Well-planned and -managed truck owner-driver schemes create a win-win situation for the company and the owner-driver. However, current unhappiness – as recently reported in the media – between the owner-drivers and the companies regarding the safety of vehicles, could jeopardise the concept.
Truck owner-drivers are concerned about being forced to deliver goods in unsafe areas where there is a risk that their vehicle could be set alight or damaged. In my opinion, companies that operate owner-driver schemes need to be more sympathetic and understanding of the concerns of these drivers. They need to work together with the owner-driver to find solutions to address the problem.
Truck owner-driver schemes have been operating in South Africa for several years. Many have been highly beneficial to both the company and the driver.
Well-managed and properly planned schemes have enabled some drivers to improve their income and living standards and even buy their own truck. Drivers are given the opportunity to earn an above average salary.
They also have the opportunity to become successful and respected business people with their own fleet of vehicles. Companies also benefit from increased vehicle productivity and utilisation.
Many of the original owner-driver schemes have allowed the owner-driver to employ his own staff to assist with the loading and unloading of the vehicle. This, in turn, has resulted in eliminating the problem of absenteeism.
Owner-drivers are generally more motivated and they work longer hours, which lowers transport costs. In some operations, companies using owner-drivers have found less product shrinkage, which helps to provide a better service to their valued customers.
For the scheme to work, however, it needs to be well-planned and -managed.
Experience has shown that an outside, experienced business manager, who understands the business and can control and manage the owner-drivers, must be in place. The outsourced business manager should control the entire administration and vehicle operating costs, including cash flow, vehicle maintenance, fuel and tyre costs, payment of VAT and tax.
Experience has also shown that the new or used vehicle, with which the owner starts the scheme, must be sufficiently reliable and durable to operate for at least 12 months without any major unforeseen vehicle operating expenses.
The rates that are agreed upon between the company and the owner-driver must be realistic and market related. Drivers must be paid in proportion to the amount of work to be done.
Selection of the right person to enter the owner-driver scheme is also an essential element. They must possess the right attitude and willingness to work hard. They also need to have a good business sense and should understand that the rewards of being an owner-driver are not instant and will follow only in later years.
If this situation between owner-drivers and companies, regarding the safety of vehicles when operating in unsafe areas, is not addressed and no solutions are found to overcome the problem, we could see the collapse of many owner-driver schemes in the country.
One of this country’s most respected commercial vehicle industry authorities, VIC OLIVER has been in this industry for over 50 years. Before joining the FOCUS team, he spent 15 years with Nissan Diesel (now UD Trucks), 11 years with Busaf and seven years with International.
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