A lot can change in 10 years, and for the average owner-operator, a lot has changed.

Todd Amen, CEO of ATBS, recently presented at TCA's Refrigerated Division Annual Meeting on how the owner-operator and his world has transformed in a decade's time.

Amen began by summing up the life of an average owner-operator:

  • Average driver age 46, while the average age of a U.S. Citizen is 37;
  • Average life expectancy of a driver is 61 years old, while the average life expectancy of a U.S. citizen is 79;
  • The average TL company driver makes $46,000, and the average TL Reefer Company driver makes $43,000 annually;
  • The average owner-operator makes $52,000, and the average Reefer owner-operator makes $46,500 annually.

Amen compared the average pay for drivers to the annual pay of a U.S. male, high school graduate in 2011, which averaged $39,352.

"What is so unappealing about our industry that we aren't able to attract these young people into a higher-paying profession?" Amen posed to the audience. With no clear-cut answer, Amen moved on to his side-by-side comparison of today's owner-operator with the owner-operator of 10 years ago.

The successful owner-operator 10 years ago:

  • Average Miles driven each year = 139,000
  • Gross revenue = $127,000
  • Average pay per mile- 85 cents
  • Net income = $50,000
  • Number of log books = 3
  • Fuel = 5 mpg – Average cost $1.42 per gallon
  • Bought his fuel at his favorite truck stop
  • Saw his family once every three to five weeks
  • Didn't know his cost per mile, but ran miles when he didn't have enough money
  • Smoked two packs of cigarettes a day

The successful owner-operator today:

  • Average miles driver each year = 110,000
  • Gross revenue = $162,000
  • Average net pay per mile = 94 cents
  • Net incomce = $60,000
  • Number of log books = EOBR
  • Fuel = 8 mpg – Average cost $3.92 per gallon
  • Plans his trip and fuel purchases based on cheapest available fuel
  • Sees his family twice a week
  • Knows and manages his costs per mile
  • Learns via multiple sources
  • Smokes electronic cigs

Among many of the changes that the owner-operator has experienced is an increased focus on fuel economy.

"They didn't worry about fuel economy because it was $1.42 a gallon. Now they are focused on getting the most out of their fuel," Amen said. "He would buy fuel at his favorite truckstop—the one with the strongest coffee, or the cutest waitress," Amen said with a laugh, "Today it's different."

Other changes that are being seen in owner-operators is an increased emphasis on health, as well as evolving technology.

Amen said that they are seeing the trend of drivers being increasingly more conscious of trying to live a more healthy lifestyle.

There are fitness systems in the trucks, and drivers are eating healthier and cooking in their trucks. Drivers are also paying attention to their health numbers such as cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure, Amen said.

Technology has taken an important role in helping owner-operators do their jobs as well, according to Amen.

In a recent market research study of 1,023 owner-operators, Amen said that on average 66% of drivers spend a minimum of one hour per day on the internet, 90% regularly check email, and 90% believe apps help them be more successful owner-operators.

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