Hot Topics
More owner-operators than thought

By Land Line staff

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

The data is from the Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey that is conducted every five years by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Commerce, said 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,” said Siebert

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

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

Siebert said the 1992 survey showed 153,000 owner-operators. The number increased to 187,000 in the 1997 survey.

“Back in 2001, we became convinced this was a low number and guessed it was caused by questions on the survey that might have caused owner-operators to be falsely counted as employee drivers,” said 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 have caused owner-operators to give answers that would automatically get them counted as company drivers included questions that referred to “your company” which might have led leased owner-operators to give answers referring to the carrier to which they were 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 generally considered small-fleet owners by the association.