What Drives You? Owner-Operator Chad Boblett Shares His Tips for Starting a Trucking Company
For Chad Boblett, owner-operator of Boblett Brothers Inc., starting his trucking company was the end of a long road from a Sergeant in the Marines to a civilian. But it was also the start of an incredible journey that has given him and his family the freedom to work and travel how they want. Running his business also lets him pursue something he loves while helping others do the same.
You may recognize Chad from his active Facebook Group, Rate Per Mile Masters, which boasts over 25,000 members today. Watch what keeps Chad moving, motivated, and “making the money.”
Read more from our interview with Chad below.
(Interview has been edited for brevity.)
Convoy: Thank you for sitting down with us today. Why don’t you begin by talking a little bit about how you got started?
Chad: Well, getting started was kind of rough. I went straight from being a company driver to being an owner-operator-carrier. I never leased on with anyone. So, even though I had great credit at the time, I didn’t have money to put down on a truck, and banks didn’t want to loan me the money because I never owned a trucking company before. I was on a new adventure, but nobody wanted to loan me that money.
So, I used four credit cards to buy my first truck – the red Volvo, $35,000. The cool thing is that I did it at 0% interest too. I was able to pay off that $35,000 loan in less than two years at 0% interest.
Convoy: Wow. That’s incredible. Can you tell us a little bit about when you got out of the military, how did you land on a career in trucking?
Well, I got out of the Marine Corps after 10 years. I never did think about getting out. I wanted to stay in. I liked it. But, after going to Iraq and being a part of Phantom Fury, I was done. It was time for me to go do something else.
When I got out, I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t have a backup plan. Here I was, a sergeant in the Marine Corps. I had the position where I was in charge. It was a supervisor position. Getting out, nobody’s going to let you run a company that you know nothing about. That was kind of a struggle.
But, every time I opened up the paper — everything’s done on the Internet now, but this wasn’t that long ago, 2006 — were these huge ads that covered the whole page with these big trucking companies that wanted to hire drivers.
So, I’m like “Let’s go drive a truck.” It looked like it was good money, big sign-on bonuses, and things like that. That’s what got me started into it.
And I’m glad I did. I just wish I got my authority and became an owner-operator sooner.
Convoy: What were some of the concerns you had about starting your own trucking business? And how did you overcome them?
Chad Boblett: Well, when I got my first truck, everybody’s like, “The first thing you do when you get a truck is lease on to someone.” So, I looked at leasing. But I liked the idea of negotiating rates with brokers. I wanted to be a part of negotiating, picking my own freight and stuff like that.
I didn’t know anything about getting your authority. But, when I looked at leasing on to different companies, they took a percent. I said, “That’s what everybody does, so I guess that’s what I’m supposed to do.”
But then I came across an ad for a load board. I could use this load board, I could get to work with any broker I want to for only $35. I get to go wherever I want to go, work with any broker I want, and I get all the money. I was like, “What’s the catch?”
There was no catch. You only had to pay $35 and you had to get your authority. I said, “You take credit cards?” I got my authority, and the first load I did, the broker gave me $2 per mile. I’ve just kept on making money ever since then.
Convoy: How has the industry changed since you’ve been doing what you’ve been doing? What are some of the biggest differences that you’ve noticed?
Chad: I like talking about that because it’s gotten a lot easier. It’s gotten so much more easier, to where it’s not nearly as complicated, difficult as it used to be.
Before, if you wanted to work with a broker, you were going to do a 10-page contract that you’d be doing from a truck stop. The broker would have to fax it to you at the truck stop so you can fill it out. You could also have the contract emailed to you, but then you’re in your truck, and to fill out and sign it — I mean, that kind of stuff, that went away to where now it can all be done online. There’s no printing it out and all that other nonsense.
Convoy: How about finding work?
Chad: The load board has gotten a lot more advanced. Back then, the technology wasn’t there yet; you had to learn the market yourself. Now, you can pretty much step into this, use the tools, and start making money.
Convoy: Does automation make it easier for owner operators?
Chad: One of the pros of automation is for the new guys getting their trucking authority. Maybe they’re shy at negotiating; not everybody can jump in this and learn how to negotiate. Brokers negotiate all day long. How many loads is an owner-operator negotiating? One? The one he’s picking up.
So it’s better for them to be able to negotiate. The rates are there. It’s just click — no talking to anybody. You’re not going to use automation on every single load, but the ones that you can — oh yeah.
I don’t like going to the Northeast for several different reasons, but mainly it’s a struggle getting out. There’s really good rates that go in. The problem though is coming out. I can never find anything decent that comes out.
But with automation, with Convoy, if a broker’s got a load that’s going to the Northeast that’s paying really good, I can jump on Convoy days in advance, and they’ve already got the load on there. If the load is coming back out of the Northeast, in an area that I want to be in, then I can take the load into the Northeast.
Convoy: Why do you stay in trucking? What about it do you love?
Chad: Well, getting my authority, having my own schedule, being able to take off the time when I want to be able to take off. My wife’s from Japan. We like to go on vacations and take off a good amount of time. No other job would really let you do that.
I don’t work with direct shippers. I work the spot market only. Spot market gives you the freedom to be able to take time off.
It’s like a rollercoaster; it goes up and down. When it’s good, I say get out there and make the money. Make as much of it as you can — because it’s going to slow down in winter. And when it does, you can take that time off. You go out there and work when it’s good — and you work hard. Make a whole lot of money, because it’s going to slow down. Once it slows down, take your time off.
I like that. It’s a rush.
You get a broker that calls you up at dark-thirty in the middle of the night and they say, “Hey, we got this load that you need to pick up. We got a plant that’s going to shut down — the union’s going to go on strike. We need you to get in there before midnight, and we’re going to pay you $1,600.” That’s a rush. That feels good.
That’s a true story, actually. I was like “Hell yeah, I’ll be there before midnight. I guarantee it.” And so, anyway, yeah, I love what I do.
And I like helping other people do it too. I started a Facebook group and write all about it. I like what I do — that’s why I try to encourage other people to get their authority.
Convoy: What kind of advice would you give to folks who are thinking about getting their trucking authority?
Chad: Start networking with those people who are already doing what you want to do. I love talking with the people that I like and admire when I’m going on the road. I want to associate with people who stand out to me, who are doing what I’m doing but doing it better.
A lot of people I talk with fear the unknown. But, I’m a huge promoter in doing it.
I try to address some of those issues: “What’s slowing you down? What are you worried about? I don’t know if I can make money, I don’t know this…,” in my Facebook group, Rate Per Mile Masters. It’s a heavily moderated group and stays totally professional. A lot of them will network with other people in the group. They’ll read the posts about what’s happening, see the money that’s being made and the information being shared, and all that helps people get the courage to take that step.
Convoy: Thank you. That’s really cool. Last question — what’s your favorite route?
Chad: If I tell you, then everybody’s going to want to take my route from me! I like going to Nashville. It’s around 200 miles to go there one way, and then 200 miles back. I like Indianapolis quite a bit too. It’s close to my house, and there’s a lot of automotive happening now on those lanes.
Whenever it slows down, and I want to do something different, I like coming out West. It’s not my favorite, but it’s a good breakup from doing the same thing.