What to Love (or not) About Small Fleets

A driver shared his thoughts with us:

“I worked for several small fleets – and 1 large – always as a company driver and mostly long haul. I never aspired to own a trucking company or even become an owner/operator. Nothing against either, just never wanted all the additional work and expense required to run that kind of business. And getting to travel and see the world was definitely a bonus that never got old.

“I found that generally the smaller the fleet, the friendlier the interactions with the owners and other personnel. The more of an interest they took in me as a person. I was assigned to a single truck and became the only one to drive that vehicle. Made it nice because I could pack what I wanted and leave it in the truck during home time.



Unusual Freedom

“Even dispatchers at small fleets seem to be friendly, going so far as to allow me to choose my own routes for even long trips. Periodically, the small fleets permitted a passenger and my dog to travel along, a welcome change on a long trip. Small fleets didn’t micro manage; drivers were trusted employees. Individuals were not reduced to just numbers in the workforce following a handbook of rules.

“With small outfits, drivers are generally their own boss on long trips, being able to get their pickups and deliveries on time and notifying dispatch of any issues or delays along the way. Personally, the responsibility feels great.”


What he didn’t like about working for small fleets:

Small fleets work on very thin margins and must know where every dollar goes. So they take on any load that gets them revenue no matter where it’s going. Not knowing where you’ll be each week or how long it will take to complete a trip make it impossible to schedule home time. And when you do get home, you’re always waiting for the phone to ring with a new dispatch.

Money – or the lack of it – can affect a number of areas of your employment with a small fleet. For instance, total compensation may be well below that received working with a large fleet. Not always, but often. And at some small outfits, health and dental insurance benefits are simply not available due to cost. Our driver also experienced working with no paid sick days available.


Some Require Forced Dispatch

A driver may have to drive loads under forced dispatch. Our driver also said there were areas he truly did not want to travel to with a loaded 53 foot trailer facing multiple city drops. He specifically noted his least favorites: Chicago, NYC, Ottawa, and Montreal. We don’t blame him.

And in one instance he was forced to engage in cabotage, also known as Interstating by Canadian drivers. It’s totally illegal and the driver and trucking company face huge penalties if caught. He did it because he didn’t want to leave the truck and the job and have to fly home. Coercion happens but not with great frequency these days.


A Hard Lesson Learned

The absolute worst experience he suffered through was the time he was lured away from a decent small fleet with stories of more money and more home time. Although skeptical he gave in and tendered his notice of resignation. When he went to sign on with the new fleet he was immediately met by the owner with the words, “My wife won’t let me take on another employee, so I need you to take out a business licence and I’ll pay you 25% of the freight charges.

“No withholding taxes, no worker’s compensation, no benefits and you’ll have to buy your own disability insurance.” He should have ran back to the decent fleet at that point but he went with it for a short time and found out it was what we now know as the Driver Inc. model which is facing legal challenges and potential penalties.

Because money is so tight for small fleets some are unable to offer great equipment and when times are tough often finding loads becomes more important to the small fleet owner than proper preventive maintenance. Not good.


“Just Friendlier”

But when all things were considered, our driver still said he loved traveling North America with small fleets. “They’re just friendlier,” he said. “And small fleets are great when you’re new to trucking. Great for learning the business and finding out where you want your career to take you.”

We hope you enjoyed this perspective on small fleet workers. Keep on trucking as you find your way that works for you.