THE DRIVER CAREER JOURNEY
Since 1998, we have helped truck drivers become more successful through various stages of their careers. From those experiences, we defined what we call the "Driver Career Journey."
WHAT IS THE DRIVER CAREER JOURNEY?
The terms we use for each stage of the journey were developed using an "old west" theme. We chose this theme because of the natural toughness, grit, and independent nature that is shared by many of our truck driving clients. The Driver Career Journey is not a linear path, and many drivers will travel back and forth between different stops on the Journey over the course of their careers. We define the different stops along the Journey as follows:
This is the stage with the majority of drivers in the trucking industry. It is typically the first step in the Driver Career Journey and most drivers will spend their entire career here because they fully enjoy the low risk and high rewards of this stage. Company Drivers drive whatever truck their carrier provides to them. Their options for increasing their earnings are often limited to longevity at a carrier and bonuses for items like safe driving and good fuel economy. The personal rewards of being a Company Driver are high because they enjoy the benefits that attract so many people to driving -- freedom, amazing views and experiences, and a supporting community of friends to name a few.
The Pioneer stage of the Journey is often the lowest-risk way for a driver to become an entrepreneur, running their own business as an independent contractor/owner-operator. Pioneers are typically first-time owner-operators that are leased to operate under a carrier’s operating authority. Pioneers are adventurous and courageous, but they still seek support networks for business and financial coaching. Pioneers want lower-risk financing, and some may use this Journey stage to help repair their credit. Most Pioneers acquire their truck through a carrier-sponsored program, and thus choice of truck can be more limited. Pioneers lease to a carrier to leverage that carrier’s freight network, and that carrier’s buying networks for things like insurances, fuel, maintenance and tires. Because Pioneers are responsible for managing the revenue and expenses of their business, they tend to earn more money and experience lower turnover than company drivers. Successful Pioneers often transition into Hired Guns.
Hired Guns are experienced owner-operators who, like Pioneers, choose to drive under a carrier’s operating authority. However, Hired Guns source their truck in the open market to find exactly what they want. Hired Guns normally have good credit and shop for lower cost financing options. They might finance their truck purchase, or lease their truck, or they may pay cash and purchase their truck outright. Hired Guns enjoy their independence, but operate within certain norms established at their carrier. Similar to Pioneers, Hired Guns typically leverage the carrier’s buying networks for things like insurances, fuel, maintenance and tires. However, the primary reason most Hired Guns lease to a carrier is to take advantage of that carrier’s freight network thereby not having to manage sales and revenue collection the way a Lone Ranger does.
Lone Rangers are the most experienced owner-operators. They operate under their own authority, and make their own purchase decisions. Often, they use associations for discounts on items like fuel, tires, and insurance. Driving is a Lone Ranger’s chosen profession -- they are "lifers". They are accomplished entrepreneurs and self-reliant. Lone Rangers are responsible for selling and managing their own customers, negotiating rates and collecting revenue, as well as paying all their vendors timely. They prefer to operate on the fringe of the mainstream industry and gravitate toward specialty/high-paying niches. Their income fluctuates based on economic and industry cycles, and Lone Rangers may go between being a Hired Gun and Lone Ranger based upon these cycles.
Trail Blazers are the next generation of small but growing trucking fleets. They’ve been successful as a Lone Ranger and have proven their ability to make it on their own in good times and bad. Trail Blazers are taking the next step in entrepreneurship by growing their fleet and having multiple trucks. Trail Blazers often still drive, in addition to managing everything else it takes to make a small business run. Their grit is a trait shared by others who have built some of the largest truck fleets in America! Trail Blazers often run on their own authority, but sometimes choose to operate their small fleet under the operating authority of a much larger carrier.