Becoming an Owner Operator Truck Driver

Becoming an owner-operator is like running your own independent truck driving business. According to a spokesperson for the American Trucking Association, owner-operators find work in these ways: By contracting with a single carrier to haul exclusively for them, dealing with brokers or by finding their own shipper/customer and hauling directly for them. Many truck drivers who become owner-operators started as a full-time employee as a truck driver with another company before getting into the owner-operating side of the industry.

To provide further insight on a career as an owner/operator, Norita Taylor, a spokesperson for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, a national professional truckers association, talks about life as an owner-operator:

Truck Driver Poses by Semi-truck

What is an owner/operator?

An owner/operator is someone who owns and operates their own commercial vehicle for long haul deliveries throughout the United States.

How is an owner/operator position different than other truck driving jobs?

As an owner-operator, you are an independent contractor and you are responsible for all aspects of running a small business, not just driving the truck.
“Some may own more than one truck and hire employees,” says Taylor. “It is considered a small business. Some owner/operators have their own authority with the Department of Transportation which means they can broker their own loads directly with a shipper. Most owner/operators sign a lease with a major carrier who finds loads for them.”

What do Owner/Operators haul?

Any shippers that produce/have any type of goods that need to be delivered would be the customers of owner-operators.

What are the keys to success as an owner/operator?

Remember, this is an independent business, so you are your own company as an owner/operator. Therefore, you must know the cost of driving your truck. This includes fuel, maintenance, state fees and taxes, truck payments, other costs. This must be drilled down to a cost per mile to operate as this is how you will be paid. You must also know all federally mandated hours of service regulations and state laws regarding idling and any other requirements for moving goods across state lines.

What type of salary can an Owner/Operator expect?

That being said, Taylor said, after expenses, most owner-operators can expect a starting salary of around $40,000 per year, with the opportunity to make more money as they learn and grow the business. In one truck driving case study on, Don Floyd of Enid, Oklahoma made $66,000 based on the fact that he traveled 110,000 miles in year and averaged .60 cents per mile. There is a federally mandated law that truck drivers can’t work more than 18 hours a day, of which only ten can be driving. Based on traveling a speed of 65 miles per hour, that is an average of 650 miles per day. This of course, doesn’t take into consideration any traffic or weather-related delays that can cause a driver to slow down.

What does the job market look like for an owner/operator?

Freight is picking up now that the economy is improving, however new entrants should be cautioned to research any carriers that advertise for Owner/Operators Avoid those that offer to provide both work and equipment financing. You do not want to be under the control of your business with the same entity that owns the title to your truck.

What are the keys to success in this profession?

It depends on how willing you are to find customers, or find a unique niche that is needed in the regions you want to drive. The single most importation point for those thinking of getting their own truck is to seek financing from a bank or other lender and NOT A CARRIER. Carriers that promise work and financing for equipment should be avoided. There are lawsuits against large carriers for their predatory practices upon unknowing individuals who have poor credit ratings. These contracts are known as “lease-purchase” agreements. You must avoid having loads booked by the same entity that holds the title to your truck. Taylor expands on that statement in her OOIDA Blog

What is one aspect of being an owner-operator that you can’t learn in truck driving school?

Most schools do not provide adequate, or any,  training for business, just the bare minimum to obtain a commercial driver’s license.

What are some things to consider before considering a career as an owner/operator?

It’s not for everyone. It means long periods of being away from home and long periods of wait times at loading docks.

How can the OOIDA help prospective Owner/Operators?

We have an entire department devoted to answering any type of business or compliance question imaginable for anyone that drives truck for a living. Also, talk to other drivers. Do your research on companies. Social networking can help with that, as well as by calling our association.

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