Here’s the conundrum that I and a friend of mine who also has a trucking company face. Either we stay small, a one or two truck operation, or we go all out and just buy as many trucks as we can, as fast as we can, and turn our little one-horse outfits into mini-mega carriers.
At least that seems to be one of the most frequent topics of conversation between us lately.
My friend has been buying trucks at a brisk pace. And she’s doing pretty well. She seems to be able to keep her trucks moving most of the time and seems pretty motivated to continue expanding her business. But she’s got growing pains that go along with the increased activity those trucks are generating, and one of the biggest pains is finding good employees.
Not to dis employees, having been one for the majority of my adult life myself, but the truth is that it is very, very difficult to find people who really want to do a good job at work. It’s even harder to find folks with squeaky clean driving records, and harder still to find those qualities combined with a squeaky clean background. Throw in trying to find all of the above that doesn’t come with drinking or drugging issues, and maybe, just maybe, you will have a good candidate as an employee.
And even with normally good employees, there’s no guarantee that any particular employee can go a little berserk without warning and can do massive damage to a carrier’s safety score in the process. It can happen to the best of us. One accident, one speeding ticket, one missed mechanical issue on a pre-trip that results in that driver being placed out of service, any one of these can wreak havoc with a carrier’s SAFER scores.
Now, my friend has already gone through about five drivers this year, give or take one or two. Some of them just didn’t want to work and fizzled out on her after the first paycheck was in their hand. One hid the fact that he had substance abuse issues. One trashed her safety score by getting put out of service a few times (yes, a few) and not reporting tickets he’d received to the company. Another driver trashed equipment and didn’t bother with those pesky maintenance issues at all….
The drivers she has now, thankfully, are good drivers she can rely on. But she didn’t get a crop of good employees overnight, she went through plenty of pain getting to where she is now.
Which brings me back to my original question… to grow or not to grow.
I can see the advantages of expanding. Obviously there would be increased revenue… … … Ok, well, that’s the single advantage of expanding.
There are plenty of drawbacks. Higher equipment costs, higher repair costs, higher taxes, tags for all of those trucks, insurance, well, just higher everything costs. And with expansion comes dealing with employee payroll, taxes, and well, just dealing with employees. My friend has the temperament to deal with her employees. Me, not so much.
I’ve had employees. I’ve had well paid, nicely treated employees who wanted nothing more than to rake in a nice paycheck for doing as little work as humanly possible. And I’ve had employees who had sticky fingers. I’ve had one really good employee, but he was a little nutty too and it took a lot of time and effort to keep him roped in and focused on the job. So what’s a small trucking business owner to do?
I suppose in my case, the answer is to stay small. I won’t ever get rich running one little truck, but then again, that’s not my goal. I just want to have a decent living doing something I enjoy, and for now that seems to be exactly what I’m doing.
For the time being, at least, I’m just going to keep my focus on doing what I can myself. Sure, I have to turn down loads from time to time since I’m incapable of being in two places at one time, but then again, maybe that is a good thing. It sure beats not having loads booked at all!