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The cost of independence: socio-economic profiles of independent truck drivers


Nearly 50,000 or one in five (22%) Canadian truck drivers on the road in 1998 were independent truckers or "owner-operators". However, similar to other forms of self-employment, the net-earnings and socio-economic characteristics of owner-operators have often been ignored by researchers for reasons of analytical convenience or data limitations. New data products recently released by Statistics Canada such as the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID) have the potential to fill much of this gap. The 1997 SLID cross-sectional micro-data files offer a limited but meaningful insight into the work patterns of the owner-operator population, complementing and validating well-established business surveys such as the annual Small for-hire carrier and Owner-operator Survey (SFO). The purpose of this study, through a multivariate analysis of the 1997 SLID and the 1997 SFO survey, was to compare the work patterns and backgrounds of owner-operators to company drivers (paid truck drivers employed by carriers). The study found that while drivers may choose to be self-employed to gain independence, owner-operators tend to work longer hours to meet fixed and variable costs, in return for lower after-tax earnings and a greater likelihood of high work-life stress. The analysis also found that the odds of self-employment among truckers were highest among drivers over 40 years of age with no post-secondary training.

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