There are few workers out there who don’t dream of a day when they could go into business for themselves, doing the same work they already love–but as an owner-operator. They call the shots, they set the schedule, and they keep the profits. It’s no wonder that the idea has appeal.
Ease of Entry
Trucking, in particular, is a good fit for this fantasy. After all, you don’t need much more than a truck and a CDL to do for yourself what you’re already doing on somebody else’s payroll. For that reason, plenty of drivers spend their windshield time thinking about how they’d one day have their own truck.
Of course, it takes more than a dream to make that happen. When a driver finally does give notice to the boss and start the new enterprise, there’s a lot more to deal with than simply finding a load and hitting the road. Managing a trucking business is as complicated as any other logistics-heavy venture, with the added complexity of having to do the administrative work from the sleeper cab or the occasional hotel room.
Most drivers want to minimize that work and focus on maintaining the truck, making deliveries, and getting paid. That’s made possible by trucker bookkeeping, which is typically done by services which also handle the trucking authority paperwork for owner-operators. They take on the administrative work of collecting payments and lets the owner-operator stay on the road, maximizing the number of loads hauled and slashing the time needed to hunch over a desk or a computer, trying to get the bottom line calculated.
Balance Your Time
A driver on the road for a company can usually go off duty and get as much sleep and rest as is required by federal law. However, an owner-operator may feel compelled to use that time for catching up on administrative work, to the point that it may be hard to get enough rest, even if the driver is off the road the appropriate amount of time. Using a management company for the books allows the owner-operator to get caught up on book work very quickly and get back to resting for the next day’s driving.
Business management is just one area of concern for owner-operator trucking companies. Trucking is a heavily-regulated industry, with laws for each state as well as at the federal level. There are also restrictions on cargo types in various areas throughout the country, such as the Cumberland Gap tunnel in Kentucky and Tennessee. Trucking companies typically keep their drivers informed of all the requirements, so a driver who goes solo needs to invest some time in researching these topics in order to keep from running afoul of the law.
A final concern for an owner-operator in the trucking business is fleet management. It may sound strange to see the term “fleet” associated with a single vehicle, but that’s the best perspective to take. After all, your business may be so successful that, in time, you add more vehicles and hire more drivers. The habits you’ve built for maintenance, inspections, and other care will carry over into the additional vehicles that you put on the road, so it’s important to get started on the right foot.
Prepare for Risk
Another important consideration in this area is figuring out what your backup plan is. When you one day have a true fleet, you may have a spare semi or trailer available, but a one-truck show can see the curtain fall quickly if there’s a prolonged mechanical delay. Develop a database of leasing companies and even fellow truckers who may be able to get you back on the road while repairs are made.
There is probably no job that feels more independent than driving a truck. You’re on the open road seeing the country–and getting paid to do it. It seems like driving your own truck would be the same way, but reality can come crashing down if you go into that endeavor unadvised. The dream of owning your own company is still within reach, but you just need to go in prepared and informed.