Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Blue Bloodhound Blues

A company named Blue Bloodhound of Hickory, N.C., is bringing the gig economy (yes, it’s a real thing) to trucking. Like many new trucking tech companies, Blue Bloodhound compares itself to Uber.

Most of those other companies are glorified freight brokers with fancy software and smartphone apps. Blue Bloodhound doesn’t broker freight; it’s a temp agency for drivers. The carrier supplies the truck. You just drive.

Here’s the Uber part: Like an Uber driver you can make your own hours. Blue Bloodhound helps you find gigs with carriers. If you already have a regular job, even a full-time job, that’s fine. Blue Bloodhound says you may be able to find loads or perhaps even regular dedicated runs that fit your existing schedule.

“All drivers complete a profile along with a current Driver Qualification file that includes all information they (drivers) are used to providing based on DOT regulations,” explained Todd Warner, COO of Blue Bloodhound. “Motor carriers can review these live files instantly, determine availability, and select a driver immediately.”  

Pay for the gig is posted with the load or run. You can accept an assignment or not. The money you’re paid is strictly between you and the carrier; Blue Bloodhound doesn’t take a slice. They make their money from the carriers. Fleets pay Blue Bloodhound a flat $55 for each day they use a freelance driver.  

On its website, Blue Bloodhound promotes the idea of making you an independent contractor. You’re your own boss. You work when you want to. You’re in business for yourself. You’re the boss. You have the status of an owner-operator without the owning part. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Let’s just say Blue Bloodhound’s website overstates the wonders of independent status, of self-employment, of being in business for yourself. With Blue Bloodhound, you may technically be all those things. But you’re still a temp.

To be fair, Blue Bloodhound offers an honest chart that compares employee status with that of an independent contractor, both benefits and downsides. For example, one item notes that as an independent contractor you are responsible for paying your own self-employment tax. Blue Bloodhound downplays the hassle that involves, but for some people it really is a hassle.

Another more chilling item says that an independent contractor “is not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.” According to attorney Jeff McConnell at Road Law, that’s true. “It’s up to a subcontractor to get his own insurance,” Jeff said.

Working in, on or around trucks can be dangerous. If you’re injured without workers’ comp coverage, your recourse is to sue. But lawsuits, even if you win, take time. Lots of time.

So is working as a temp for Blue Bloodhound a good idea?

That depends entirely on your circumstances. Blue Bloodhound obviously offers a service of value to some people. It won’t cost you anything to sign up at and see what’s available.

Meanwhile, Blue Bloodhound shares one more characteristic with Uber. Both companies further the gig economy. It’s an increasingly popular way of doing business that exploits working people who can’t earn a living wage with one or even two jobs.