Professional drivers can choose to own and run an owner operator trucking business.
By running your own business, you have the power to shape your driving job, earn more dough and be happy while working.
Owner operators (independent drivers) are one of the most profitable types of drivers. After costs and deductions, its common for drivers to earn $50,000 or more in net profit per year.
Before we dive deeper, keep in mind that business owners are in charge of their own profits.
As an owner operator, you must notice details, from the cost of long term truck upkeep to your fuel cost per mile. You will have more freedom and independence, but you will also have more responsibilities and paperwork.
Things You'll Need To Get Started
- Class A CDL with endorsements (Learn more about truck driving schools with free CDL training)
- State Business License
- Truck and Trailer
- A couple years experience as a company driver (recommended, but not required)
There are three ways to be an owner operator.
- Lease a truck from a company and carry company dispatched freight. (Check out these Lease-Purchase trucking jobs)
- Own your truck and work with a company to carry their freight
- Own your truck and trailer, register yourself as a carrier with the DOT and find your own freight to haul.
Each owner operator job has different benefits.
As a lessee (a driver who leases a truck), you may have access to company-wide perks like health insurance and company-specific fuel perks.
Since lessees work directly with carriers, you will benefit from the support of a company and the comradery of fellow drivers with your carrier of choice.
As an independent owner operator, you are able to choose loads and lanes that fit with your preferences and lifestyle. You are also responsible for lining up jobs, so you decide your own home time.
When you're completely independent, you don't have to deal with dispatcher favoritsm, company politics or loads with specs that you don't like.
What separates the most successful owner operators from the naysayers?
- Financial Awareness
Staying on top of your finances is the number one way to be a successful owner operator. Determine a personal and business budget and stick to it like glue!
Remember that maintenance costs for your truck can come in bursts, so you will need to save money for a unanticipated repairs.
Freight may be hard to find at certain times of the year. Keep an emergency to maintain a foundation of income for rainy days in the future.
Saving money on food, getting cash back rewards on credit cards and driving efficiently all affect your bottom line.
- Equipment Reality Checks
Your truck isn't only about comfort while you're on the road, it is also the number one way to influence your profit per run.
A truck with great mileage is your best friend as an owner operator. Mileage starts with the truck but is also influenced by regular, proper maintenance and truly efficient driving.
The most profitable owner operators live by the slow and steady motto. Stay on top of the clock when you stop and you won't have to make up time by driving less efficiently.
- The Right Behind The Scenes Team
When you're an owner operator, you are the CEO and the frontline for your business, but you can't be expected to everything. Find a great accountant to manage taxes and deductions and a reputable broker to find and vet runs.
- Never forgot that YOU are the face of your job.
Dispatchers, brokers, carriers and shippers will remember you by your reputation as a driver and a person. If you always deliver on time, but you constantly complain about terms or service, know that you are smacking the hand that feeds you.
A positive outlook and a constant effort to build relationships will keep your name at the top of the list for the best runs.
Ways To Make More Money As An Owner Operator
- Use a credit card for business related purchases, including repair work, fuel and equipment. Some credit cards offer consistent cash back. If you have an issue with a mechanic or an equipment problem, credit card purchases are much easier to dispute than debit purchases.
- A trucking broker helps independent drivers increase revenue by finding loads on behalf of the driver. A broker typically requires a portion of the load fee, usually around 10%.
- When you are ready to grow, hire owner operators as IRS Form 1099 employees and offer them drives you do not want. Keep a markup or fee from your negotiated price.
- Apply to multiple jobs at one time, then compare your offers and negotiate the best deal for you. You can apply to all the jobs in your area using one owner operator job application.
Hear It Straight From Independent Drivers
We work with owner operators every day to help them find better driving jobs. Over the years, they have shared thoughts, quotes and reasons they love being a driver.
"Keep your wheels turning and stay safe." -Owner operator Mario Rosa from Oklahoma
"I love the fact that I am female and able to do this job." -Owner operator Brenda Cady from Virginia
"When I can manage to get out of the truck, I enjoy meeting new people and seeing the States." -Joshua Johnson from Florida
"I got 40 offers, talked to 10 companies with the pay range I wanted and chose a carrier!" -Owner Operator Terry Medlock from South Carolina
"Driving been good to me and has taken care of my and family for years." -Owner operator Tom Tripp from Texas
"There's just something about big pretty trucks." -Owner operator Greg Cluck from Oklahoma
Becoming an owner operator is simple, but being a successful one takes some work and attention to detail. There are several different types of owner operators and each kind fits a certain set of driver needs. Once you make the jump, keep a business owner mindset to stay profitable.
If you have tips for owner operators, share them with us on Facebook and we'll get you added to this article!