You probably didn’t get into the commercial truck driving business because you love big trucks, hauling freight, or even the open road. Don’t get us wrong, you might love all of that, but the idea of a bit of freedom and money was probably the main selling points.
Now that you’ve made it, and you’ve spent some time behind the wheel, you’re wondering if you should take it to the next step. If you’re thinking of becoming an owner operator, make sure you check these things out first.
How Much Experience Do You Have?
If you’re still a relative newbie with only a few thousand miles under your belt, take a deep breath and slow down. You’re so new to the entire industry that you don’t even know what you don’t know. Wait until you’ve been driving at least a year so that you understand how this world operates before trying to make it on your own.
Will You Lease On or Get Your Own Authority?
Leasing on with an established company definitely has an upside. You’ll have fewer responsibilities than if you have your own authority. You’ll also have less control over your routes and potentially less money per haul. There’s a good chance you’ll have steadier work, though, which makes up for a lot.
Getting your own authority means you’re truly a business owner. Everything is on you: finding work, maintaining your vehicle, all of the expenses, creating a budget – everything. You have greater control and can set your own schedule and prices, but you’ll also be competing with larger companies who have teams, bulk discounts, and a well-known name. Be prepared for a lot more hard work.
Are You Ready to Run a Business?
Even if you lease on, as an owner operator, you’ll become a business. You might not need to know how to maintain your vehicle, but you’ll need to understand it enough to know if someone does it wrong or cheats you. You’re thinking about having more flexibility, but in the beginning, you’ll have to work more hours to build your clientele. When something goes wrong, there’s no one else to turn to for a fix; it’s all on you. Make sure you’re ready for that before you make the jump.
Do You Know Anything About Budgets?
As an owner operator, your working life is going to be ruled by budgets. How much are you going to have to haul and how many miles will you need log to pay your expenses, take care of your truck, buy gas, and still eat? You can’t budget based on the best day you’ve had, and you’ll have to learn the cycle of the business so you’re prepared for lean times.
Can You Build Relationships?
You’re not going to have a well-known name when you first start out as an owner operator. You’ll be building your clientele from the ground up, using the contacts you’ve made over your years of driving. Are you prepared to go above and beyond for every client? Can you guarantee on-time delivery – and still stay within regulations? Are you willing to put in the extra hours or effort it may require? Dropping a load and moving on may not be an option, especially if you want there to be a next load. You’re going to have to think like a business owner, not just a truck driver. When you can’t compete on volume, your best option is to compete on service.
If you want everything being an owner operator can provide, and you’re willing to work hard to have it, it can be a successful career. Major companies started out just like you, one driver and one truck. Before you jump into this, be realistic about what you’ll need to do and do your homework so that you’re ready for whatever the owner operator life throws at you.