After earning your commercial driver’s license (CDL), there are a variety of different career paths you can pursue. One long-term goal you may have is to become an owner-operator. This is an individual who owns a semi-truck and either contracts with a motor carrier or operates on their own authority to haul freight. Becoming an owner-operator requires an initial investment and has a higher risk, but it can also be one of the highest-paying options in the trucking industry.
What Do You Need to Be an Owner-Operator?
You could technically purchase a truck any time after earning your CDL and become an owner-operator, but most of these individuals have previous experience as company drivers. There are several reasons for this. For one, it gives you valuable experience and allows you to learn more about the industry. It also gives you time to save up to purchase a truck and create a business plan. Finally, insurance rates are higher for new drivers and since owner-operators have to provide their own insurance, gaining some experience beforehand can save you money.
If you choose to contract with a motor carrier or lease a truck through them, the company will let you know what requirements they have.
If you operate under your own authority, you will need to register with the Department of Transportation (DOT). If you hire other drivers at any point, you may also need workers’ compensation insurance.
Either way, you will need to be fully insured and must know and follow all federal regulations.
Should You Become an Owner-Operator?
By becoming an owner-operator, you are starting your own trucking business. The decision to start any business should not be taken lightly as it involves more risk than working for another company. That being said, there is also the potential for greater reward and there are many benefits to being an owner-operator. Before purchasing or leasing a truck, be sure to thoroughly consider the pros and cons as well as your personal goals and preferences.
Benefits of Owner-Operator Trucking
There are many benefits to being an owner-operator, including:
High Earning Potential
Owner-operators are among the highest-paid drivers in the industry and have significant earning potential. In trucking, generally your own initiative and how hard you work will have a significant impact on what you earn. This is especially true when you are running your own business, so keep that in mind when considering owner-operator pay. Writing down anticipated revenue and expenses can be helpful to get a better idea of how much you could make.
Demand for Drivers
Freight is essential to keep our nation moving and there is a truck driver shortage in the United States. This means that many companies don’t have enough drivers to meet demand. You can use this to your advantage as an owner-operator and this makes it easier to find work.
As an owner-operator, you have more control over what routes you drive, what you haul, and which companies you work with. If you need time off, you won’t need to wait for approval either. Many owner-operators appreciate this increased flexibility.
What to Consider Starting a Trucking Business
In addition to the benefits of owner-operator trucking, there are some things you need to consider. No career path is completely perfect, so you should be aware of potential downsides.
Some things to consider when it comes to being an owner-operator:
Responsibility for Costs
While owner-operators make more per load, they also are responsible for more costs such as insurance, truck repairs, and fuel. You will need to be able to keep track of your expenses carefully to determine how profitable your trucking business is.
Time Off is Unpaid
Many trucking companies offer paid time off after a certain amount of time working with them. As an owner-operator, however, any time you are not driving is time you are not earning money.
Being a successful owner-operator requires a fair amount of additional work beyond driving. You will be managing your own business and will need to do more administrative work than a company driver.
Starting Your Trucking Career
Whether you want to become an owner-operator, prefer to be a company driver, or want to get more experience before you decide, Phoenix Truck Driving School can help you take the first steps. We can help you earn your commercial driver’s license (CDL) in as little as four weeks and offer job placement assistance. If you are interested in becoming an owner-operator, we can help you find companies that offer paths to vehicle ownership.