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Cost of Being An Owner-Operator (COVID-19 Edition)

Being an owner-operator means being your own business owner, and you’re probably asking yourself this April 2020: Should I run during the coronavirus pandemic? How will the COVID-19 outbreak affect my profits? Where can I get trucking loads?

Let’s take a closer look at your options.


The short answer is – if you’ve considered your health, and you’re not in a high-risk health group with a history of serious medical conditions, then there is money to be made if you’re willing. And there are truck load matching technologies, digital load boards and freight matching that will give you a head start as an owner-operator.

You will need an electronic logging device for your hours of services even as an owner-operator hauling Essential Goods during the pandemic.  Although there are Emergency Declaration Exemptions that apply in response to COVID-19, it is still better to keep logging your hours, annotating them as Emergency Driving Conditions.

But let’s not sugarcoat it: The profit margins can be razor-thin, not only because of COVID-19 (treat it as a slow Holiday season during your average year), but also because of the total cost of ownership that comes with running, maintaining and insuring your truck. Let’s look at the numbers.

Class 8 Owner-Operator Costs

Here are the costs to consider as a Class 8 owner-operator – or what we call “the economics of the owner-operator business” (in USD):

Truck lease/finance: $2,500 per month (this includes the cost of equipment that has become more expensive owing to EPA 2010, GHG, and other regulation compliance technologies, such as ELD, or advanced electronics, like telematics)

Insurance: $1,200 per month

Driver wage: $5,500 per month

Fuel cost: $5,000 per month

Tolls, truck maintenance, tires: $1,500 per month

Total: Approx. $15,200 per month


2020 Class 8 owner operator monthly costs.

% calculations provided by Sandeep Kar, Chief Strategy Officer at Fleet Complete and author of 4 Ways Telematics Improves Total Cost of Fleet Ownership

Drivers today make $0.70 per mile, and each truckload that the owner-operator hauls generates $2,000 on average (rule of thumb). This means that he or she will need approximately 8 full hauls to break even. So, you will need to haul at least 9 to have a net profit of $2,300 per month.

Which bring us to your next question – Where can I get trucking loads and more of them?

How To Find Available Truck Loads

To move more truckloads as an owner-operator, you will largely rely on load boards and freight brokers to find available truck freight. And the main thing you’ll need to look out for are truckloads with the best profit margins.

You can work directly with shippers to eliminate the middleman and ask for better rates, but in the current pandemic climate this can be challenging, considering the new health and safety guidelines.

Using freight brokers is another way to get loads for truckers, but their services come with considerable fees.

Load boards are a better option, since you can connect with many large shippers directly through listings, where the shipment details are spelled out and you can see if they meet you needs.

Freight-SliderThe best way to find loads as a hauler and stay profitable is through a load-matching app, because you can book customized loads you want 24 hours a day.

BigRoad Freight app goes as far as personalizing loads to your truck requirements (trailer type, total weight, preferred rate etc.) and your available hours of service (if you have BigRoad ELD) to make sure you get quality loads and don’t waste your time.

You simply Post Your Truck, indicate your current location and destination and this information will immediately be shared with brokers that need coverage in those lanes. Then click on View My Loads to see all of your loads on one screen. If no price is shown, the broker will share it with you when you speak.

It is a real value proposition to owner-operators who run during the coronavirus pandemic.

Bottom Line

Long-haul trucking is a business that generates thin margins, especially for owner-operators, but it is also a business that nowadays sees a margin increase and profitability with the help of trucking technologies, like digital freight matching. This means that there are more and more truckers hauling, using their truck with minimal deadhead (or empty miles driven) and earning more money. Maximizing truck utilization means that the costs of owning or leasing the truck sees greater return on investment.

So, please consider your health and that of your family before deciding to run during a pandemic, but if you feel safe to operate, then you have options to explore.

If you would like to know more about digital load matching with BigRoad Freight, call 1.888.305.8777 or visit our Custom Load Board web page to sign up.