More owner-operators than thought?

| 12/10/2004

New data indicates there are more owner-operators doing business in the United States than previously estimated.

“The Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey is conducted every five years by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Commerce,” says John Siebert, project manager for the OOIDA Foundation.

“Using ratios discovered by our membership profile survey and this new data, we can estimate that owner-operators comprise about one-third of the total for-hire carrier fleet, which is estimated by the survey as 1.1 million large trucks.”

The results of this year’s survey indicate 545,000 owner-operator trucks. Siebert says OOIDA’s statistics show a 1.4 ratio of trucks to owner-operators.

“This gives us a total owner-operator population of 390,000,” he says.

Siebert says the 1992 survey showed 153,000 owner-operators, increasing in the 1997 survey to 187,000.

“Back in 2001, we became convinced this was a low number and guessed it was caused by questions on the survey that might cause owner-operators to be falsely counted as an employed driver,” says Siebert. “We asked to see these questions and made suggestions on how the survey might get more accurate results. After incorporating OOIDA’s suggestions, the new statistics show a huge jump in numbers. We think this is certainly the most accurate figure we’ve seen.”

Siebert said some of the questions that might cause owner-operators to give answers that would automatically get them counted as company drivers include questions that alluded to “your company” which might have led leased owner-operators to give answers referring to the carrier to which he/she was leased.

The survey asked participants to identify the type of operation their truck was involved in: private carriage; motor carrier; or owner-operator. The survey defined an owner-operator as an independent driver hauling other people’s goods.

OOIDA defines an owner-operator as a person who owns and operates his or her own truck. However, under the OOIDA definition, a person is still an owner-operator if he or she owns up to six trucks and still drives one of those vehicles. Those who own more than that are considered small-fleet owners by the association.