power
Big fleets often get discounts that small-business truckers don’t. As an owner-operator I would face paying more for tires, fuel, APUs and other services because I don’t have the need to buy them in bulk. By joining OOIDA, I have suddenly leveled the purchasing-power playing field with the benefits that come with my membership. When I pay less for business needs, I boost my profit margin.

OOIDA finances equipment
Inevitably, a time will come when I have to upgrade my truck and equipment. I’ll be in good hands with the Equipment Finance Department at OOIDA. For one thing, they know trucking better than my bank. If my credit is good, they can help me get a super competitive rate. If my credit isn’t so hot, they have access to lenders who will work with me. I also like the fact that I’m dealing with only a few different people, so there’s always a familiar voice on the other end of the phone. Plus I have opportunities for discounts on my OOIDA insurance if I finance through OOIDA, and in many cases I can get rebates on trucks and grants for APUs. I don’t know of any bank that would offer me all of that.

If I have all the required documents handy, I could possibly start the processes for all of the above with a single phone call. Even if I have to call back later with additional information, I’m calling the same number for all of the services, which saves me a lot of time.

By taking advantage of all the benefits and services membership affords me, I’m turning $45 dues into thousands of dollars for my business. Having OOIDA as a trusted ally to help me with my trucking operation is great, but there’s more: My membership is a valuable contribution to the fight for my rights and the rights of all truckers. LL