The Ever-Evolving Owner Operator

When COVID-19 began its onslaught in the U.S., many day-to-day operations came to a screeching halt. Businesses across the nation struggled to keep up with ever-changing regulations, loss of income from daily interaction with customers, and shortages of employees as many were forced to stay home with children or help ill family members. One industry kept on rolling despite the havoc that Coronavirus created—the transportation industry, but particularly, the expanding, diverse owner operator*.

From August 2020 to August 2021, the owner operator segment grew by 28.7%, displaying year-over-year growth that prior years have not seen. Pretty impressive when comparing these numbers to private fleets (3.5% growth) and the for-hire segment (15.0% growth). This is no surprise considering that before expenses like tolls, fuel, vehicle maintenance, and taxes, owner operators gross an average income of 3x more than company drivers¹, sometimes more when accounting for Coronavirus-related incentives. We also saw higher month-over-month growth averages after FMCSA modified the Hours of Compliance rules in response to the pandemic, allowing them to drive for longer periods of time without breaks, which increased revenue for drivers as well as suppliers.

Owner operators have many options when it comes to hauling whereas private fleets and for-hire establishments are limited. Private fleets utilize drivers for day-to-day operations like moving their own freight, service calls, and transportation of employees. For-hire fleets employ drivers that work solely for the business entity moving loads from point A to point B. Owner operators, however, can choose what commodities to haul, where to haul, when they want to haul, and who they want to haul for. While many purchase or lease a specific trailer, they can easily meet the demands of shippers, brokers, and freight forwarders by picking up their trailers, expanding the types of loads they carry and making themselves indispensable to the transportation industry. These examples of flexibility allow them to create a balance between work and home life that other company-specific drivers may not be able to maintain, leading to happier, healthier lifestyles.

When analyzing owner operator data, another benefit and key point of the segment is observed: diversity. Age, gender, race, and location all play a key factor here and they are changing at a rapid pace. For the first time, we are observing an undeniable upswing in the number of women choosing to drive trucks in a predominantly male industry². The number of female drivers has increased by 88% since 2010 and we should expect to see these numbers rise as the effects of the pandemic continue to trickle down and data is collected. Women are gravitating to the trucking industry due to a multitude of reasons such as being their own boss, controlling work hours, and a 5% increase in pay over the past year³ but there are other slightly more sinister reasons—layoffs and lack of employment options. During the pandemic, many women had no choice but to stay home with children due to lack of daycare or school closures. Job positions normally occupied by women were depleted when businesses closed, whether permanently or temporarily, forcing families relying on two incomes to branch out to other fields. Many women saw opportunity in this, helping the national driver shortage and benefiting their families—a win-win for everyone.

FleetSeek’s robust collection of over 226K owner operators is a dataset to keep an eye on with the fast-paced growth of this segment. Owner operators are required to update their information with the USDOT every two years, but often do so more frequently as their horizons broaden with every load. With constant data refreshes, FleetSeek is able to keep up with these business changes and provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information pertaining to each fleet.

Highlights from August 2021

FleetSeek’s owner operator collection also boasts 71% email coverage, truck manufacturer, year and engine manufacturer, and helps you reach the main point of contact for the business—often the owner operator themselves. Let FleetSeek know how we can work with your business to ensure you are able to keep up with this dynamic, constantly evolving industry to target exactly what you need. Contact your FleetSeek representative directly by calling 888-665-9887 or email [email protected].


*FleetSeek classifies an owner operator as 1 tractor and 0-1 trailer operations. 

Referenced Articles

[1] Owner Operator Salaries: How Much Do They Make? Retrieved September 21, 2021.  

[2] Have We Increased the Presence of Women in Trucking? Retrieved September 21, 2021.  

[3] Truck Driving Has Long Been A Man’s World. Meet The Women Changing That. Retrieved September 21, 2021.

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