An owner-operator is a business owner who owns a semi-truck (or trucks) and performs contract transportation services. Work can be local delivery of goods, over-the-road distribution or other service that requires the movement of objects. Becoming an owner-operator can give a truck driver greater freedom over job assignments and can increase earnings; of course, with it comes more responsibility.
Most owner-operator contracts require drivers to have a minimum level of verifiable experience. To avoid difficulties finding work, it is best to have at least a year of driving experience with a company prior to becoming an owner-operator.
In addition to a standard commercial driver's license (CDL), it is beneficial to obtain additional certifications like a hazardous materials endorsement to increase the types of loads you are eligible to carry. The fewer restrictions you have as a driver, the more job opportunities you have as an owner-operator.
Prior to becoming an owner-operator, you should incorporate your own business. Incorporating your business limits your liability and financial losses in the event of an accident and makes you look more professional. It also allows you to sign up for financing and insurance under the business name instead of your own name, which helps establish business credit.
Review financing options for your semi-truck purchase and look for a good truck. Make sure the truck you purchase is suited for the types of owner-operator jobs you want. For example, you do not need a sleeper compartment if you only want in-town jobs. The extra weight costs you money in extra gas. Find a used truck to save money up front, but make sure to keep money set aside for inevitable repairs.
Find a reliable mechanic that you trust before you buy a truck. Have him look at any truck you want to buy for an estimate on any existing repairs and on the possible life expectancy of the truck. Since downtime can cost you jobs and money, having a reliable mechanic is a necessity for an owner-operator.
Becoming an owner-operator can be a time-consuming occupation that keeps you away from home for long periods of time. Before committing to a life on the road, make sure it suits your personality and family life style. Try to find contracts that provide a good balance of home time and on-the-road time.
Make a budget for your new business. Include all expenses including gas, insurance, food, repairs, maintenance and your desired take-home pay. Be certain to include a significant fund for unexpected expenses like tow truck expenses if you get stuck in ice during the winter, or need a roadside tire change. You should have enough money saved for a truck down payment and at least three months' worth of expenses to account for any slow payments before starting your owner-operator journey.