• ITVI.USA
    12,471.780
    100.550
    0.8%
  • OTRI.USA
    16.130
    0.180
    1.1%
  • OTVI.USA
    12,460.730
    102.220
    0.8%
  • TLT.USA
    2.640
    -0.010
    -0.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    2.630
    0.110
    4.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    1.910
    0.050
    2.7%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.250
    -0.060
    -4.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    2.390
    0.130
    5.8%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    1.330
    0.070
    5.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    2.750
    0.020
    0.7%
  • WAIT.USA
    103.000
    -17.000
    -14.2%
  • ITVI.USA
    12,471.780
    100.550
    0.8%
  • OTRI.USA
    16.130
    0.180
    1.1%
  • OTVI.USA
    12,460.730
    102.220
    0.8%
  • TLT.USA
    2.640
    -0.010
    -0.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    2.630
    0.110
    4.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    1.910
    0.050
    2.7%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.250
    -0.060
    -4.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    2.390
    0.130
    5.8%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    1.330
    0.070
    5.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    2.750
    0.020
    0.7%
  • WAIT.USA
    103.000
    -17.000
    -14.2%
Driver issuesNewsTrucking

Amen on ‘Drilling Deep’: Independent owner-operators took $2,000 haircut last year

The average independent owner-operator’s net income dropped in 2019 from 2018, but it still did not fall to 2017 levels.

That’s the summary of last year’s personal finances for owner-operators, provided by Todd Amen, president of ATBS. The firm specializes in providing financial assistance and advice to owner-operators, including tax preparation. Through that tax work, Amen gets a close-up look at how drivers are performing.

Amen made his comments on “Drilling Deep,” a podcast that is part of the FreightCast family of podcasts from FreightWaves.

Amen said the average driver last year, based on what he’s seen so far, made $63,000 net. That is down from the $65,000 they made in the historically strong freight year of 2018 but still higher than the level of 2017. Amen said average net income that year was $60,000.

“It was not a terrible year,” Amen said of 2019 on “Drilling Deep.” “They gave up a big part of what they gained in 2018 but not all of it. You can say that the gain from 2017 to 2019 was cut in half.”

And speaking of halves, the two halves of 2019 differed significantly, Amen said. Average net income in the first half of the year was down about $600 from the prior year’s first half. But in the second half, Amen said, the drop was about $1,400.

Not all drivers are the same, and Amen said ATBS coached a lot of drivers going into 2019 that “it was going to be a more difficult year.” “Those that made some changes, they actually did just fine,” Amen said. “They had an OK year.”

Some of those changes played out in unexpected ways. For example, even though the rates were lower, there was less of a mad dash to drive as many miles as possible to make up the difference. In fact, Amen said, “we saw the lowest recorded miles in our 20 years in business.”

The drop in rates led a lot of drivers that were more carefully managing their business to accept loads “that they wouldn’t have done the year before, but realizing it might get [them] into a decent-paying lane with better freight.”

In 2018, “rates were so high we forgot about the cost side of the business,” Amen added. The whole focus was “how do I get the next load … the fastest?”

One of those changes Amen saw: slower speeds. Average miles per gallon improved from 2018, he said. “They paid attention to fuel economy and they got better miles per gallon.”

Drivers may ramp it up this year, however, Amen told the podcast. “I think 2020 is going to be a year when drivers will want to get out and run more,” he said. “And they’ll take some loads that maybe they weren’t going to do a year before.” They could be “choosy” last year but will soon face the reality “when their bank accounts are not what they want them to be, and they’ll probably run a few more miles this year.”

A huge factor in the market was the cost of insurance. Independent owner-operators were paying $3,000 to $5,000 for liability insurance back in 2016 or 2017, Amen said. “That cost went up easily to $12,000 last year,” he added.

“It was a huge hit and it actually knocked a few people out of the market,” Amen said. “They went back to running for a fleet because they couldn’t afford to handle that on their own. It has become a really big barrier to entry to doing business.”

The market is sending out other signals that driving on a lease is currently preferable. Leased miles today are paying about $1.50 per mile while the spot market is hovering near $1.35. Throwing in all the other costs, “it does not pay for me to do my own authority and run the open market,” Amen said. “I’m better off where the contracted freight is.”

The drop in rates last year and the increase in insurance costs did take a toll on capacity, Amen said. He put independent owner-operators at 10% of the entire trucking fleet, and independents who took themselves out of the business totaled 4,000 to 5,000 trucks, or about 3.5% of capacity.

But in 2018, when rates were strong, the market probably added about 10,000 trucks. “Overall, my guess is we didn’t completely remove what was added in 2018 but we are headed in that direction,” Amen said.

He still has optimism for the sector. “I believe that anybody that is smart enough, capable enough and willing to work hard can always make money as an owner-operator,” he told “Drilling Deep.”

Show More

John Kingston

John has an almost 40-year career covering commodities, most of the time at S&P Global Platts. He created the Dated Brent benchmark, now the world’s most important crude oil marker. He was Director of Oil, Director of News, the editor in chief of Platts Oilgram News and the “talking head” for Platts on numerous media outlets, including CNBC, Fox Business and Canada’s BNN. He covered metals before joining Platts and then spent a year running Platts’ metals business as well. He was awarded the International Association of Energy Economics Award for Excellence in Written Journalism in 2015. In 2010, he won two Corporate Achievement Awards from McGraw-Hill, an extremely rare accomplishment, one for steering coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and the other for the launch of a public affairs television show, Platts Energy Week.

9 Comments

  1. “He put independent owner-operators at 10% of the entire trucking fleet, and independents who took themselves out of the business totaled 4,000 to 5,000 trucks, or about 3.5% of capacity.”
    Numbers are not correct.
    Most people who “get out”, they just restructure, close one company to open a new one in their wife’s name (most commonly), so the bankruptcies are not real, but technical maneuvers.
    So the equation and numbers told in the article are mystical.

  2. They only netted $66k? That can’t be right. People are actually putting in all the extra work and stress to make what they would make (or less than in some cases) as a company driver?

  3. Misleading article. Any business owner wants to make a profit. While balancing what they pay in taxes. Purchasing certain items at certain times to lower income . Depreciation equipment purchases to lower taxable income. As a business owner you can also make certain investments to lower taxable income .
    It is so disingenuous to attempt to compare ownership and a company driver.

  4. WHO DO U THINK OFFERS THE BEST LEASE/PURCHASE PROGRAM.I WOULD LOOK AT PANTHER.🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

  5. Noble1 suggests SMART truck drivers should UNITE & collectively cut out the middlemen from picking truck driver pockets ! UNITE , CONQUER , & YOU'LL PROSPER ! IMHO says:

    Speaking of haircuts , ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST !

    Quote :

    Michael Dusi Trucking and Logistics is closing business, letter says 

    Dozens of employees left looking for new jobs

    –Michael Dusi Trucking and Michael Dusi Logistics, is shutting down operations immediately, according to a letter sent Friday by employees of the company.

    “We regret to inform you that Michael Dusi Trucking and Michael Dusi Logistics Warehouse, collectively known as MDL, will be shutting our doors effective immediately,” the letter says.

    The business was founded 20 years ago by Michael Dusi as an extension of the Dusi family’s 90-year history of winegrape growing in Paso Robles wine country. In 2018, control of the business was taken over by outside investors, Tattooed Dog Holdings And Headhaul Capital Partners, LLC.

    “Unfortunately, the investors who came in to save the company were not the business-savvy personas they projected to all of the loyal employees,” the letter says. The letter goes on to ask for help in finding employees new jobs, “If you have an opportunity available or know of opportunities, please help support us.”

    The company has provided local wineries and breweries with shipping and distribution services, including warehousing, direct-to-consumer fulfillment, wine club services, regional bulk, refrigerated, flatbed, and dry-van trucking. Many of the company’s trucks sported colorful designs and trucker-style flourishes.

    The news of the company closing has some local wineries scrambling. “If this is true it will affect dozens of winery operations in Paso Robles,” said one winery manager. “I’m scrambling to let my distributors know that we’ll need to make other accommodations for shipping our wine,” said another. “Gotta stop the trucks from coming down until we figure out an alternative.” Another winery operator said she was taken by surprise and was looking quickly for another wine storage facility.

    “We’re totally disheartened by this,” said winemaker Adam LaZarre. “We’ve been partners with the Dusi team for many many years and are going to be spending the weekend making room in our garage for what we can fit in for the time being. I feel for the loyal employees.”

    Joel Peterson, executive director of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, said, “This news is certainly surprising as I know dozens of local wineries use their services. We will continue to monitor this story.” He added, “I understand the warehouse is still open and operating and case goods are safe and secure. If people have additional questions they should reach out to the warehouse manager. There will be more information early next week.”

    Firestone Walker Brewing Company has used Dusi Trucking for years. “We are shocked by this news,” said Adam Firestone. “Dusi has been our long term partner reliably carrying our beers across the state and beyond. It is a loss to our whole community but most especially to the loyal and hard-working Dusi team.”

    On Friday afternoon, Dusi Trucking employees were still working in and around the company’s warehouse and truck yard at 3290 Combine St, Paso Robles. The company operates about 30 trucks and had as many as 68 employees at one point, according to Bloomberg.com.

    J Dusi Wines is carrying on the Dusi family tradition of making wine in Paso Robles, but separate from the trucking company. “We share the concerns created by the abrupt announcement today by Michael Dusi Trucking and Michael Dusi Logistics,” the winery said in a message to the Paso Robles Daily News. “As most of the community knows, Michael sold the companies in 2018 and the new owners continued operating under his name. We wish the best to the employees and customers impacted by this unexpected turn of events.”

    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

    Letter from Michael Dusi Logistics, 2:15 p.m., Friday:

    To Whom It May Concern:
    We regret to inform you that Michael Dusi Trucking and Michael Dusi Logistics Warehouse, collectively known as MDL, will be shutting our doors effective immediately.

    The saga of Michael Dusi Trucking and Warehouse companies is a long one and like all great sagas, whether good or bad, there must be an end. This one has been a very bad end. Many of the employees started with the company at the beginning or grew up seeing the big shiny Michael Dusi Trucks driving down the 101 or the 46 freeway.

    In the past year and a half, we’ve recruited new team members that uprooted their families to take an active role in transforming this company. Every one of us took immense pride in being part of a company that has been a part of the fabric of Paso Robles, the Central Coast, and the entire wine community.

    Unfortunately, the investors who came in to save the company were not the business-savvy personas they projected to all of the loyal employees. We were given the choice to ‘keep on trucking’ and pay our rent, mortgage, daycare, etc. to continue to live and work in this beautiful place, or leave.

    The employees that remained until today have poured their blood, sweat, and tears into trying to make this company work, and we were gaining significant momentum. As we were beginning to see the fruits of our long nights and lost weekends come to fruition, the investors and company leadership summarily departed to the East Coast without warning. Effectively, we have been left to close down the company with no guidance and no warning from our leadership team.

    We are very sorry this must end this way.
    You are our community, you are our neighbors, and you are our friends. Our kids go to school together, we hit the same bars on Saturday, and ask for forgiveness for it in the same places of worship on Sunday. The last thing we want to do is end our 20+ years of service with you with a bad taste in your mouth. You deserve better and we deserve better. We will be doing whatever we can to make this dissolution as painless as possible for you, our customers, our vendors, and our friends.

    We will start by asking a favor. When our investors and current leadership threw in the towel, they left highly qualified talent with deep industry experience holding nothing but sand. As the last remaining employees attempt to close down the doors our primary concern is for our team, our work family, and that they land on their feet.

    We will be providing a list of our staff, their skillsets, and their contact information to any customer who wants it to keep this community strong. If you have an opportunity available or know of opportunities, please help support us, your neighbors. We are still here, in this community trying to sort out our situation. We’ve set up a temporary email address where you can reach out with opportunities mdlogistics.talent@gmail.com. Former staff members will continue to distribute this information long after we receive our final paychecks.

    Next, we ask that you bear with us during this short wind down and dissolution. We know you have questions. For more than a few of you, the practices of this company have negatively impacted you. We have had our sleepless nights with these practices too. We will be functioning with an incredibly small skeleton staff moving forward. Today will be the last day for the majority of the under signers but we will do our best to limit the negative impact on our customers as much as possible.

    Finally, we want to apologize again for the abruptness and pain this will cause. We did our best to make this thing work for you and for us and we would have achieved it if not for the failure of our leadership.
    Thank you for your support and business over the years.”

    END QUOTE .

  6. Noble1 suggests SMART truck drivers should UNITE & collectively cut out the middlemen from picking truck driver pockets ! UNITE , CONQUER , & YOU'LL PROSPER ! IMHO says:

    Speaking of haircuts , ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST !

    Quote :
    Michael Dusi Trucking and Logistics is closing business, letter says Dozens of employees left looking for new jobs

    –Michael Dusi Trucking and Michael Dusi Logistics, is shutting down operations immediately, according to a letter sent Friday by employees of the company.

    “We regret to inform you that Michael Dusi Trucking and Michael Dusi Logistics Warehouse, collectively known as MDL, will be shutting our doors effective immediately,” the letter says.

    The business was founded 20 years ago by Michael Dusi as an extension of the Dusi family’s 90-year history of winegrape growing in Paso Robles wine country. In 2018, control of the business was taken over by outside investors, Tattooed Dog Holdings And Headhaul Capital Partners, LLC.

    “Unfortunately, the investors who came in to save the company were not the business-savvy personas they projected to all of the loyal employees,” the letter says. The letter goes on to ask for help in finding employees new jobs, “If you have an opportunity available or know of opportunities, please help support us.”

    The company has provided local wineries and breweries with shipping and distribution services, including warehousing, direct-to-consumer fulfillment, wine club services, regional bulk, refrigerated, flatbed, and dry-van trucking. Many of the company’s trucks sported colorful designs and trucker-style flourishes.

    The news of the company closing has some local wineries scrambling. “If this is true it will affect dozens of winery operations in Paso Robles,” said one winery manager. “I’m scrambling to let my distributors know that we’ll need to make other accommodations for shipping our wine,” said another. “Gotta stop the trucks from coming down until we figure out an alternative.” Another winery operator said she was taken by surprise and was looking quickly for another wine storage facility.

    “We’re totally disheartened by this,” said winemaker Adam LaZarre. “We’ve been partners with the Dusi team for many many years and are going to be spending the weekend making room in our garage for what we can fit in for the time being. I feel for the loyal employees.”

    Joel Peterson, executive director of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, said, “This news is certainly surprising as I know dozens of local wineries use their services. We will continue to monitor this story.” He added, “I understand the warehouse is still open and operating and case goods are safe and secure. If people have additional questions they should reach out to the warehouse manager. There will be more information early next week.”

    Firestone Walker Brewing Company has used Dusi Trucking for years. “We are shocked by this news,” said Adam Firestone. “Dusi has been our long term partner reliably carrying our beers across the state and beyond. It is a loss to our whole community but most especially to the loyal and hard-working Dusi team.”

    On Friday afternoon, Dusi Trucking employees were still working in and around the company’s warehouse and truck yard at 3290 Combine St, Paso Robles. The company operates about 30 trucks and had as many as 68 employees at one point, according to Bloomberg dot com .

    J Dusi Wines is carrying on the Dusi family tradition of making wine in Paso Robles, but separate from the trucking company. “We share the concerns created by the abrupt announcement today by Michael Dusi Trucking and Michael Dusi Logistics,” the winery said in a message to the Paso Robles Daily News. “As most of the community knows, Michael sold the companies in 2018 and the new owners continued operating under his name. We wish the best to the employees and customers impacted by this unexpected turn of events.”
    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

    Letter from Michael Dusi Logistics, 2:15 p.m., Friday:

    To Whom It May Concern:
    We regret to inform you that Michael Dusi Trucking and Michael Dusi Logistics Warehouse, collectively known as MDL, will be shutting our doors effective immediately.

    The saga of Michael Dusi Trucking and Warehouse companies is a long one and like all great sagas, whether good or bad, there must be an end. This one has been a very bad end. Many of the employees started with the company at the beginning or grew up seeing the big shiny Michael Dusi Trucks driving down the 101 or the 46 freeway.

    In the past year and a half, we’ve recruited new team members that uprooted their families to take an active role in transforming this company. Every one of us took immense pride in being part of a company that has been a part of the fabric of Paso Robles, the Central Coast, and the entire wine community.

    Unfortunately, the investors who came in to save the company were not the business-savvy personas they projected to all of the loyal employees. We were given the choice to ‘keep on trucking’ and pay our rent, mortgage, daycare, etc. to continue to live and work in this beautiful place, or leave.

    The employees that remained until today have poured their blood, sweat, and tears into trying to make this company work, and we were gaining significant momentum. As we were beginning to see the fruits of our long nights and lost weekends come to fruition, the investors and company leadership summarily departed to the East Coast without warning. Effectively, we have been left to close down the company with no guidance and no warning from our leadership team.

    We are very sorry this must end this way.

    You are our community, you are our neighbors, and you are our friends. Our kids go to school together, we hit the same bars on Saturday, and ask for forgiveness for it in the same places of worship on Sunday. The last thing we want to do is end our 20+ years of service with you with a bad taste in your mouth. You deserve better and we deserve better. We will be doing whatever we can to make this dissolution as painless as possible for you, our customers, our vendors, and our friends.

    We will start by asking a favor. When our investors and current leadership threw in the towel, they left highly qualified talent with deep industry experience holding nothing but sand. As the last remaining employees attempt to close down the doors our primary concern is for our team, our work family, and that they land on their feet.

    We will be providing a list of our staff, their skillsets, and their contact information to any customer who wants it to keep this community strong. If you have an opportunity available or know of opportunities, please help support us, your neighbors. We are still here, in this community trying to sort out our situation. We’ve set up a temporary email address where you can reach out with opportunities mdlogistics.talent@gmail.com. Former staff members will continue to distribute this information long after we receive our final paychecks.

    Next, we ask that you bear with us during this short wind down and dissolution. We know you have questions. For more than a few of you, the practices of this company have negatively impacted you. We have had our sleepless nights with these practices too. We will be functioning with an incredibly small skeleton staff moving forward. Today will be the last day for the majority of the under signers but we will do our best to limit the negative impact on our customers as much as possible.

    Finally, we want to apologize again for the abruptness and pain this will cause. We did our best to make this thing work for you and for us and we would have achieved it if not for the failure of our leadership.

    Thank you for your support and business over the years.”
    END QUOTE .

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