The haulage and logistics industry has felt the effects of our changing world and economies as much as any other industry. However, the demand for the process itself remains steady, which means reliable, consistent and somewhat lucrative job prospects for skilled workers. Drivers these days are also fortunate enough to have many choices regarding the type of haulage work they choose. Many are tempted by the greater income potential and freedoms of freelance jobs over contracted assignments. However, there are pros and cons for each scenario, so it simply comes down to which one you prefer.
Obtaining a contract position with an established shipping and logistics company can be regarded as the ‘safer option’. The company provides the ultimate safety net that takes care of all the details for you. Haulage work should be offered fairly steadily, routes and rules are known, and there are few surprises, allowing you to get the job done, get paid and go home. It is not glamorous or thrilling, but being part of a crew of drivers for an established fleet offers camaraderie with colleagues, job benefits and liability coverage in the event of an accident. For many, these features are priceless.
A contract position offers a level of stability that suits many drivers, as well as providing a more manageable work-life balance. Haulage work that is more predictable means that families don’t get left behind for uncertain amounts of time, and the pressures of a nomadic lifestyle become lessened. Coupled with company-contributed pension plans and sick pay, a contract job is the coveted golden egg for many drivers.
Freedom should never be underestimated. Having the freedom to choose the type, length and rate-of-pay for the haulage work you do is the ultimate goal for those with an entrepreneurial spirit. It can be frustrating for drivers in the haulage industry to see significant chunks of their pay check going to the big wigs in the corporate offices under the guise of fees, taxes or simply for the pleasure of driving under a big company name.
Freelancing makes you the boss and the employee. You decide when, for how long and where you go. You also decide your own rates, and generally freelance haulage work is more lucrative in the end.
However, ask any small business owner or freelancer and they will tell you the true story behind the dream. Coordinating your own assignments takes enormous commitment and discipline. Building a good reputation for yourself will not happen overnight, so patience is also key. Freelance drivers invest a lot of time scanning the freight-exchanges for highly competitive jobs. Negotiation skills are a must, as well as a head for business management and financial planning. You will be in charge of drawing up your own contract, calculating expenses and taxes, as well as contributing to your own pension scheme and consequent fund divestiture. So, is the headache worth it to you?
You Can Go With This, Or You Can Go With That
As in any skilled profession, your wants versus needs will fluctuate throughout your career. Your home life will change and your priorities will evolve over time. Choosing a contract position over freelancing is not an irreversible commitment, and many drivers will admit to dabbling in both at some point in their career. Freelance haulage work will have its pros and cons, as will contract work, and as we know, the industry never remains static. Building your skills and reputation as a reliable, efficient and conscientious worker will serve you well, regardless of the path you choose.
Thankfully, the haulage and logistics industry is most likely here to stay. The most valuable employees to a large shipping business are the ones who remain flexible and evolve with the times. If you have the good fortune of getting in with a likeminded company in terms of staying competitive, you will both reap the rewards. However, if you feel that you’re being held back, go ahead and take that leap. With the right amount of planning and precision, you can be the king/queen of your hill.
Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry. Connecting logistics professionals across the UK and Europe through their website, Haulage Exchange provides services for matching haulage work with available drivers. Over 4,500 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.