Trucker keeps wheels turning despite increasing operating costs

| 3/20/2008

OOIDA member Ted Gennick of Marietta, GA, just wants to make a decent living doing what he loves – trucking.

But as diesel prices continue to climb higher and freight rates continue to drop daily, Gennick told Land Line on Wednesday, March 19, he’s worried about how much longer he’s going to be able to stay in business – and show a little profit for his efforts.

“Our cash flow right now isn’t bad. We’re fine, but I’m very, very nervous because I’m seeing these cheap loads being taken,” he said.

Gennick recently did a ride-along with a CNN news crew earlier this week to talk about the trucking industry and high diesel fuel prices. He said the experience was both interesting and challenging at the same time. Besides having spotlights turned on him because it was filmed when it was still dark outside, the camera crew also had technical difficulties with their live feed during the ride-along.

“I got a little bit nervous, which I could not believe because I don’t ever have problems talking with people and I know the industry, pretty much inside and out,” he said. “I was trying to keep up with everything. The producer was in the back with the technician guy talking on their cell phones about different cameras and microphones and stuff, and one guy was on the phone talking to the host at CNN.

The problems truckers are facing are serious, according to Gennick. He did well financially in 2007, but he said he could be out of business by the end of 2008 if things don’t change in the trucking industry.

“I don’t want to run for free; I’m just not going to,” he said. “I’m not going to run for my truck payment. I need to make money, and I’m trying to find out how to do it.”

One of the ways Gennick said he is trying to run his business a little smarter is by running a lot of smaller loads with fewer miles. He is also trying to stay in good freight markets and deadhead as little as possible while the fuel prices are so high.

“It’s a lot more work for me, finding new addresses, dealing with companies I’ve never dealt with before and trying to convince them I deserve a small premium. And they don’t even know me,” he said.

He said his bottom line to cover all of his operating costs is $1.42, but Gennick said he needs to draw a paycheck, in addition to paying for all of his business expenses. 
“It’s frustrating and everyone’s facing the same situation,” Gennick said. “There are certain things you can control in this industry and certain things that you can’t control. I can’t control fuel prices and I can’t control the freight market in a weak economy, but I can say this is what I need and this is what I can do to save money.”

Right now, he said, brokered loads are being offered at such a cheap price he doesn’t understand how some truckers who take those loads are able to stay in business.

“We had three loads we were negotiating on and in the middle of negotiations, they’re like, ‘It’s covered – someone took it,’ right when we’re trying to get higher prices. Why would someone take the load if they can’t make any money on it?” he asked.

Government legislation is going to be the only way for brokers to change how they do business practices, according to Gennick.

“In the freight brokerage business, there is room for government legislation, as much as I hate to say that because I don’t think the government does anything well,” he said. “There needs to be transparency – there really does. And they need to have bonds to where if they go out of business because of their poor management, we’re not affected. We can’t afford to eat a load when we’ve already paid for the fuel.”

Recently, Gennick hauled a military load. On the bill of lading, he said it showed exactly how much the military was paying for the load and also how much the broker made on that load. After fuel costs, Gennick said he and the broker made the same amount, even though he’s the one with the wear and tear on his truck and his driving time.

“They made the same dollar amount that I made after I took fuel out of it,” he said. “Something inside of me snaps a little when I see that, which is why I want transparency. I almost don’t see how some of these brokers live with themselves. They don’t care about anyone else, and they don’t care if they are fair or ethical. It’s all about the dollars. That’s not how I want to live my life. I want a fair return on my investment and my effort.”

Gennick said he has talked to other drivers who are frustrated, are desperate and want to take action to curb high diesel prices now.

“They are on the verge of parking their trucks. They want a strike,” he said. “I just don’t see it logistically working because the big companies are not going to let their trucks sit.”

However, Gennick said he’s not opposed to an idea some truck drivers are proposing – a “freight slowdown.”

“I think that’s probably the best concept I’ve heard of so far where you take an extra day on all of your loads and deliver everything late, and it kind of creates some havoc,” he said. “But on the other hand, I’ve never been late unless it’s weather or they’ve closed the interstates or something like that. I pride myself on doing what I say I will do.”

Ironically, Gennick is currently delivering a brokered load of railroad switches for the railroad, but is still looking for a backhaul home.

“It’s challenging right now to find people that will pay a rate that justifies doing the work,” he said.

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer