NZTA - How to stay positive as an owner-operator

Thursday, October 1, 2020

As 75% of New Zealand trucking companies are owner-operated, with five or fewer employees, it’s important to understand their challenges. Operators of heavy goods and large passenger transport services need to comply with a range of rules and regulations. The rules have been designed to assist transport service licence holders to run successful and compliant businesses. If you are new to the business or thinking about joining, then you need to start strong. Put things in place, because every action has an outcome. Well-maintained fleets are more productive. There is less unscheduled maintenance and time off the road if you have good maintenance systems in place. Get ahead of the game and put a regular maintenance system in your business. Well-maintained vehicles have lower fuel bills, which is a straight cost that affects your profitability. A high emphasis on safe driving will result in fewer infringement or offence notices. Establishing a culture of safety and quality in your business right from the start reduces the risk of crashes, vehicle damage and personal injury or death. Being recognised as an operator who cares about doing the right thing and who is seen as a good employer will win contracts over employers who cut corners and don’t really care about their workers.

Infringement notice costs take money out of your pocket and do nothing to improve your business. During the lockdown the public learnt how important trucks are to their everyday life. But it can be hard dealing with sudden changes and that is one reason to belong to an association. During the pandemic and post-lockdown, the New Zealand Trucking Association has been commended by its members on the way it delivered information. In the first few days the team was flooded with updates and rule changes from several sources. A quick Zoom meeting with the team and a plan was developed on how the communication would go out. The team filtered the nonrelevant information and kept only what was important. The association is a partner for your business and will help you every step of the way. It’s tough running a business; we save you time by not having to find information for yourself. We are there to do it for you while you get on with running your business.

Staying positive as a small or medium business is vital. Here are some tips on things you can do. Cash is king and always has been. Look at your cashflow often and not only when you notice things starting to get tight. Saving money on purchases is one way to improve your bottom line. Debt collection is another. Do not let your debt get out of the normal trading time frame. If you have an account that is difficult, talk to the company; there is more than one way to collect the debt. It may be that you have no choice but to ring-fence the debt and move them to a cash account, with a portion going to the debt. You do not have to be their banker, but you might have to help them out through a period. Do your homework and make sure you don’t expose yourself to further debt. Work out what needs to change in your business now. Do not wait, put aside some time to think about what the effect would be if you made some changes.

Make sure you celebrate your success. Reward your staff. It doesn’t have to be a huge reward; it can be morning tea or a pizza lunch. A $25 grocery voucher is a great way to show your appreciation. A small operator’s staff are key people in their business, so if they are good people, reward them and include them in your growth plans for the business. If they are not good, move them on to help them realise their future somewhere else. Drivers’ health and wellbeing is of concern due to the average age of a truck driver and the fact they are sitting for many hours a day. Post-lockdown, the CVST expressed concerns around fatigue of the drivers. Fatigue is a major contributing factor in rollovers and truck crashes, but it is also identified in depression. Make sure your health and safety programmes support drivers when they need it. Especially when they return to work after a break or extended leave time. Encourage regular exercise and movement during breaks. Become that company that people want to work for because your company’s culture and safety record is the best.