Despite an improving U.S. economy and rising freight volumes, Dale Lawless believes owner-operators still face tremendous difficulties in today’s trucking market – largely due to rising operational costs.

“Many owner operators are having trouble, largely because they lack business skills,” he told Fleet Owner at the recent Mid-America Truck Show. A U.S. army veteran, Lawless is president of consulting firm LPS Inc., which helps carriers locate and hire qualified drivers and owner-operators.

“Honestly, in today’s market where insurance rates are very high and fuel prices are out of sight, at 82 or 83 cents a mile, the only thing independents will pay for is their truck if they don’t manage their funds carefully,” he said. “Carriers in particular haven’t put anything together to teach someone to be a businessman. Some [independents] are good on the business side and some aren’t.”

Helping owner-operators better manage their finances is critical, said Lawless, as many carriers are hoping to rely on independents to increase their capacity. “The freight is there now and fleets are looking at ways to bring their fleet up to capacity to match it,” he explained. “To do that, they have to help owner-operators be smarter about freight and their business.”