Fuel Surcharges Are Key to Profitable Owner Operator Operation

The life of each and every truck driver is unique. We are all born, raised, educated and live lifestyles that are ours alone. While we may share a lot of similarities with the lives of other drivers, those similarities are just touching points because our total life experience makes us our own person in every way. A question that comes occasionally to almost every driver at one time or another is, “Why am I at this company: how did I get here?”

The answer is both simple and complex at the same time. Simple in that most of us just open the doors of opportunity that are in our path. Our needs are met and given what we have experienced so far. The jobs we keep generally have more rewards than problems. But it’s also a complex matter in that eventually we all look from time to time at seemingly greener pastures that might allow for a little more money and more miles and better equipment. But the variety of those promises is endless making the search itself almost endless.

At Crete Carrier and Shaffer Trucking, the job of each and every employee from the top down is part of the challenge of keeping America’s freight in motion from grower or manufacturer, to the kitchen table, and the evening meal. The equipment used, the offices and shops that surround our enterprise, and the people who man those jobs are all dependant on the drivers to put everything in motion and make it a trucking company not just a collection of machines and desks.

Owner Operator Vincent Altobello from Valdosta, Georgia, comes from a trucking family but joined the Air Force right after High School and found himself released from the service after one war and recalled to duty during the next. In between duty deployments he had the opportunity to learn from his dad the skills required in truck driving and eventually joined Crete Carrier as an owner operator for a short time before he was recalled to duty after 9-11. What was supposed be a short term deployment turned out to last almost 8 years but the upside was that he was able to reach his retirement date from the Air National Guard. In civilian life again he called at Crete’s door and found that there was an old note in his file from a Vice President saying the Crete family definitely wanted him back when he was done with his service to his country. So Vincent rejoined Crete, at first with an older Freightliner but eventually upgrading to his life’s dream which was a late model, fully loaded Western Star powered by a 575hp Detroit. According to Altobello, what gets you to a company and what keeps you are two different things. “Here at Crete they have the large customer base needed to get me the miles I want. But miles don’t make money unless you have the fuel surcharge in place to make operating a truck a financial success. The system Crete uses makes my truck a profitable business for me. Not only is it fair and well designed, but more importantly I actually get it each and every time I get paid. Unlike some places the fuel surcharge at Crete is a fact, not a promise made by some recruiter but never delivered by some accountant. It’s an important reason of why I stay here.”

Mark Johnson, who hails from Opp, Alabama has been with Crete Carrier for almost 8 years and has similar feelings about the surcharge program. “A lot of the programs at Crete keep my operation profitable. I use the national tire account for my tires and fuel up at their recommended fuel stops to take advantage of the discounts they get. Add those discounts together with the fuel surcharge and I end up paying about dollar a gallon for fuel.” And again like Vincent Altobello noted, Johnson gets accurate accounting of his surcharge and says, “If it wasn’t for the surcharge I simply couldn’t make it out here.”

Johnson has been driving for almost 18 years and has, like many owner operators, tried a number of different types of freight including flatbeds. “I wanted to be an owner operator because I like being my own boss, it’s just part of my nature I guess. Not all companies treat you like a business partner the way they do here. As long as I get my pickups and deliveries done on time and keep the logs right, they pretty much let me run my business the way I want. While my truck and my business are certainly important to me, my family comes first. Changing jobs affects the whole family in my opinion and thankfully for us it is not something I ever think about any more. And that is partly due to the excellent fuel surcharge they have here: its something I don’t have to think about any more.”

Sometimes the benefits a company offers are not in any ad or recruiting brochures. Both drivers, Altobello and Johnson mentioned Deborah Maloy, the Director of Contractor Relations at Crete Carrier. Deborah has been with Crete an astounding 37 years and has the responsibility of solving all those owner operator problems that are not in any manual. Every one of us is unique and so are our challenges. Deborah’s job is to make sure that those problems are resolved timely by her company, not just adding to the owner’s woes. Both Vincent Altobello and Mark Johnson noted that Maloy has made their jobs a great deal easier from time to time and is always there to listen and help out in any way she can. “We like to think of Crete as being a home for our owner operators, but like their own homes they want somebody at the other end of the line who cares about their problems, and that’s me.”

Fair and honest fuel surcharges keeps the trucks running profitably for the owners, and people like Deborah Maloy keeps them running with as few worries as possible. It’s a winning combination.