A trucking owner operator is a driving professional who owns his or her own rig – or fleet of trucks – and contracts the hauls independently. Owner operator jobs are a rewarding step from driving professionally for someone else. The driver is in charge of his or her own driving schedule, as well as what he or she chooses to haul and to where it will be hauled. Owner operator trucking jobs also come with a lot of responsibility, which is already instilled within the professional truck driver. Drivers are subjected to CDL training and must test extensively to get their CDL permissions in the first place; they already understand how to operate the machines in a safe and responsible manner. Therefore, switching from being an employed truck driver to an owner operator driver, while a big step, isn’t so monumental that it can’t be done.
Professional drivers wishing to switch to running owner operator jobs have the option of working independently or within a larger transportation company in an owner operator capacity. The latter mirrors owning a fast-food restaurant franchise. Drivers are their own business owners, but their truck driving jobs are backed by a larger corporation. This is one way to branch out into owner operator trucking jobs and get the feet wet, with slightly less risk than branching out completely solo. At the very minimum, the driver has the benefit of the corporation’s well-known name and trucking forum of experts behind him or her. This may not be necessary, however, if the driver already has potential clients.
Aside from a customer base, owner operators have a laundry list of things they must get in order prior to opening their own business’ doors. The most obvious is the truck, and whether to purchase or lease one. This will depend a lot on simple finances and what is more economical. The goal is to get the best possible rig for the best possible price – the driver cannot be stranded in the middle of nowhere on the first owner operator run.
With this in mind, a good mechanic and fuel and maintenance costs are another essential when planning on running owner operator jobs. Whether the driver is mechanically inclined – which all must be to a certain extent to perform quick fixes on the road – or has a trusted handyman, this crucial element must be in order. Some owner operators have special contracts with mechanics and fuel and parts distributors; others employ their own. It all depends on the size of the operation and how many owner operator trucking jobs are running daily.
Truck insurance and licensing is only one portion of insurance and licensing considerations for the owner operator. Leaving an employer means leaving any insurance benefits the company provided. This includes medical, dental and life insurance. But insurance obligations go beyond the personal coverage. An owner operator business is its own business, so business insurance, any applicable worker’s compensation insurance and state-mandated disability insurance coverage for employees must be taken into account. The owner operator must ensure everything and everyone is adequately insured and properly licensed prior to beginning operations.
Another key component to get in order prior to running an owner operating business is the contract. All runs should be driven under a signed contract that details out every component of the job, who is responsible for what, the total amount of the contract, the payment terms and the accepted form of remedial action, if necessary. It is critical to leave no stone unturned when drafting the contract; this avoids confusion should the job end with an unsatisfied customer. It might also be tempting to enter into verbal agreements with familiar people; this should be avoided. Verbal agreements leave room for interpretation and misunderstandings, making them hard to enforce, even in a court of law.
There is a lot of ground to cover when preparing for owner operator trucking jobs but, again, it isn’t monumental – it can be done. And many would argue that it is worth it, as once the business is established, the owner operator stands to earn more money than remaining employed by somebody else. Drivers preparing to take on owner operator jobs need to get their rig, finances and insurance and licensing in order. Then, it’s time to gather the clients and hit the road, focused on doing the best job possible, so the client will recommend the business to another client, and so on, and so on.