Harman Cheema
August 4, 2022

Harman Cheema

“My dad was a driver. He started his own trucking company – just a one-truck deal – in 2006 when I was a sophomore in high school. I helped him from day one, then I took over after I graduated high school, seeing there was an opportunity for quality carriers out there.”

“Now, I own Cheema Freight Lines. We have just over 350 employees in six states, not including any contractors. Our two main states are California and Washington, and they both make it harder to do business.”

“We started out as an independent contractor company using owner-operators out on their own trucks. That way, we can easily grow and help our customers with capacity and supply chain issues. But the states want employee/employer relationships, so they make it harder for us to continue to use the contractors and grow our fleet.”

“Those drivers want to be their own boss just like my dad wanted to be his own boss. But, we really can’t employ the single truck operators that are dependent on us for their livelihood and to take that ability away from them doesn’t help anything.”

“Of course, the gas tax is hurting us, too. We feel like people don’t always recognize what they’re voting for and all those costs trickle back down. My cost of fuel has gone up significantly, from roughly $300,000 a week to as high as $450,000 a week. So, we have to charge that to the customer, and the customer has to charge it back in the products they sell. If you wonder why the price of groceries and everything is up, that has a lot to do with it.” 

“We’re all for paying our portion if we can get it back into infrastructure – the bridges and streets where our trucks operate – but we’re not seeing that benefit as quickly as we’re paying for it.”

“We’ve been trying very hard to continue to increase wages, especially for our drivers because they’re the frontline heroes. We had some things in play that we had to pause because we have higher costs in fuel and we’re not able to charge all of it back. It’s eating into the profit that we could have been passing on to our employees, which would have gone back into the economy to keep things going.”

“We still have aggressive growth plans, but now we’re thinking twice about everything to see what happens. Companies like us that are a little bit stronger might be able to hold off, but the smaller guys are gonna get crushed because they don’t have the relationships. Those are the guys that are gonna really struggle and it’s gonna get even harder. They’re the ones who are getting pushed out. It all hurts all of us because it’s our own economy.”

“We’re competing with other companies that work out here but aren’t based in the west and don’t have as much regulation hindering them – which makes their costs significantly lower. It makes it really hard to do business and still stay competitive. That’s when businesses start leaving – why should they continue to be here if the costs are only going to keep going up?”  

Harman Cheema
Sumner, Washington


Photo: Harman with his father (who started the business) and his baby son in front of Cheema trucks.

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