Posted July 8, 2022

Driving as an Owner Operator - Is it Right for You?

By Sarah Mehlert

Have you ever pondered the idea of becoming an owner operator? For many company truck drivers, the thought has crossed their mind on occasion. There are pros and cons to both company driving positions and owner operator ones. Whether you have been a company driver and are looking to make the switch to owning your own truck, or are new to the business and looking to break in as an owner operator, there are many important factors to consider in order to determine if it is the right fit for you. From leasing or purchasing your own truck, to maintaining it and managing your own finances and schedule, being an owner operator comes with many challenges and is significantly different from being a company truck driver.

The most important thing to realize about being an owner operator is that you will not only be a driver, but you will be a business owner considered self-employed. Your workday does not end when you are finished driving; after all, you still have a business to run! This includes things like maintenance and repairs to your truck, balancing your finances as you will be paying your own taxes, planning your schedule, studying industry trends, and keeping up with the necessary licensing and government regulations for your truck. Owner operators are paid by the load and not by time spent on the road, so it is up to you to plan your schedule in a way that ensures you are carrying enough loads to justify owning your truck. It may seem like a big undertaking to be self-employed and take on all of the necessary operating costs and responsibilities, but owner operators can make a significantly larger amount of money than company drivers, as they get a larger share from each load they carry. Just like owning any other business, being an owner operator takes a lot of determination and hard work, and while it can be extremely rewarding, it is also a lot of responsibility.

As an owner operator, all truck repairs and fuel costs become your responsibility. You will need to make sure your truck is complying with safety regulations at all times. It is important to consider these costs before deciding to be an owner operator so that you are not surprised down the line. If you need a part repaired on your truck, you will need to factor in the cost of the part, the cost of the labor, as well as the cost of being off the road for the amount of time it takes to get fixed. In order to save money and increase your profit margin, you can shop around for the part you need to find the best deal, schedule regular, preventative maintenance so that you can replace parts before they break and cause more damage, and if it is feasible, learn how to do repairs on your own truck so that you save money on labor. Fuel costs can also add up when you are paying out of your own pocket, especially now as we are seeing record-high gas prices. There are several ways to maximize MPG and save on fuel, but make sure you take this cost into consideration when deciding if an owner operator position is the right fit for you.

Many owner operators choose to lease their truck from a trucking company rather than purchasing one outright, which can definitely have its perks.Typically, leasing your truck means that repairs and maintenance are covered by the trucking company, which can take a large burden off of the driver. Depending on the company, you can either lease the truck for a set amount of time, after which you may be given the option to renew the lease or lease a different truck, or lease-to-purchase, in which you would pay to lease the truck for the duration of your contract and would be given the option to purchase the truck at the conclusion of the agreement. Everyone’s situation and reasoning for becoming an owner operator varies, so it is key that you do your research and determine what path makes the most sense for you personally.

One of the biggest advantages to becoming an owner operator is the flexibility and independence it brings. Since you have the freedom to choose what companies you work with and which loads you haul, you can customize your work schedule based on your personal preference and other commitments you may have outside of work. In order to maintain profitability, time management is a crucial skill to have as an owner operator, and while there may be different requirements for different shipments, at the end of the day, it is up to you completely to set your hours and manage your time efficiently. You also have the freedom to prioritize what features and upgrades in the truck are the most important to you when it comes to leasing or purchasing a truck. If you decide to move, you have the flexibility to take your business with you and haul freight in the areas that are most convenient for you. Independence and flexibility are big factors in why a lot of drivers decide to make the switch from being a company driver to an owner operator.

If you are interested in becoming an owner operator, there is no shortage of work to be had. With driver shortages being felt around the country, companies often look to owner operators to help fill some of those gaps. While it may not be the best fit for everyone, owner operators can take home large profits, all while being selective with which clients they choose to work with, the type of hauls they choose to carry, and what routes they choose to take. Time management, organization, and determination are all important qualities to have in order to succeed in the owner operator world. If you are just starting out, it may require some patience as you slowly build your client base. Your days may be longer, and there may be high start-up costs, but if you have weighed the pros and cons and believe you have what it takes to succeed, being an owner operator can be greatly fulfilling and worthwhile.