Making the Move from Truck Driver to Owner Operator
Becoming a truck driver is a huge step with CDL school, finding a company to work with (and hopefully pay for CDL school too), working over the road and making the commitment to a career, which takes drivers away from home and loved ones for a great deal of time. Once a rookie has made the transition from new kid on the block to an experienced driver, the freedom which trucking provides typically drives them to consider owning their own operation – to become an owner-operator.
Becoming an Owner-Operator is a BIG Decision
Becoming an owner-operator is the ultimate – you really do become your own boss. Owner-operators own their business and as such are entitled to all of the profits from the operation, to be used as they see fit. For most, the decision revolves around their own feeling of personal freedom and the ability to make decisions for themselves.
There are advantages and disadvantages to being an owner-operator, and there are some extreme consequences, good and bad which directly attach to this decision. The first thing to understand is that you cannot simply jump into being an owner-operator – you must think about it, consider the issues, discuss them with people with a stake in your decision and have experience and understand the risks, rewards and responsibilities of being an owner-operator.
The Bad News First
As an owner-operator you are responsible for all the bills. You pay for the truck, trailer, gas, insurance, repairs and maintenance, inspections, fines, penalties and anything else which goes with the operation. You're the boss and the buck, quite literally a buck, stops with you. If you do not already have an 18-wheeler, then you are going to be looking at trucks for sale, because without one, you have no trucking business – do you lease one or have the cash to buy one?
You will also have to fund healthcare coverage, workman's compensation and any other benefit you might expect from a carrier or employer. You are also responsible for handling and paying your taxes, including employer and business taxes where due.
You are responsible for finding customers, negotiating terms, meeting contractual obligations and running the business. This is much more than simply being a "good" driver. Will you cut it as a good businessman? Many businesses fail, usually in their first year, because they are not managed properly and poor management usually starts off with poor planning.
Ask yourself if you can handle all the paperwork and shoulder all this responsibility?
Still here – good! Now let's look at why so many drivers aspire to become owner-operators – the rewards.
Reasons Why You Should Become an Owner-Operator
As you have to pay all the expenses, you take in all the money for the contracted rates from your customers. These rates are significantly higher than mileage rates for employed drivers, but you still must manage your money and business well in order to make profit. The lure of keeping all the profit you make is a major force in deciding to become an owner-operator – the profits can be enormous.
Being owner-operator means you have free reign to find customers and work which suits how you want to do business. While you have to meet customer expectations, you are also in the situation where you can choose which customers you are going to work with. This provides you with a greater degree of freedom to plan your own life and how you spend your home time; something which employed drivers do not have unless they have a very kind scheduler and employer.
The biggest reward is true freedom – both literal and financial. You are totally free to work how you want, to deliver the service you want, to make the money you require or would like to have. Of all the reasons to become an owner-operator, this is probably the most powerful of all the reasons to do so.