So, you’ve been driving trucks for a while and think you may be ready to take the next step in your trucking career. Could you be cut out to become an owner operator of your own trucking company? Gain an understanding of what it takes to act as a successful owner operator to better prepare yourself for a different type of road ahead.
Make Sure You Have Enough Experience
To have a solid idea of what it truly takes to function as an owner operator, you’ll need to have several years of experience under your belt. That may go without saying, but this step requires taking a long, in-depth look at yourself and your work ethic to determine whether you’ve truly got what it takes to spend your time, money and energy on a trucking company. Be completely honest with yourself.
File for an MC and USDOT Number
One of the first true steps to becoming an owner operator is to have a registered USDOT and Mobile Carrier number. For this, you’ll need to pay a $300 federal filing fee.
Secure Insurance Coverage
Next, you’ll want to take steps to give yourself peace of mind while operating your business, which requires insurance. Besides giving yourself one less thing to worry about, having trucking insurance is a legal requirement. Do some FMCSA research to see if you need a certain type and amount of trucking insurance in your specific state, and the states you plan on driving in. Coverage requirements are often based on the trucking authority you choose, as well as the type of goods you carry.
Decide Whether You’re Better Off Leasing or Buying Trucks
When making the decision to lease or buy trucks, the answer depends on your financial assets. If you’re looking to save as much money as possible in your business endeavor without cutting corners, you may be more comfortable with leasing. Buying trucks for your company is sure to be one of your biggest expenses.
Also, know that there are lease-to-own options you may be able to look into. One thing to bear in mind with leasing from a trucking company is that you will likely be expected to haul freight for that same company.
Do What You Can To Lower Operational Costs
There are some owner operator costs you simply cannot escape, such as regulation compliance, liabilities and vehicle maintenance. That said, you can take steps to minimize these costs as much as possible. For instance, you can save fuel by sticking to the posted speed limit.
Just like with regular automobiles, unnecessary idling is a waste of fuel and money. Technology is also your friend when it comes to lowering expenditures. Driver scorecards let you know which of your driving habits, such as hard braking and hard cornering, are both unsafe and liabilities.
Something else you can do to reduce your operational costs is to take care of truck maintenance issues as soon as you notice them. You may have freight to deliver or other aspects of your business to take care of, but the success of your operation depends on your trucks. While you may not like the inconvenience of low tire pressure, it’s better than dealing with the many other major issues ongoing low tire pressure can present.
Focus on Your Safety and Work Record
No one will want to do business with you if you have a terrible safety and work record. Potential and current clients alike are more likely to trust you with their business and freight if you show you’re capable of taking great care of both. Every time you get behind the wheel, do everything you can to remain safe on the road and boost your work record. Doing so is one of the easiest ways to make your company more profitable.
Know Your Routes Inside and Out
The better you know your routes, the easier time you’ll have getting to your destinations more efficiently. You also need to know when you can expect heavy traffic on your routes, and you need to know dependable and quick alternate routes, should you ever need a detour. Make sure your truck and load can easily travel on all routes you consider. Finally, keep overall fuel costs and consumption in mind with every route you plan. Taking a shorter route may not do you much good if choosing it means consuming more fuel than you would with a slightly longer route. You’ll have to decide what’s worth your time and money.
Learn Spreadsheets Inside and Out
Sure, you can leave balancing the books to someone else, but this is a good skill for any business owner in any industry to learn. Programs like Microsoft Excel are easier to learn than you realize. The information they reveal let you know if your business is doing as well as you think/hope.
Hopefully, you have a much better idea of whether you’re cut out for becoming an owner operator. Be sure you keep these ideas in mind as you come to a final decision. Best of luck!