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The Realities of Owning a Trucking Company

The Realities of Owning a Trucking Company

You can watch this interview on YouTube or listen to the podcast on Spotify

Entrepreneurship runs deep in the blood of Daniel Stoychev. He started his first business at the age of 19 and is now the co-owner of Danieli Inc., a hazmat carrier with around 50 trucks based in Rolling Meadows, IL.  In a recent podcast, FreightCaviar spoke with Daniel about the biggest lessons he’s learned in business, his advice for those trying to grow a company, and the approach he takes when dealing with some off-the-wall situations on the job. 

Take us over your journey in entrepreneurship from when you started at 19 until now. 

“I’ve always been inspired by business owners. My parents have been in trucking since we came to America in ‘07. They started as drivers and little by little they kind of built a fleet that really put us on the map.” This is the company Daniel would later take over alongside his sister. 

Daniel didn’t want to waste any time, though. He found a partner and started his own company while still in school. “I knew certain parts of trucking, but I didn’t know others. So [my partner] was more of the dispatch side.” After growing the fleet for around 3-4 years, the two decided to go their separate ways. 

After that ended, Daniel took over Danieli Inc. and has been running the business with his sister for the past year and a half. 

What are some of the key takeaways from that first trucking company that you apply to the work you do now? 

“The biggest thing I learned is always be paranoid.” Daniel rattles off the list of everything that can go wrong in the trucking business, from unpredictable drivers, lawsuit chasers, insurance problems, and funding. “Today you might have a successful business tomorrow that business might come crashing down.” 

So what have you done to kind of safeguard yourself to be more secure?

“Obviously being prepared for the worst-case situation because if anything can happen, it’s gonna happen in this business.” Being prepared for every scenario is another lesson he got from that first company. This sort of doomsday prep mindset seems to have allowed him to weather the current market storm with a bit more ease.

With the current market that we’re in, what kind of steps are you taking to manage your business and continue to grow it? 

“So the biggest thing is that you gotta keep the drivers happy, alright? That’s number one. Without the drivers being happy…there’s nothing,” he says. It’s this strong focus on driver retention that is going to save money in the current environment. They want to make sure they keep their drivers on the road, and that comes from establishing strong relationships from the very beginning. 

He states his mantra again: “When things are good, you gotta prepare for the bad.” It’s clear that Daniel has had some run-ins with people who have tried to get a piece of the pie when things were good, only to now be sorely disappointed by the downturn. 

“I hate to say it, but many companies are going out of business and will go outta business because they enter during the good time thinking this is the reality of trucking, and it’s not like that.” So his other piece of advice is to keep a nice little nest egg to fall back on and be careful with spending even when things are going well. “Having funds is huge… We’re gonna ride this wave of downfall.”

Let’s talk Hazmat. Can you tell us more about the pros and cons of hauling hazmat? How profitable is it? How do you deal with all the regulations?

“Hazmat is profitable… hazmat right now is keeping a lot of guys afloat.” He explains further that for hazmat runs they can bring in around $2.90-3.50 a mile compared to $2.30-2.60 on regular loads.

However, he says there are some unique aspects to be aware of. You’re going to need the proper insurance to be totally covered if anything goes wrong. You have to make sure the drivers have special certifications.

“The biggest thing is the safety portion of it… The easiest thing to do is to book a load, right? But are you prepared to haul that load?” he warns. 

So you really need to stay on top of tracking everything, keeping track of all the costs. How do you manage that? 

Daniel sorts through the information and data that the company has to keep tabs on. From internal KPIs, diesel rates, most convenient fueling locations, general freight analytics and statistics. It’s a lot to keep up with, but when it comes to managing the company’s numbers, he prefers to keep things in-house. 

“Never will I use outside services like that that get to control such an important aspect of the business, the finances…I don’t believe in outsourcing things like that anymore.” He admits that there are benefits to it, but for him, it’s gotta stay in the family. “There’s no way that these companies care about the business and look after it the way we would,” he states. 

We’ve got some questions coming from followers on Instagram. “What is the worst issue that you had on a hazmat load?

That one is more of a funny story. One night, he gets a call from a driver whose truck is leaking a mysterious red liquid.

When they fail to reach the broker they decide to go on and cut the seal, and turned out a barrel had turned over. The load wasn’t flammable or a bio-hazard so the driver decided it was safe enough for him to clean it up himself.

When he goes inside a truck stop to wash the red stains from his clothes and hands, folks were a little freaked out. A trucker, covered in red splatter, in the middle of the night…yeah, the optics weren’t great. He ended up having to explain to security that no, he hadn’t just slaughtered anyone. 

All’s well that ends well. The next user asks how you scaled your business. 

“It’s obviously easier the second time around but, vision, right? I mean, it kind of sounds cliche, but you have to have a vision.” 

After there’s a clear vision, Daniel says that’s when you can start to put the pieces together: recruiting the right people, marketing, taking everything one day at a time, but always being prepared. “Gotta have that cushion for when things get rough.”

Do you ever have the thought of leaving the trucking business given this current market?

“Quit and leave. I just don’t like those two words. No, we’re not quitting. We’re not leaving. We’re not shutting down…I have a vision for where I need to be, where the company needs to be.” He understands that for those who are just in it for the money, getting out now would be the best decision, but that’s just not him. He’s planning for the long road ahead.

On the topic of recruiting, our follower asks what is the most important quality you look for in employees.

When it comes to hiring the right staff, Daniel says he always asks: Where do you see yourself in the next 1-3 years? It may sound obvious, but you can always tell a lot about a person based on their answer to that question. 

“You want to see people get excited about what they’re doing. This is a tough industry. Not everyone loves to be in it.  But you gotta have some sense of dedication and vision to the industry.” 

It might be a good idea to know what you’re not looking for in terms of employees. Any funny stories about that?  

“Listen, there are more crazy stories than funny stories, I’ll tell you that,” he laughs. He tells us about a guy they hired who shows up dripped out in a Louis Vuitton bag, Gucci flip-flops, and a set of gold teeth—looking like money. One of the first things the new guy asks is if he can get a $7000 cash advance to cover credit card bills and the rent on his penthouse. 

Daniel tells him, “You’re crazy, man. Like, you know, we can’t do that. $7,000! You haven’t even started,” and tells him to get on the road. Somehow the guy accidentally ends up in Canada, and while being escorted back by Canadian Border Patrol he blows a tire. 

The next day they found the trailer truck left in the parking lot with keys on the ignition cleaned out, and a book on the passenger seat titled ‘God, Save Us All.’ Thanks for the enlightenment on exactly what not to do.

Finally, what’s the best way for people to reach out to you? 

You can reach him by visiting or visiting his profile on LinkedIn. But he’s happy to connect face-to-face, too. “Stop by the office, check us out, have a coffee, have an espresso in Rolling Meadows,” he says. 

Developing Technology to Make Trucking Compliance Simple

Developing Technology to Make Trucking Compliance Simple

Click here to watch our interview on YouTube.

Click here to listen to our interview on Spotify.

FreightCaviar hopped on a call with Hunter Yaw, the Co-founder and CEO of LogRock, a company that helps uses automation to handle the unexciting business of all things compliance for trucking companies. We picked his brain over how he got his start in freight tech, what it takes to secure investments in this sector, and how LogRock shields its users against DoT violations and keeps them off the scent of trial lawyers. 

Yaw got his start in freight tech before it was cool. He began working in New York with Loadsmart in 2017 when the company hadn’t yet caught the eye of those in the tech space–before this boom we’re seeing now. 

He’d tell friends, “I’m working for a trucking startup,’ and people would be like, “you’re doing what?'” But “Now you tell someone you work in supply chain tech, and it’s like, ‘where can I invest?'”

His work with Loadsmart connected him with João Bosco, now co-founder and COO of LogRock. It was Bosco who suggested the two start a company together. 

After both had already left Loadsmart, Bosco called up Yaw with the proposal.

“What’s the idea?” Yaw asked him.

“Listen, man; I don’t have an idea.”

What Bosco had was a vision. He saw what was happening in the supply chain space and knew the right timing to make a move. While at Loadsmart, Yaw learned that to be successful in this space, you have to be aware of what you bring to the table–and what you don’t. 

He explained that for someone coming from a tech background, you couldn’t overlook that a large part of this industry needs people. So, you have to be careful that you’re not creating something that will further complicate things. 

“We had to find a problem that could be attacked purely with technology, with software.” The two came to the issue of compliance, which is fundamentally a data problem. “And data problems are problems that technology is really good at addressing.” 

Bosco and Yaw got an even clearer picture of the trouble by spending a lot of time with trucking company owners and safety managers. They got a deeper understanding of what needed fixing directly from the horse’s mouth. 

With an idea and research in hand, the two needed funding. After pitching the idea to investors, LogRock landed $3.5 million in a seed round led by Dynamo Ventures. After scoring the investment, the team set out to make their product a reality. 

Yaw and his team wanted to be sure they surpassed expectations. “It can’t just be about the money… once you take the money, then like you owe something to these people… You should feel like they’ve bet on you. And now you’ve gotta…live up to that promise,” he says.

The forecasts look promising. From what Yaw reports, LogRock has been getting plenty of love from those in safety and compliance. 

“When we’re talking to safety managers like they get it immediately, and they love LogRock… they’ll tell you it makes their life a lot easier.” 

And even the owners, who take a bit more convincing, come to realize the savings that are being brought to their companies through the use of LogRock. They save on liability insurance, reducing time spent out of service and cutting the risk of litigations that can appear from improperly managed compliance. 

The Top 10 Largest Trucking Companies of 2022 by Revenue

The Top 10 Largest Trucking Companies of 2022 by Revenue

The trucking industry makes up 6% of full-time jobs in the country. Because of this fact, not only does it move goods, but the industry is also a large employer. Out of the 1.2 million companies in the U.S trucking industry, today, we focus on the top ten.

These companies are the leaders in the trucking industry, from more than $3 billion to revenues as high as $84 billion. In this article, we will look at the companies, the number of people they employ, including how their stock performed year-to-date.

# 10: Landstar System Inc.

Founded: 1968

Headquarters: Jacksonville, Florida, United States

Revenue: 3.65 billion USD (2017)

Number of employees: 1,273 (2017)

The company uses an extensive network of more than 11,000 independent owner operators throughout the United States and Canada to a lesser extent.

# 9: Old Dominion Freight line

Headquarters: Thomasville, North Carolina, United States

Revenue: 4.015 billion USD (2020)

Number of employees: 24,585 (2022)

It is an American regional, inter-regional and national less than truckload shipping company that also offers logistics and household moving services.

# 8: YRC Worldwide, Inc.

Founded: 1929

Headquarters: Overland Park, Kansas, United States

Revenue: $5.1B (2021)

Number of employees: 19,000 (2017) 

# 7: Schneider National

Headquarters: Green Bay, Wisconsin, United States 

Founded: 1935

Revenue: 5.6 billion U.S. dollars.

Number of employees: 16,050 (2021)

Founded in 1935, Schneider is headquartered in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Schneider’s core business focuses on truckload, intermodal, and brokerage services. 

# 6: Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings Inc.

Founded: 1990

Headquarters: Phoenix, Arizona, United States

Revenue: $5.99 B (2021)

Number of employees: 25,400 (2017)

It is the fifth largest trucking company in the United States, and in January 2022, Knight-Swift acquired Midwest Motor Express to expand its LTL footprint.

# 5: TFI International Inc.

Headquarters: Montreal, Canada

Revenue: 7.22 billion USD (2021)

Number of employees: 28,286 (2022)

It is a Canadian transport and logistics company that operates primarily in Canada, the United States, and Mexico. TFI operates through 4 business segments: LTL, package and courier services, brokerage, and truckload. 

# 4: J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc

Founded: 1961

Headquarters: Lowell, Arkansas, United States

Revenue: $12.168B

Number of employees: 29,056 (2019)

It is an American transportation and logistics company mainly operates large semi-trailer trucks and provides transportation services throughout the continental U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

# 3: XPO Logistics

Founded: 2000

Headquarters: Greenwich, Connecticut, United States

Revenue: 12.81 billion USD (2021)

Number of employees: 44,000 (2021)

XPO Logistics is an American freight transportation company that offers services including:

  • Less-than-truckload (LTL)
  • Freight brokerage
  • Last mile
  • Intermodal
  • Drayage
  • Global forwarding services

# 2: FedEx Corporation

Founded: May 5, 1971, Little Rock, Arkansas, United States

Headquarters: Memphis, Tennessee, United States

Revenue: $83.959B (2021)

It is an American multinational conglomerate holding company focusing on transportation, e-commerce, and logistics services.

# 1: United Parcel Service

Headquarters: Atlanta, Georgia, United States

Founded: August 28, 1907, Seattle, Washington, United States

Revenue: 84.63 billion USD

Number of employees: 534,000 (2022)

It is the largest courier company in the world by revenue and has grown to become a Fortune 500 company primarily known for its ground shipping services. It focuses mainly on international shipping & receiving and supply chain management.

Final thoughts

71% of all the freight in America is moved by truck. This transportation of goods is led by the ten companies above. We hope you have a clearer picture of the most prominent players in the trucking industry. Whether you want to invest in some of these companies or you want to understand logistics, we hope the information was helpful.

How has the US trucking market changed in recent months?

How has the US trucking market changed in recent months?

The trucking market is changing. Fuel prices are high, and inflation is a significant worry. To get to the bottom of this, I had a chat with Bob Kruz, who runs the @usa_transportation account on Instagram & owns a trucking company. In this article, Bob and I talk about the current state of the trucking market, prevailing rates, and truck owner-operators.

How has the trucking market changed?

“Right now, I feel like the market flipped on its head,” said Bob. For instance, trailers are cheaper now than they used to be. It was harder to find new trailers, but now you can. “Same thing with trucks, “he said. Trucks are cheaper because many people are selling since they are not making money.

Bob bought a few trucks a few months ago (before the market flipped). So I asked him how much he paid?

Bob told me about two trucks that he bought recently. One was a Peterbilt, and he paid $186,000. The other was a Kenworth, for which Bob paid $200,000. “At that time, it was not a bad deal,” he said. “Rates were so good that you could make a lot of that money back quickly.”

What is the average you take per mile currently?

“It depends what area you’re in and what trucks you have,” Bob said. Sometimes he gets a good load, and then he has to take a cheaper backhaul. 

What are some of your overhead costs?

“I just got DAT, and that was two hundred bucks a month,” he said. “We use ProTransport TMS, it’s through RTS, and that’s another couple hundred bucks a month.” Fuel is around $1 a mile. So you have insurance, permits, and registration once a year. “Sitting in an office, you have lights to pay for.”

Are you making a good living right now?

“Well, it depends on what,” Bob said. “Sometimes I think if I show my parents what I make off Instagram or social media, they would be surprised.”  He said he could not complain and was grateful for what he had. “In trucking, I don’t think people are making money right now,” he said. “They’re waiting out the wave, and once it picks up, that’s when people start to make money.”

What’s the most profit you’ve made in a month from trucking?

Bob said that he could not give me an exact figure. He told me about how he woke up with a negative $16,000 that particular morning. When I asked him why that was, he explained it to me. “So they took out insurance and fuel today,” he said. This happened because he switched bank accounts and not because he had money problems. “People say pay attention to your expenses, but I pay attention to where I can make money.”

Is being an Owner-operator still viable?

“Owner-operators are still okay if the truck’s okay,” said Bob. They do not have many expenses, and they can lease. “If you lease on to a good company, they charge you 10 percent, and you’re still making decent money.” So they can take shorter runs and go home on the weekends. Bob does not advise operators to lease a truck from a company they will drive for. “I feel like that is how many owner-operators get screwed.”

What are your three favorite brokerages?

  1. Coyote Logistics
  2. C.H. Robinson
  3. Uber freight– Bob added that he thinks they should improve their customer service.

What are some of the problems with DAT?

“DAT needs to get their stuff together, too,” said Bob. He spoke about Brokers that are trying to be scammers. He shared a story about a broker who wanted to scam and take his information. “I get it, there are so many different brokers, and it is hard for them to weed anybody out.” 

What about grey areas in the logistics industry

“There’s a lot of shady stuff and grey areas in this industry,” Bob said. “It’s not only on the brokers’ side. A lot of shady stuff happens on the carrier side.” What brokers do is that they lie while dispatchers lie, forge documents, cut seals, and double broker loads.

A final word on drivers:

“What we need is the shippers and receivers making better things for drivers when the drivers show up,” said Bob. “Things like bathrooms and clean areas, but the drivers must do their part.” The U.S trucking market is going through challenges, but it will always bounce back.

Cutting Owner-Operator Rates

Cutting Owner-Operator Rates

Last month, I received a video from a follower on Instagram of 2 owner operators scolding the owner of a trucking company in Chicago after they found out their rates have been getting cut. As most of us know, owner-operators typically pay a percentage of their rates to the carrier they drive for to have their MC & insurance. Usually, these fees range between 10 and 20 percent of the load. However, trucking companies – predominantly from Chicago and predominantly of Eastern European descent, have been cutting these rates significantly. For example, they will tell the owner-operator that the load pays $3000, but it actually pays $3500. Then the owner-operator still has to pay fees to the trucking company and ends up with around $2500. 

Before these past couple of weeks, I wasn’t aware of how widespread this behavior was in the trucking communities. I received another message – this time on LinkedIn – from a former employee of a large trucking company in Chicago. He wrote to me about all his former employer’s unethical tactics to make obscene amounts of cash off of owner-operators. After talking to him, I reshared a story on Instagram about how I have learned recently about these companies in Chicago ripping off their owner-operators. I got bombarded with people messaging and have learned a lot since. 

Here are some of the things I have learned:

1. It is not just in Chicago & not only Eastern European carriers, but it is much more common in this circle.

2. Many dispatchers justified their behavior. They said it doesn’t matter how much they cut, as long as the owner-operator is happy with the rate. 

3. Cutting rates is how trucking company owners & dispatchers “can afford their S-classes and Series 7 cars.” 

4. Trucking companies offer cheap leases to owner-operators to entice them to come on board and become “owner-operators.” 

 Here is a quote from a follower: “they offer them 2023 Cascadia for $135,000, while a brand new one is $175,000, knowing they’ll make five times that on stolen rates.” 

Another follower wrote this about a large trucking company in Chicago: “My big mistake was purchasing my first truck from them. I worked my ass off to pay off that truck. Right after I paid off my truck and quit, they changed their policy for owner-operators: no early payoff. So if you want an early payoff, there will be a 15k penalty. They book a load for you and force you to take that load; otherwise, they will make you regret refusing to take a load.” 

I recorded this video to talk more in-depth about the subject and the shadiness of the industry. I would love to create some dialogue and a conversation about the topic. Please comment and share.