A lot of truck drivers, even those who are just starting out, recognize the potential benefits of becoming an owner-operator. Who doesn’t want the freedom associated with working for yourself, being a business owner and finding the potential to hit it big and turn your little one-person operation into a fleet of your own?
It’s more than a possibility for many people getting into the industry: it’s a dream. But it’s also a journey fraught with peril, something you should consider carefully and prepare for meticulously if you want to find real success as a trucking owner-operator.
It’s important to keep in mind that embarking upon this path means leaving the safety and relative security of your regular trucking job. You’ll be on your own for things like insurance, and you won’t have the big trucking company backing you up if you get into trouble.
So if you’re keen to strike out on your own, you should make the proper preparations. While you can find success, and yes, perhaps even find real success that you can build into something lasting, you should follow these steps (at least to some degree).
Get some experience working for trucking companies. You don’t want to jump into the deep end before you learn to swim, and neither do you want to be a rookie truck driver expecting fame and fortune right out of the gate. Give yourself a few years working for “the man” to learn how the business works, from the driving to keeping costs down on the road to working the logbooks. Get in with someone in the office and take notes on how to properly run a business of your own.
Save some money. Be sure you can afford to buy or lease your truck, and beware of companies willing to throw a truck to you under suspicious circumstances. Barr-Nunn truck driver David Casanova cautions against working with companies. “Plenty of companies out there will be willing to lease you a $150,000 truck with as little as 6 months experience and no money down,” he said. “They know you don’t know the numbers involved, they don’t give title to the truck unless you’ve paid it off, and while you are a contractor they don’t have to pay for certain benefits an employee would get.” Instead of this shortcut, save up for a healthy down payment on your truck and buy through legitimate channels only.
Consider your private life. Families and private lives complicate the work of an owner-operator, who is often on the road an even longer time than other truck drivers. If you want to be home to see your family, it may not be feasible to do so as a successful owner-operator, especially initially. The decision between making that extra money and spending some time with your children can be a difficult one.
Becoming an owner-operator is a huge step in the life of a truck driver. Don’t approach it lightly, and certainly don’t jump in without the proper experience, finances, and having your private life in order. Having your life in order and being fully prepared to take on this responsibility and privilege is a key step in doing it successfully versus getting yourself into strangling debt and a bad situation.