Road Forum
Transparency? Bull

By Bob Esler
OOIDA life member
Taylor, MI


I’ve read with interest in a few other industry publications how great the transparency is within the trucking industry. Bull. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Today, the small-business trucker has not a clue what a shipper actually pays to get a shipment moved. To be fair, I am speaking about those who work on a percentage of revenue, not by the mile. By the mile, you know what you are getting paid. The argument about how the miles are figured is a discussion for another day.

In most cases, after all the middlemen step on the load, the small-business trucker who actually does the work is usually getting only a pittance of what was originally paid.

When I bought my first truck in 1978, most carriers paid on percentage of revenue. We were told up-front what the load paid before we booked it. The industry norm in those days was 75 percent with your own trailer or 65 percent if you pulled a company trailer. It was standard industry practice and everyone knew the rules.

Today, the small-business trucker is unable to determine what figure that percentage is based on.

In the mid-1980s, I was having dinner with an owner of a well-known trucking company in Ontario. We were discussing a business deal and he made this statement, “Bobby, I make more money with this pen in my hand than I can ever do with all my trucks.” No truer words were ever spoken.

With all the third-party logistic companies, licensed brokers, non-licensed brokers and those that set up shop with a fax machine and a cell phone, transparency does not exist, nor do they want it to.

Let me cite some examples.

A well-known agent in California gets up early every morning and checks all the load boards for available loads in the area. Through his company, he will book those loads that he thinks he can move that day. 

He will then broker them out to another carrier. The owner-operator of the second carrier will then be moving a load that has been stepped on three times. Guess who is getting shortchanged?

I once visited an agent for an Ohio-based machinery carrier and watched a load get looted. It was a load that was going to California. The agent for the first carrier took $1,000 right off the top and offered it to a second carrier. Guess who got shortchanged?

There is a large carrier in Minnesota that will take loads from one carrier and then broker them out to another carrier. Guess who gets shortchanged?

A carrier in Michigan would charge $3 per mile for a legal machinery load. If the load went out West, a carrier out of Missouri would haul the load for $1.35/mile. Guess who got shortchanged?

Now, there are those who would argue these examples are just business doing business. Wrong. These are examples of just the opposite. Those with the pen make the money and those with the gloves get shortchanged.

I see all those glossy ads that tell the reader, “Come work for us, because we pay the best.” I wonder why they still have to advertise so much if that statement is true.

Look at all those who wanted the great American dream and lost it to those who operate like that carrier that used to be in Fort Scott, KS. The carrier said, “You can own a truck like this; all it takes is a dollar and desire.” That was on their mud flaps.

Until the trucking industry accepts the fact that transparency is needed to save itself, it will self-destruct. There will be no one left with the gloves – only those with the pens. LL

Editor’s note: Bob Esler is an OOIDA life member from Taylor, MI. He was elected to the Board of Directors in 1980 and in 1983 was appointed to the position of Association Secretary. Esler has accumulated more than 30 years experience in the industry as a driver and as an owner-operator. Bob fulfills many functions for OOIDA on a volunteer basis in addition to his regular duties as OOIDA secretary.