Sunday, August 9, 2015

Truck Driving And Capitalism

The top 250 trucking companies as compiled by trade publishers Randall Reilly, which publishes trade magazines both for trucking company owners and for drivers, has UPS at the top, surprisingly. The last time I saw one of these lists several years ago non union Fedex was number one, by far. Here's the top ten:

I can't link to the pdf file of the complete list but you can have Randall Reilly email it to you for free if you're interested. You have to give them your name and email address but they don't harass you, has been my experience.

If you click on the image you can see that Fedex actually has more drivers than UPS 144,184 to 99,795, but UPS has more trucks, 106,287 to 86,959. I believe that number is counting the delivery trucks you see around town. UPS has more "trucks" which I believe means semi tractors. From what I see out there, Fedex does a lot of team driving -- two driers in a truck with a sleeper berth take the load the whole way -- whereas UPS does more relays with single drivers -- where you meet another truck, trade trailers, and go back where you came from, the kind of route I do -- so maybe that accounts for the difference in numbers.

The ranking is actually by revenue. On the last list like this I saw several years ago Fedex was way in front in revenue, so that's the surprise. Those Fedex and UPS trucks, of course, are carrying hundreds of those little packages we receive and send at $10 or $15 each, so that's where the money is in trucking. The kind of trucking I do -- known typically as "truck load" -- is known for being low margin. You have to get big if you want to make big money.

There's been a spate of mergers and acquisitions in trucking so perhaps that's how UPS vaulted to the top. UPS just bought freight brokers Coyote Logistics for $1.8 billion. A lot of truck freight, probably most, goes through brokers. Smaller manufacturers and businesses, especially, who don't have shipping and receiving departments, call a broker and want something shipped, and the broker arranges for a truck to pick it up. There are online "load boards" -- a term from the old days when loads were posted on the wall -- and I or anyone can call about the load and see what the broker is offering. You can negotiate with the broker then and there. If the load stays on the board awhile you might be able to do it for a higher price; the shipper has already told his customer the load is on its way.

The broker has already agreed with the shipper on a price for having the load shipped, and will of course try to get the trucker or trucking company to do it for as little as possible so the broker can keep as much of the money as he or she can. It can get nasty in that part of the business. Tales abound of brokers not paying, of brokers lying about the details of the shipment in order to get the load shipped, etc. I haven't gotten involved in that yet but probably will eventually. My philosophy has been to go slow and not risk any more than I have to, but as I become more knowledgeable and confident in what I've been doing I can visualize proceeding from here. I just have one contract, to do a relay, Albuquerque to Holbrook and back, and that's all I've done in the 2 1/2 years I've been in business for myself. A big part of it is playing the tax game, too.

My company, by the way, Albuquerque Cartage LLC, didn't make the list. I'll be trying, of course. Trucking is a critical industry in Capitalism. I've been keeping up more or less with the struggle of some drivers, mostly Latinos, African Americans and South Asians, in Los Angeles, mainly, who are fighting a battle with the trucking companies out there, who are essentially freight brokers for the loads that come off the container ships -- all that stuff that goes to Wal Marts and Best Buys and so on. The drivers own, or are buying from the companies, their own trucks, and often aren't getting paid for what they do. They are independent contractors and subject to the disadvantages that come with that.

They are making some headway though. Unlike your typical Anglo and Teamster driver, these Los Angeles drivers have an understanding of their potential power to really throw a monkey wrench into things if they want to. The entire economy depends on trucking. The Teamsters hierarchy knows this and is trying hard to sign these guys up as Teamsters and head them off at the pass, basically. The Teamsters is a very conservative union and has endorsed Republicans -- they endorsed Reagan and current president Jimmy Hoffa Jr is always threatening Democrats with endorsing Republicans. Unfortunately, many of the big unions now aren't that much different these days and collude with today's "New Democrats" in making sure the power remains in their hands, not with the workers. Unfortunately that's the kind of Democrats we elect in New Mexico now. You won't hear a union leader or a New Democrat ever say anything that might give workers a hint that they have potential power. Nothing that might foster the building of class consciousness -- the idea that we as an economic class have power, if we organize and work together, and can use it to further our interests. Class consciousness is something the ruling class has a lot of, and something Democrats want to prevent developing in the working class.

That power.  Forget the money.


  1. I can see how truck drivers are greatly needed for a business to be successful and how the number of trucks can increase it, too. I just wish there was a way they did not have to be away from their families for so long. It probably would not be so hard for someone who is single, though.

    Donald Corral @ Hansen & Adkins Auto Transport

  2. Good blog! A nice combination of industry facts and the challenges of being a trucker. Yes, the L.A. drivers have a lot of power to influence their working conditions. Truckers are as important as oil is to the internal combustion engine; they keep the economy moving. The unions and the politicians know this and so should all truckers!

    Cody Thornton @ Mobilevalley Ltd