Financial Tips & Guides
Truck driver standing near his semi truck

How to Become an Owner-Operator Trucker and Be your Own Boss

Updated on September 13, 2019


Perhaps you have decided to take the big and seemingly insurmountable step of becoming an entrepreneur, and operating a truck is your business of choice. Becoming a truck owner-operator is a great decision that may be of great advantage to you regarding finances and freedom in the long run. Nevertheless, it is a must for you to understand some basics if you are going to succeed in the business. This article will show you how to become an owner-operator trucker as well as provide a few essential tips that can to increase your semi truck driver salary and make your venture into the truck ownership business successful.

Factors to Consider Before Becoming an Owner Operator Trucker

When it comes to understanding how to become an owner-operator trucker, certain factors must be considered before making different decisions that may make or break your business. The following are the things you need to think about to become one of the successful owner-operator truckers:

Your personality
Personal assessment goes a long way in becoming a truck owner-operator; therefore, it is imperative to consider your habits, work ethic, and other individual factors that may affect your activities as a trucker. Will you be able to drive for several hours without losing focus? Are you disciplined enough to stay off of the internet or avoid other distractions for a few hours when you are behind the wheel? If you do not have a strong work ethic that can keep you well grounded and focused on the task of driving for several hours, you may not be able to join the leagues of successful owner-operator truck drivers. Your driving preferences should also be considered because many restrictions come with truck driving that may impact your driving experiences.

Your particular family needs
If your family have any special needs that need to be catered to, you need to consider whether or not it will affect your work as an owner operator truck driver. Do you have to stay at home during the weekends with your family members or your partner? If that is the case, it will affect what days you can be on the road and limit the amount of money you can make. Do you have shared child custody, a child that may be left at the mercy of a stranger if you are not around, or any other special family needs that must be taken care of? You must remember that being owner-operator truckers comes with an unusual work schedule that may cause you to be absent from home for a long period; hence, these factors must be considered. Notably, considering your family challenges can help you make plans on how you can manage them.

Your health needs
Do you have any health problems that could demand emergency medical attention? Are you healthy enough to survive sleeping in the cold or other unfavorable weather conditions in your truck? Do you have any health conditions that affect your ability to drive safely? Are you taking any medications that affect your ability to stay awake at the wheel for extended periods of time? If you have any health needs that may affect your work as an owner-operator truck driver, you should forget about learning how to become an owner-operator trucker but instead work for a company as a truck driver.

Your short-term or long-term goals for trucking
Before becoming a truck driver, you should analyze your goals. Do you have plans to be a truck owner-operator for a long time or just a few years? Where do you see yourself in the next three or five years? Your answers to these questions will shed some light on whether you have a short-term or long-term goal of being a trucker. If you only have a short-term goal for trucking, it is highly recommended for you to work for a company rather than commit yourself to be an independent truck owner.

Types of trucking authority
Two types of trucking authority are available for owner operator truck drivers – contract or common trucking authority. With contract trucking authority, you have a running contract with a particular company; you work as an exclusive truck driver for the company. A common trucking authority, on the other hand, allows you to work with any broker, company or business of your choice. There are many benefits to each option, but the freedom to choose whom you work with is one reason many truckers decide to become owner-operators.

Your financial considerations
Without a doubt, finances play an essential part in becoming a truck owner-operator as it will be what will determine if you are going to be successful in your business. You will have to manage your income and expenses as a trucker so that you can optimize your operation. Whatever decisions you take concerning your finances, you should ensure that your budget is suitable for your financial strength without accruing any excessive debt. You should also consider setting aside an emergency fund that can come to your rescue if any unforeseen expenses turn up.

Different options for acquiring the truck – lease or purchase
Generally, there are two methods of getting a truck when you are starting off as owner-operator truckers – you can either buy the truck outright or lease from a truck leasing company. Both options have their advantages. Although you will have to pay a significant upfront cost when you buy a truck, the freedom and sense of owning it outright are worthwhile. As the outright owner, you can consider the truck to be an asset which can be sold if any financial obligations must be fulfilled. On the other hand, leasing a semi truck does not require a huge down payment and allows you to work as an independent truck owner for a short period without stringent financial demands. Whatever option of acquiring a truck you would like to explore, you should make a decision as early as possible.

The equipment you want to buy or lease
The profitability of your business as a truck owner-operator depends mainly on the type of truck you choose. If you should mistakenly select the wrong equipment, all your investments may end up going down the drain so to speak. Therefore, you must pay attention to:

  • Age of truck
  • Mileage on the truck
  • Warranty
  • Amenities
  • Fuel economy

Taxes and other legal structure of the business
Just like in other businesses, tax and other legal entities must be considered so that the company will be legally structured. It is recommended that you hire the services of a qualified professional that can offer you advice that will ensure a positive entry into your venture into truck driving.

Tips to Succeed as an Independent Truck Driver

To be successful as an owner-operator truck driver, here are some essential truck driving tips and tricks that you should follow:

Research about trucking in your location
Differences exist in the economy, trends, industrial growth and other factors affect trucking from one place to another. As a result of these differences, it is recommended for you to find out everything related to truck driving in your location. Understanding the peculiarities of truck driving in your location will prepare you for any challenges that you may encounter later on in your business venture. Contact different trucking companies to get more ideas from them; however, you should not rely only on the information you get from them. Get reviews from other owner-operator truckers and learn from their experiences.

Handle independent trucking like a business
Due to the freedom that comes with independent trucking, many owner operator truck drivers often lose sight of the business aspect of trucking and work without proper work ethic. In many cases, failure to handle independent trucking properly leads to the downfall of the business itself. Do not fall into easily avoidable pitfalls that many ended up in, manage your business as a professional with strong work ethics.

Build a long-lasting relationship with your carrier
In a bid to save money and test different deals, many owner-operator truckers often move from one carrier to another. However, this isn't wise as they usually end up spending more when they jump from one carrier to another. Once you have found a suitable carrier, take your time to build a long-lasting relationship with such carrier as this will be advantageous to your business in the long run.

Have realistic expectations
Although it is normal for you to have certain income and revenue expectations, you must understand that independent truck driving is not a make-money-fast scheme; hence, you may have difficulties with making enough money during the down times. Therefore, you should be realistic about your revenue and income expectations, and make sure to set aside money for those rainy days when it seems like you will always have work.

Acknowledge that your work will determine your profits
As with any occupation, money doesn't grow on trees so you shouldn't be expecting handouts in the trucking industry either, you will only get paid when you work. In other words, people will only pay you when you can service their needs. Therefore, you need to stay healthy, focused and committed so that you can earn a lot of money from independent truck driving.

Get the most out of your personal life and career by having a perfect understanding of how to become an owner-operator trucker before committing your time, money, efforts and other resources to the business. Take time to assess your personal needs, family needs, health needs and other peculiarities, and decide on what will guarantee the success of your business.

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Noel Ballon

Noel Ballon is a skilled personal finance writer passionate about helping people to succeed financially.

As a guest writer for CASH1, Noel has shared his knowledge on a variety of financial issues, including budgeting, saving, investing, and retirement planning

Noel has a background in economics and finance with over five years of experience writing in the financial sector.

He works to simplify complicated financial ideas so that people from every area of society may understand them.

When Noel isn't writing, he likes keeping current on the latest financial sector changes and looking for fresh approaches to assisting people in choosing wise financial decisions.