Becoming an owner operator truck driver is a dream. Being your own boss, setting your own hours, and still making a living are the goals of millions of Americans. In most industries, the capital requirements are simply too great. However, long haul truckers have the ability to take control of their own destiny with a few simple steps.
How to Become an Owner Operator Truck Driver
If it’s always been your dream to go out on your own, follow these simple steps:
Make Sure It’s Really What You Want
A lot of people have the desire to be their own boss but don’t have the work habits and perseverance to realistically make it happen.
If you’re an experienced driver with years on the road, think about how those years have gone. Have you been a good employee? Chances are that if you have slacked or not given your job a decent effort for someone else, nothing will change when you strike out on your own. You will bear the brunt of your own bad labor.
While it may seem counterintuitive, you will often have to work harder. Take personal stock and see if you really have the drive. If you are just getting started, assess whether you are in it for the long haul (pun intended). If you don’t view it as a long term career and merely a job, then probably best to work a few years and invest the serious time and money elsewhere. That’s ok and nothing to be ashamed of.
If you enjoy driving, it makes sense to put yourself on a path to become an owner-operator sooner than later to maximize earnings. It’s always wise to invest in yourself, and especially with something you enjoy.
Consider your personal situation:
- Do you need strong corporate subsidized healthcare?
- Do you spend a lot of time with family?
- Do you have restrictions on your schedule?
- Can you sustain working long hours? Being an owner operator extends beyond driving trucks – you have to do your own books, drum up business, pay for your own gear and accessories, etc.
There are a few advantages to the corporate structure. Remember working for yourself does not mean working less or working less hard.
Owner Operator Trucker Salary
An independent trucker’s income can vary depending on the amount of business you generate.
It’s Always About the Money
Before setting an unrealistic goal. Take stock of your finances. Do you have enough savings, and liquid cash to take a financial risk?
Becoming an owner operator means leaving the certainty of a safe paycheck. If you have a fair amount of savings, good credit, and little to no debt, that shows you’ve been fiscally responsible in the past – these are good signs and signify you might be ready to strike out on your own.
If not, perhaps you need to focus on handling your stable income before testing the waters. Don’t underestimate the cost of disability, life, and health insurance. These costs can add up and if you have a family they are absolutely imperative for supporting them in case of an accident.
After you consider all these factors, do you still have a little left over to support yourself while getting your sea legs. If so, you may be financially fit to start a small business.
You can be your own boss without going totally on your own. If you want to own your truck, but not handle all the ins and outs, you could consider contracting with a carrier. While it’s not full independence it does have its benefits.
You will get consistent routes and assistance with permitting and legal relevancies. You will also have less time between loads and better rates for hotels, gasoline, tolls, replacement parts, maintenance, and other overlooked items.
However, essentially you still have someone telling you when and where to go, and for what price. You will earn less per mile and your mutual commitment goes no further than each contract. If you’re ready for 100% independence you have to accept the inconsistencies and dead miles that come with finding your own opportunities. It can be frustrating to work for yourself, but it’s also exciting.
Picking Your Gear
This can be one of the best parts of becoming an owner-operator. You can customize your truck and trailer to fit your needs.
This is a great perk of working for yourself, but it can also be dangerous. The impulse is to overspend. Focus on what you need to get started and then go from there. If your venture doesn’t work out you didn’t lose much and can hold your head high knowing you tried.
If you’re focused on staying more local, maybe you don’t need a super comfortable cabin. Your truck should be in good mechanical condition and fuel efficient. Repairs and fuel can sink your fledgling enterprise at the outset.
So while it might be tempting to go with the flashy new supercar, it’s probably smarter to stick with the reliable and effective sedan. You’re the boss now, so it’s up to you to make the right decision.
Seek Legal and Tax Assistance
Before getting on the road, seek legal and tax assistance for setting up your business. Find a lawyer and accountant you trust to help you set up the protections you need.
Acquiring the necessary permits and following tax laws while running a business is very difficult. Your specialty is piloting the rig, don’t forget that. Outsource the things you don’t understand. Let them handle the books, and worry about establishing business connections and getting some income flowing.
Furthermore, finding out later you’ve made a legal or tax mistake could cost you and your family dearly. It’s of utmost importance to limit your liability as a small business owner and make sure no one can come after your personal assets.
Legal issues or tax problems can bog you down with unexpected expenses. And they will be very expensive. Small businesses have been crushed by less.
Nothing ever goes as planned. If you are the type to fold over at the first hurdle, then being an owner -operator is not for you.
You have to manage your expectations. You will get out what you put in. That means your attitude too. If you have a positive outlook and expect mistakes then you will probably do well. If you enjoy a challenge, and it will be a challenge, then that’s the most important element. Determination will go a long way.
Don’t expect perfection and get ready for some serious twists and turns. Overall, enjoy the fact that everything you do is for you and your family.
Geoff is a freelance writer with 20+ years of experience driving trucks and buses, dispatching, supervising, and training commercial driving teams. His expertise is writing topics on the transportation and trucking industry, and information technology trends.