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Making the Transition to Owner-Operator

freedom_sunset_truck.jpgThe transition from being the driver of a company-owned truck to becoming an owner-operator involves understanding what the trucking industry needs. The industry itself is a living, breathing thing and its main focus is on supporting businesses by providing them with the goods they need to run smoothly. As an owner-operator, you will be part of this supply chain and need to understand your customers’ needs.

As the driver of a company truck, you are responsible for being safe, arriving on time, operating legally, and making sure that the freight has no damages. As the owner of your own truck, you are responsible for all of that, plus maintenance and operational costs.

It isn’t hard to make the jump from company driver to owner-operator, as there are many carriers who have freight for owner operators. The easiest way to become one is to buy a used truck and lease on to a company who works with them.

The leased owner-operator doesn’t need to track down customers or worry about getting paid for the work they do. The carrier does all of that for them greatly reducing the stress on a new business owner.

Getting the Right Equipment

As a new operator, your first concern is to understand the equipment you are operating. There are some questions that will need to be answered regarding this:

  • How much money will be needed to keep up the maintenance?
  • How easy will it be to replace what breaks on the truck?
  • How easy will it be to find a place to do the repair if you’re not doing it yourself?

Depending on where you live in the country and where you do the majority of your business, you’ll want to find the best type of truck and trailer that meets your needs.

Trailers are Key to Success

Once you have chosen the ideal truck, finding a trailer will be next. Many major carriers that lease operators already have trailers for the operator to use. This is another easy path to figuring out which type of trailer will work best. A newly leased operator may be able to try several trailer types before deciding which one works best and is most profitable for their operation.

As far as equipment goes, a trailer has the lowest maintenance costs but gives the highest return on investment. Usually, the owner of the trailer is the one who makes the most money. The sooner the trailer is purchased, the better it is for the owner-operator’s business.

Another thing to consider when purchasing a trailer is to understand what percentage the carrier is paying the operator for the use of the trailer. This will determine how fast the return on investment comes in.

How Carriers Pay Owner Operators

Carriers that lease owner operators pay in multiple ways:

  • Percentage based pay
  • Pay per mile
  • Hourly pay
  • Salary
  • Any combination of these

The most common types of pay are percentage and pay per mile. Depending on the going pay rate for freight, one may be better than the other.

Pay per mile is consistent and regardless of what the customer is paying, the operator always makes the same amount of money on a shipment. Sometimes even being paid to drive empty to get the load.

Being paid for a percentage of the load can translate into higher and lower paying freight with possibly no pay for miles driven empty to the loading location.