What to Know About Being a Trucking Owner-Operator


When you decide to begin a career in trucking, you have a choice. You can look for truck driving jobs with a company, or you can become an owner-operator. 

You might also be well along in your career as a truck driver, and you could be considering whether or not it's time for you to be an owner-operator. 

Regardless of what stage in your truck driving career you may be in, what should you know about being an owner-operator? How does it compare to working for a company, and what are the pros and cons as you compare these two options?

The general requirements as far as licensing and driving skills are the same for company drivers and owner-operators, but that's where many of the similarities end.

How Is Being an Owner-Operator Different from Working for a Company?

There is a misconception that when you are an owner-operator, you're automatically making a lot more money than you would work for a company and that's not always the case. 

First, when you work for a company, everything you earn is yours to take home. Upfront earnings might be more when you own your truck, but therefore to the story than that. 

When you're an owner-operator, you're paying for things including the payments on your truck, the costs of repairs, insurance, and maintenance costs. These can quickly add up and put a dent in your earnings. 

Most owner-operators do earn more than a company driver, but you have to factor in these costs. 

Of course, you also have to take the upfront frisk to buy a truck. A new truck can cost anywhere from $80,000 to $150,000 or more, and that's a massive cost to take on. 

What Are the Pros of Being an Owner-Operator?

Aside from the upfront and ongoing costs, which are a potential downside of being an owner-operator, what are the upsides? 

You can choose your own equipment, and you don't have to think about your settings being altered.

Perhaps the biggest perk that leads people in the direction of being an owner-operator is the fact they are their own boss. They have freedom and flexibility, but with that comes the need to manage yourself and your time to maximize your earnings. 

What Are the Pros of Being a Company Driver?

So what about the pros of starting as a company driver or continuing to work for a company?

First, there's the fact that when you're not working, you can leave job-related concerns behind. You don't have to take home any of the worries of your work. You're also likely to have more free time because your time off isn't dedicated to truck maintenance, bookkeeping, or similar tasks that come with being an owner.

If you don't like a company you're working for, you can also easily leave and find a better situation for you, and there's job security. The trucking industry is constantly looking for new employees, so if you're a qualified driver, you're likely to have your pick of companies.

Cons of being a company driver include the fact that as was touched on above, you're likely going to earn less money. You may also have less time at home, and there are strict rules when you work for a company such as the fact that you can't have passengers. 

Which Is Right For You?

There's no one right answer as to whether you should be a company driver or an owner-operator. Ultimately as with most things, you may be successful in either role or not. 

Personal things to consider and remember if you want to be an owner-operator include:

  • Are you in a financial position to make the upfront investments and keep up with ongoing costs associated with being an owner-operator? What's your credit like since you're likely going to be financing your truck?
  • Think about yourself. Do you think you have what it takes to work for yourself? It can sound great, but some people find that it's hard to hold themselves accountable. Additionally, are you going to be able to budget appropriately for maintenance and unexpected costs associated with truck ownership?
  • How's your physical health? If you're not healthy enough to be on the road for long periods of time, you're not going to make a lot of money.
  • Are you equipped to think not only as a a driver but also a business owner? Being a business owner comes with a significant set of responsibilities,and you may have to reframe your mindset.

Deciding which option is right for you isn't an easy choice, but either route whether you drive for a company or you own a truck can be lucrative if you're willing to put in the time and the work 

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