Opinion: If you treat a truck as a lifestyle rather than a business, you will go bankrupt.
Business is business: Trucks down the highway at the Port of Brisbane.
My daughter will soon be 35 years old. This is a sentimental moment for my dad and rudely reminds me of my aging. We are also celebrating the 35th anniversary of our career as an owner driver.
I remember looking back on my first truck purchase and being excited to embark on a new lifestyle of travel and opportunity. “I will be the master of my destiny,” I thought.
By exchanging keys, I didn’t realize I was trapped in the industry for the rest of my life. The freedom I thought I was investing in diminished over time and I had no choice but to keep the truck running.
I still enjoy my work. I remember the early excitement I felt in the 80’s when my two-year-old grandson Eli jumped into a taxi with me and wanted to press every button within reach.
When I was a young man full of enthusiasm, I was chatting with the owner driver who came to the workshop. If you’re ready to make the sacrifice of working hard away from your friends and family at home, you can own a truck in four to five years and hear the success story that the home wasn’t just a long-term dream. I can do it. ..
Becoming your own boss is a fascinating dream, but today it should come with a warning. If you treat a truck as a lifestyle rather than a business, you will go bankrupt.
Perhaps the warning signs were already there and I, a mechanic at the time, refused to see them. After all, I bought the first truck from a driver who couldn’t afford the necessary repairs. Sadly, this is a story I’ve heard many times and it’s just getting worse.
For 35 years I’ve been moving trucks forward, but the industry is moving in the opposite direction. Fees are stagnant, but insurance, fuel and repair costs continue uphill. A few years ago, truck registration included three license plates. Two for trucks and one for trailers. Currently, the trailer has its own registration and will incur an additional charge of $ 1,600 per year.
It is a continuous squeeze that puts pressure on each run to be feasible. It’s a short path to bankruptcy if the driver believes he can spend his time having fun without guaranteeing that all the time he spends on his work will be profitable.
Enjoying work is great, but it’s important to separate work and lifestyle, and more importantly, to enable work to fund your lifestyle.
Many ask if I would jack it in and return to the mechanic. To do that, I had to go back to school and learn new technologies, but I still had a hard time getting a job at my age. Aside from the fun of driving a big rig, it’s the only viable option for me until I retire.
Retirement is another important factor to consider. How many drivers are still doing well in the 70’s? For many, it’s not a choice. As I write this, I’m 74 years old and sitting across the table from a man who doesn’t plan to retire soon. For long-distance driving, reducing the fare does not save the old-age pension.
Aging labor force
Recent attention to truck driver health and related statistics on obesity, heart problems and chronic health highlight why an aging workforce is dangerous to everyone involved. A study at Monash University found a link between poor health and an increased likelihood of being involved in a truck crash.
And, of course, the job itself is to blame many of the health concerns raised in the study. Sticking to work as an old man or woman only increases the prevalence of those conditions.
In long-distance games, we rarely stay in one place for long, but we rarely get consistent medical care. Due to the narrow margins, it is unlikely that many drivers, including dentistry, will receive good medical care.
It’s a scary idea that truck drivers have to continue working after retirement, despite multiple health problems. But too often, you choose to work or rely on your family to keep the roof overhead. If you’re lucky with that option.
That’s why it’s so important to listen to your mind, not your mind, when making decisions about the truck business. Work is only worth doing if it is beneficial and allows us to fund our lifestyle and save for maintenance, vacations as needed, and retirement.
After spending 35 years in the game, this is the pearl of my wisdom. Please enjoy your work. Make sure you are a viable business owner and not a lifestyle slave.
* FRANK BLACK has been a long-distance owner driver for over 30 years. He is a former owner-driver representative of the Australian Truck Association Council.
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