I ask this question because everyone, just about, that gets into the trucking industry thinks they want to own their own truck, fix it up real pretty and motor down the super highway at a high rate of speed to be an Owner/Operator Truck Driver. All that sounds really good and may look really good to a lot of company drivers. Sometimes things are not as good as they look.
A lot of drivers run out and purchase that big truck, take on too much debt, not really knowing what they are getting into. There are a lot of things to think about before you make that commitment and decide if you want to be owners or truck drivers. I would like to cover just some of them here and what it takes to be independent owner/operator truck drivers.
What Are You Getting Into
Many of you have probably been company drivers for some time. You have seen those big shiny large cars going down the highways and you are thinking “sure wish I had a big truck like that”! I can tell you that very seldom is it like it looks! The old saying “looks can be deceiving” certainly applies here.
First of all, there are many things that you need to take into consideration before you run out and get that new truck. Are you prepared to take on all the debt and expense associated with owning a truck? You probably know fuel and maintenance will be your responsibility. Have you asked what kind of company you would want to lease to, or do you want to be totally independent? By being totally independent you are responsible for getting our own authority to operate in 48 states and if you want to run in Canada you have to purchase the proper authority to operate there.
Most states will allow you to purchase permits to run intrastate only, but the problem with that is, are you going to get enough freight to make a living? Texas, California, and Alaska are large enough that a person can operate in-state only and earn the money needed.
Also, when you operate independently, you are responsible for filing your fuel taxes for each state you operate in. This can get a little confusing sometimes as each state is different. Don’t forget about the ELD mandate, you will be responsible for getting your ELD App or the proper logging devices that are approved by the FMCSA.
Would you like to get into flatbed freight? Don’t forget about chains, straps, binders, tarps, and any other things you will need to secure your loads. The expenses to purchase and maintain these will be your responsibility. Also, if you get an oversize load sometimes, you may need to purchase permits and sometimes hire an escort service.
Yes, these are just some things a person needs to think about if they decide to become owner/operator truck driver.
New Truck/Used Truck
Everyone wants a new truck and this could be a good idea, depending on what type of trucking you want to get into. If you plan to run 48 states and Canada, it would be recommended to get a new truck. The main thing is the warranty that you have with a new truck. New trucks today have some really good warranties now.
Another plus to a new truck is when you encounter those hard to get along with DOT inspectors. They are less apt to inspect a new truck as opposed to a used truck. There is less likelihood of finding things wrong with a new truck. The best part about new trucks is that they are a lot more comfortable, have all the new conveniences and a lot easier to drive on those long drives across the country.
New Truck Reviews
It is a good idea to look at all the reviews about the truck you are thinking about purchasing. Here’s my list:
- Warranty – all new trucks have great warranties now some as much as 500,000 miles or more on some parts
- Size of the engine – do you have enough power to run the mountains out west or the speed for the flatland
- Transmission – make sure to get the proper transmission for the engine you are getting, once again will the transmission hold up, pulling the mountains, in the Mojave desert when it’s 110 plus outside
- Rear End Ratios – Check the size of your rear ends, make sure your rear ends are geared for the areas you want to run in
- Driver Comfort – Very important no matter where you are trucking. Keep in mind no matter what you are going to live in that truck at least eleven hours per day and maybe all the time if you run 48 states
Everyone needs the best pillow for their sleeper, especially if you run team. This ensures that the person in the sleeper gets a good rest while you are bouncing along our great highways!
All truck manufacturers offer different things with their trucks, you have to check into all the different options that you can get. Some tractors ride better than others and have different sleeper arrangements or perks. Peterbilts have a smaller cab space and the Freightliners are roomier. If you get a cheaper model of a particular manufacturer they have a tendency not to hold together well and not as comfortable as other more expensive tractors.
A good rule of thumb is you get what you pay for. Peterbilt may be the Mercedes, Freightliner an expensive Chevrolet, and International the least expensive Ford. Other drivers may have different ways to describe a particular tractor and that’s why it could be a good idea to talk to other drivers about different tractors. Check with other drivers about the truck you are thinking about purchasing and what they like about the tractor they are driving.
If you are going to stay in a particular area, it could be a good idea to purchase a used truck. When looking at used trucks, keep in mind that as far as engine, transmissions, and rear ends, it is the same as a new truck. Keep in mind the area you are going to run. Of course, we don’t want a truck with a lot of miles.
The way things are now, a dealer can hook up an engine to the computers to check for any defects. Be sure you tell whoever you are buying the tractor from that you want an engine analysis run, to make sure there are not any defects. They also should be able to provide maintenance records for that particular tractor. If the dealer tells you they don’t have or doesn’t want to give you that information – Don’t Buy It!
Companies for O/O
As I said earlier, if you want to become an Owner/Operator, one needs to decide if they are going at it alone or with a company. The benefits of leasing to a company is the different things they offer. Most all companies will figure your fuel taxes for you, but you have to pay the tax. Other companies will provide plates and authority, but when it comes to insurance, you have to provide what they call bobtail insurance for your tractor. When you are leased to a company, they pay for cargo insurance, in most cases.
Subsequently, you are the one that has to decide on what type of trucking you want to get into and what type of company you want to lease to. Keep in mind, most of the time, the more the company pays for (registration, fuel taxes, tolls, lumpers) the less you are going to make.
I expect that you would want to know what states a company operates in? Do they run 48 states and Canada or just a particular area? Generally speaking, companies that operate dry vans and refrigerated vans stay busier. Their drivers also make a little more money, than say a flatbed company. People that are involved in oversize loads, make more money, but there are a lot more expenses involved and in most states, there are only certain times they can operate.
Even though a company may pay a good rate to their drivers, they may not pay too much in the way of perks. A driver has to weigh all the facts and try to make an informed decision. Do they pay loaded and empty miles or just percentages? Do they pay a good fuel surcharge? Some will pay your tolls. These are just some things to consider when checking into a company to lease your tractor too and when you are thinking about owner/operator truck driver jobs.
Business Operating Expenses
What expenses are you going to have? As with any business you are going to have fixed and variable expenses. There are not too many fixed expenses in the trucking business. This is because you are constantly changing locations, so everything will change state by state and from day to day.
About the only guarantee is your truck payment and maybe your accountant fees. I strongly recommend you hire a competent accountant and tax consultant. There are a lot of software programs out there that will do this for you, but time could become a factor. It is a lot easier to throw all your receipts in an envelope and turn them into your bookkeeper every month or quarter. One less thing you have to worry about.
Now one needs to think about all those other expenses that can make you or break you. As I said most all expenses are variable and they are:
- Fuel for your tractor and in a lot of cases fuel for your reefer unit
- Maintenance – preventive and breakdowns – tires
- Tolls – some companies will pay your tolls
- Unloading fees (lumpers)
- Insurance – can change yearly
- Any bookkeeping fees and fuel taxes – each one is different by state
I mentioned earlier about being totally independent owner/operator truck drivers. This is when you get your own authority, go through freight brokers for loads and take care of all expenses I talked about above. This is probably a good idea if you can stay in one area or can get dedicated runs with one or two companies or one freight broker that can keep you busy. Just a few years ago there were several completely independent drivers. It is getting harder to do because large companies can stand to haul cheap freight sometimes and make up the difference on other loads
Being independent Owner/Operator truck drivers is not easy, but anyone that understands the trucking industry and has a desire to succeed can be successful. This is especially true now with the driver shortage and the economy picking up this last year. In fact, I would think now would be a good time to become an O/O. Every article I have read on the subject has talked about the high freight volumes and lack of trucks. This can only lead to higher freight rates.
Check out one of my earlier blogs at How to Find Truck Driving Jobs if you like?
Comments are always Welcome!