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NASTC gives small carriers a boost

By on May 7, 2015

The National Association of Small Trucking Companies (NASTC) brings together thousands of smaller carriers to give them a stronger standing in the industry. Road King spoke to NASTC President, David Owen, about the organization’s goals for its members.

Q Who is eligible for membership in NASTC?

A We started in 1989, primarily to help small trucking companies have the collective buying power and clout to remain competitive in the full truckload market. At the time, most of the buying power opportunities from the vendors we partnered with were not available to our guys until they got five or more trucks. That changed about seven years ago when we got broad enough in our offering to get rid of most of the minimums. It then made sense to talk to everybody, including one driver/one truck owneroperators. I have determined that the safest and most profitable carriers in our industry are the one driver/one truck companies. I am a big supporter of good, smart owner-operators.

There’s not a top limit on the number of trucks allowed for our members, and some have grown over the years to have 400 trucks. But typically our headlights get a little dim with companies that have more than 100 trucks.

Q What are the benefits for an owneroperator with one truck?

Number one is our fuel program — it is our Frank Sinatra. It allows a one driver/one truck operation to be competitive at the pump at some of the nicest truckstops in America. We are now the largest OTR fuel program in the country.

Our NASTC Authority Plus program helps drivers who want to get their own authority. We are able to solve four or five problems for them with one phone call with this program. It’s a big head start. The second biggest decision that a driver makes after getting their own authority is whether to add that second truck and we can be a huge help there too.

Q How do you reach out to these smaller companies?

We are doing some things a bit differently than you might expect. A small trucking company, running on its own authority, has to do several things well to stay in business and grow. There’s the safety culture of compliance, drug and alcohol testing, insurance and so on. They need the ability to understand and use software that allows them to run the company efficiently.

So six years ago we started a program called New Entrant Survival Training, based on the fact that a lot of drivers who take the step to get their own authority don’t make it through their first year. Only one in 10 survive that first year. We wanted to help them stay in business.

Q What will drivers find with the New Entrant Survival Training?

Our MSP — Management and Safety Program — has about 12 elements designed to help new company owners learn the many parts of the business they need to know. We want to expose these guys with one truck to that program, but when they call us, usually it’s because they’ve heard of our fuel program. They want to sign on for that, and don’t really know about the other things we offer. We started leveraging their need to be competitive in the fuel arena. Anyone with four or fewer trucks who calls us to get in on the fuel program must also go through our one-day New Entrant Survival Training course at our headquarters in Nashville, or sign up for MSP 1 when they join. If they still only want to get our fuel program, that’s fine, but they can’t avoid listening to me explain why they should take the MSP.

Once they go through that process they are happy they came. We really are making a difference with it. Now instead of one out of 10 companies making it past one year, we are seeing 65 percent make it — if they go through our MSP program.

Q Are there issues of concern for these companies that are different from larger companies?

We were not originally designed as a lobbying company and we are not a not-for-profit, but we have been going to Washington for 20 years on behalf of small carriers. We have made a difference because, quite frankly, they have nobody else speaking on their behalf.

I just went there with Henry Seaton, our transportation attorney, and Rick Gobbell, formerly with the FMCSA, to meet with congressional staffers for a briefing on trucking from the small guy’s perspective — which they never hear. We have been very vocal about what we see is wrong with CSA and have been loud advocates on issues that might benefit megafleets but harm the small carrier.

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