For many of us, becoming our own boss holds much allure. It’s no different for truckers. Our industry is one of the prime sectors where that dream holds much promise.
Whether you’re looking to make your own schedule, increase your annual income, or have the open flexibility that comes with managing yourself, becoming an owner-operator offers all of these benefits and more. While the transition from employee to employer may not happen overnight, there are essential measures aspiring owner-operators can take to ensure a seamless career change.
Tip #1: Know what you want and what you need
This may seem like a straightforward tip, but being strategic pays off here. Your first year as an owner-operator can — and should — be as busy as possible. Not only will you aim to build a strong client base, but you’ll likely want to safeguard substantial revenue — especially after factoring in your high starting costs.
Develop a game plan that will encompass how often you’ll want and need to remain on the road. Keep in mind that you’ll have more flexibility and time as your own boss, so you’ll need to be strategic with your planning to make sure you’re putting time to value.
Also, there are a plethora of legalities and logistics to consider when opening your own business. From your U.S. Department of Transportation number to your LLC or CORP license, thoroughly research what you’ll need to have planned for your business. Our industry is one where the slightest slip-up can be severe, so always stay prepared and ahead of the game.
Tip #2: It takes money to make money
It’s a famous saying — and for a good reason. Save money and have a budget plan that encompasses all the permits, licenses, insurance, assets, office supplies, office space, and on-the-road expenses you’ll need to pay for.
You will have to spend at least a few thousand in initial capital — and this number can skyrocket depending on what type of business you want to open, where you want to open it, and what your short- and long-term goals are. In addition to putting money down, you should also be prepared to keep track of your overhead for future audit and tax purposes.
Tip #3: Invest in the best
One size does not fit all when it comes to your assets. From trucks to loading equipment, the right assets should be the best choice for you and your business. Some may choose to save costs by buying older trucks and investing in time spent fixing those vehicles. Others may want to invest in brand-new vehicles from the start, which often generates the most revenue in the long run, as you can significantly reduce time and money spent repairing older vehicles.
Tip #4: Determine what kind of market you’re looking for
From reefers to flatbeds to dry vans, taking the time to research and understand which market you want to get into and which accompanying assets you’ll need is imperative.
Take the grocery market, for example. If you’re looking to go into grocery distribution, you’ll likely be using a reefer (also known as a refrigerated trailer). With grocery deliveries, you have to ensure the temperatures are correct for the groceries you’re transporting and you’re able to accommodate an early morning schedule, as most grocery deliveries occur in the early morning.
Tip #5: Apply the power of connection
Your fellow truck drivers, owner-operators, and fleet professionals are all valuable peers in the industry. Don’t be afraid to speak to other owners and safety administrators so you can continue learning and growing your business.
There are even forums you can join to ask all the questions you have. Whether you’re just starting or you’re a veteran professional, every peer has knowledge that can be of value to you. The Truckers Report, for example, is a great forum for commercial drivers. From trucking school tips to new driver questions, there’s a community for everyone.
To find out more about how you can prepare and launch your business vision, visit the U.S. Small Business Administration’s ‘Business Guide’ page. The International Revenue Service also has an especially helpful Trucking Tax Center for all your essential trucking tax needs.