Becoming an owner/operator is a big step in your career. It can mean more money, but it also means more stress and time spent thinking about your business.
Before you make that step, here are a few things to consider first.
You’ll Be a Business
Right now, you have one major responsibility — deliver the goods. Yes, you have to think about your license and registration, your HOS, and everything your fleet manager requires. But ultimately, driving is your main responsibility. Once you become an owner/operator, you’re no longer just driving. You’re now a business. Working for yourself comes with more freedom, but it also comes with more responsibility.
- Set and follow a schedule
- Manage finances, both what you earn and what you spend
- Pay attention to news and trends so you can maintain and grow your business
- Build good working relationships so you always have work coming in
- Plan ahead for the next haul and for your future.
Think About the Full Costs
The costs of being an owner/operator aren’t just in the dollars spent. Every expense has unseen costs, as well.
Fuel: It’s not just the money you pay to fuel up, but you also need to consider how you can control those costs. Slowing down and driving less aggressively could save you hundreds of dollars over the course of a year.
Repairs: Not only do you need to budget for the parts and labor for repairs, you also need to consider the cost of downtime. It’s always cheaper to do regular maintenance that you plan for instead of dealing with surprise (and expensive) repairs you didn’t see coming.
Truck: As an owner/operator, you need to own your truck. Will you buy used or new? Used will save you a lot of money up front, but only if it’s a brand with a good reputation and a truck that’s been well-maintained. Also, how will you plan for the eventual cost of repairs and maintenance? Buying a “cheap” truck that requires multiple expensive repairs doesn’t save you time or money.
Insurance: As an owner/operator, you’ll be responsible for the full cost of insurance — as a business and for your truck. Work with a trusted insurance agency who understands the trucking industry so you get competitive rates and insurance you actually need.
Think About Hiring Professional Help
Yes, you know how to drive a truck, avoid violations, meet regulations, and keep your nose clean out on the road. Do you know how to create a profit/loss sheet? Have you ever paid quarterly taxes before? Do you know what kind of business entity you need to set up for yourself as an owner/operator to pay the least amount of taxes? How well do you understand the legalese in a contract?
An investment that saves you time and keeps you from overpaying (or underearning) is hiring professionals to help you with the things you can’t do. An accountant is a bare minimum need as an owner/operator. You may also want to hire a lawyer you can go to when you have a new contract to read through. If you get busy, consider hiring a part-time assistant to help you with scheduling and shipper communication.
You’ll Need to Network
Jobs won’t just show up on your doorstep. To earn a living, you’re going to need to network with brokers and shippers. You may want to pick a niche for yourself and focus on it. Get to know the people who deal in that niche. Also, make sure not to burn bridges when a job is over. If you do a good job for a shipper, they’re more likely to hire you again and to tell others to hire you. The same is true with brokers. Consider every delivery you take to be the “interview” for the next job.
As an owner/operator, you’re responsible for your own equipment, including your ELD. Every dollar counts, especially when you’re first starting out. Don’t pay too much for your ELD. Sign up for Clutch and get your ELD for only $5 a month.