Recognizing Owner-Operators as Valuable Team Members
When it comes to the trucking industry, the three primary types of drivers are company-employed drivers, owner-operators, and independent contractors. From the day-to-day perspective, there may not seem to be much difference because the key point for all drivers is to transport freight safely and on time. However, of the three, owner-operators are responsible for much more in comparison to the other drivers; and these responsibilities are key factors as to why owner-operators are such valued members in the industry.
Here, we’ll explore ways that companies can show owner-operator drivers what an important asset they are to the team and we’ll also explain the main differences between owner-operators and independent contractors.
The Differences Between Owner-Operators and Independent Contractors
Oftentimes, the terms “owner-operator” and “independent contractor” are confused, but they have different meanings. There are a few distinct differences that make owner-operators such valuable players in the trucking industry.
- Owner-Operator: Just as the term indicates, this individual owns their own equipment, which is used to generate income. They may be the sole driver for their company or may employ other drivers. The owner-operator is an independent contractor who runs their business on their own terms and retains 100% of the revenue from every haul. As such, they receive a 1099 from the companies they work with, and are responsible for filing their own taxes, as well as handling the maintenance and repairs of their equipment.
- Independent Contractor: In regards to a driver that is an independent contractor, he or she may or may not own their own truck. Quite often, they will lease necessary equipment from the company in which they are contracted with. Said contract stipulates a certain number of hauls during the life of the agreement, and in return, the carrier company receives a percentage of revenue generated from the hauls. Likewise, the carrier company agrees to cover a certain amount of truck repairs without affecting the independent contractor driver’s income.
While both types of drivers work as independent contractors, the owner-operator is not bound by contract to abide by certain company rules or even remain with a company if the professional relationship isn’t working out. On the other hand, should an independent contractor bail on an agreement, the driver may lose income and relinquish rights to their truck.
In addition to the independent contract driver options, let’s not forget the company-employed drivers, whose benefits are determined by the company and are automatically honored as part of the team. When it comes to the owner-operator, it’s important that these drivers are also recognized as team members.
Companies choosing to work with owner-operators are essentially entering into a business partnership, and — because these self-employed individuals are entrepreneurs — they undoubtedly understand the importance of timely deliveries and customer satisfaction. This business partnership decreases several expenses and risks for the carrier company because the owner-operator is responsible for their own insurance, truck maintenance, certifications, licenses, and so much more.
Showing Owner-Operators That They Are Appreciated and Valued
Let’s face it, the job of truck drivers in whatever capacity they’re working is a difficult one. Taking them on long trips away from loved ones for extended periods of time is tough, then there are the various hurdles that must be overcome at any given time, whether weather-related or otherwise – but each one of these drivers help keep America functioning.
National Truck Driver Appreciation Week is recognized annually in September, and although this recognition is nice, a few popular ways that people express their appreciation to drivers include:
- Simply saying “thank you” or writing a personal note.
- Buying them a meal.
- Giving a gift or gift card.
- Cleaning their truck or offering a free service.
Bottom line, a show of appreciation throughout the year goes a long way in keeping drivers loyal and motivated. This dedicated celebration during the second week of September is great, but routine acknowledgement can help quality drivers look past those daily frustrations and remain diligent because their carriers care about them.
Setting a Good Example
- Keep all drivers equally informed via social media or email. This outreach helps drivers feel more connected as a whole and offers the opportunity to engage in conversation.
- Encourage communication and feedback from owner-operator and employed drivers alike. After all, they are the “boots on the ground” when it comes to interacting with customers and the countless issues that can arise during a haul.
- Make it a two-way conversation, encouraging more than feedback and actually getting to know every driver your company works with. This personal relationship building goes a long way in improving loyalty and confidence in the drivers you partner with.