It is safe to say that most truck drivers, at least ones who love being a trucker, aspire to own their own truck, or even a fleet of trucks. It isn’t an easy undertaking though: There are lots of things to consider, questions to ask yourself and your family and research to do. We’ve outlined a basic model for any driver thinking of taking the leap.
Step 1: The Questions to Ask Yourself
Making the jump from just a driver to an owner will greatly change your lifestyle, even though you are still in the same industry. The responsibility shifts from you following someone else’s rules and schedule to having to set your own schedule and deadlines. Here are some major lifestyle questions you are going to want to ask yourself:
- When and how do you like driving? – Are you the type of guy that will stack as many hours on top of each other so you can maximize work time, or do you like to be home every night for dinner? If weekends are sacred or you don’t want to run overnight it might be tough as an owner-operator. Regardless of when your trucks are on the road, running a business is 24/7. Expect phone calls in the middle of the night and problems to happen when you least expect them.
- Is my family ready for this? – You and your family are going to have to make sacrifices, at least initially, if you choose to be an owner operator. Unless you have a strong background in independent trucking, or a business mentor, there is going to be lots of trial and error. This might mean weeks where cash is very tight or you have to pull money from a spouse or other loved ones. If your family is not prepared for this, it could cause problems.
- Health and Health Insurance – Are you currently relying on your current company’s health care policy for support? Have you factored in the costs of providing health care for you, your family, and your potential employees? This is a huge expense in any household or business and, unfortunately, is often overlooked. If you don’t have your health in check the wheels certainly won’t be turning for very long.
- Do I want to lease my services to a company or work for myself? This is one of the most important questions you’ll have to ask yourself. The difference being: Leasing onto a company is more dependable but you have to play by their rules. Being independent has a higher risk but allows you to do more on your own terms and gives you more freedom to craft your work time to suite your wants and needs. Many truckers are deathly loyal to one or the other of these camps so we would suggest talking to a range of people that do both before making a final decision.
Step 2: Get Your Finances in Line, Things Might Get Expensive
As a fledgling business owner, your finances will be your worst enemy and best friend. If you are constantly digging for lost receipts, invoices and bills you won’t have time to focus on the important things like growing your clientele and providing great service. All business share the same structure for finances so there are plenty of guides on how to properly manage them. Where you’ll truly be successful is using all the extra time you gain from having organized budgets and finances to innovate and improve how you handle your customers and employees.
Here is a checklist of major financial considerations:
- Debts and Credit – It will be hard to pay for things in cash initially so managing debt and credit will be crucial to your long term goals. This also means not wracking up frivolous charges on a whole bunch of different credit cards. Consolidate business expenses to one account and keep better track of debts. The better you manage your debt the more you’ll be able to invest later down the line. If you want to expand in the future, build a strong credit rating and get the trust of investors.
- Insurance – Know what you are paying and if there could be potential increases in the future. Here in the United States, the insurance system is undergoing a large overhaul so there could be potential problems as well as opportunities to be aware of.
- Personal Budget – Know what you are spending day in and day out. Things like: food, toiletries, cigarettes, cell phone and internet plans all factor into this bottom line. All of the small things can add up quickly so keep your receipts in an organized manner.
Step 3: The Boring (but very important) Legal Part
Because we live in a union of different states your legal obligations will vary depending on which state you live in. It would be wise to seek the council of a business lawyer before making any investments into starting your own business simply because what you are familiar with might be different than what you actually have to do. For example: you might drive in Texas for a company based in Florida. You see one thing day in and day out while the finances and legal obligations back at corporate see another.
Step 4: Start Daydreaming of What You Want to Drive
Yes you should be practical in how you pick the right truck:
- How many miles does it have?
- Is it still under warranty?
- How do other people rate the truck?
At the end of the day though you have to choose something you’ll be happy driving day in and day out and this is one of the greatest feelings of becoming an owner. You get total control of what you’re driving. Some guys prefer the flashiness of a Peterbilt while others want the super modern feel of the Volvo trucks. You should also consider if you plan on exclusively driving it or if someone else will be driving it at some point. Owning a truck is a big undertaking, but it could easily be the best decision you ever make.