Well, I figured I would start a thread to document my journey in becoming an independent O/O operating under my own authority. I am sure this will be filled with many trials and tribulations but hope this can help others along the way that can learn from the mistakes and successes that may be outlined in the future. I will try to outline as much as possible while remaining as transparent as I can be. Bear with me, I am sure this will be lengthy initial post.
A bit of background, I have several years of logistics/transportation experience while previously working at a 3PL. With that, I am familiar with the business side of this industry but am new to the driving side. I had become interested in doing this several years back (2011 time frame) and had started researching at that time, so this is not something I gave little thought to and made the jump to do so. I obtained my CDL last year without any training but have recently attended a driving school to help get acquainted to pulling a trailer and to give an opportunity on getting more fluid with shifting. My thought process was I might as well tear someone else’s stuff up while learning, instead of learning on my stuff and having to spend my money to fix anything that I may break.
My plan is to run spot market freight with a dry van (out of the gate), to get familiar with driving and the other aspects of the carrier side before potentially expanding to other segments of the industry. I have some broker contacts I have made over the years that will hopefully pan out with this venture, as well as some direct shippers I can hopefully work with in due time.
As far as equipment goes, my initial plan was to buy used and to pay for the truck and trailer in cash, in hopes of limiting overhead as much as possible. I ended up purchasing a 2001 Kenworth T2000 from another TTR member, that had documented their journey as well, and was able to purchase this in cash. After searching and searching for a solid used trailer, I kept striking out. Everything I came across was either extremely rusted and not in good shape, overpriced for what it was (in my opinion), or sold before I had an opportunity to go look at it. Due to this, I opted for a new Utility dry van. I was hesitant to do this at first due to my plan being to limit overhead as much as possible; however, in the long run I think this will be the cheapest route to go. I ended up paying ~$32,000 for the trailer (includes 4 aluminum outers) which gives me a monthly payment of ~$990 for 36 months.
To kick off the business, I was able to secure a credit card with a $35,000 limit (which I hope to never exceed), with 0% interest for 12 months. I was able to secure a SBA credit line in the amount of $15,000. As far as liquid assets, I am starting out with a maintenance fund with ~$11,500 and a fuel fund with ~$6,200. My plan is to put as much as possible on the interest free credit card starting out and to pay that off as quickly as possible (shooting to have this paid off before the interest-bearing period starts).
Additionally, I currently have minimal home expenses as the wife’s income can cover all household expenses at this time. I feel this is a huge asset at this time and takes a lot of pressure off while starting out.
Start Up Costs
Let me start off with saying. THIS IS AN EXPENSIVE INDUSTRY! Outside of the truck cost itself, I spent nearly $30,000 before even pulling a load. This figure includes all costs associated to travel to pickup the truck, pre-purchase inspection, company setup fees (legal), titling and registering truck/trailer, base plate, insurance, etc. This number could be trimmed down if you choose to do monthly insurance payments; however, I went ahead and paid for the year in full to take advantage of a slight discount. Additionally, I purchased the truck in May 2017, so this was spread out across a year basically.
Thankfully, the truck was in excellent shape upon purchase. Very little was needed to get it road ready. My dad (mechanically inclined) and I opted to convert the weedburner exhaust to dual stacks to be aesthetically pleasing, installed a Xantrax inverter, and converted all interior lights to LED’s. We also worked to wire in a pyrometer with the 9-gauge cluster that had been previously installed.
My wife also works for a fleet/broker/maintenance shop located in the eastern part of the States and was able to secure a decent hourly rate with reputable technicians. I brought the truck up there to have them do a good lookover of everything and to perform an annual DOT inspection on the truck. The initial visit called for 2 steer tires (wanted to make sure the steers were solid after sitting for some time), a new fuel splitter valve due to a leak, a good grease job and oil change, all filter and fluid changes, a clutch adjustment, and some brake components (slack adjusters). The steer tires accounted for a majority of the bill, but this ran ~$4,050. We opted to have the shop do the initial work to make sure everything checked out before hitting the road. Nothing was blatantly out of whack but wanted to get additional assurance from folks that look and work on trucks every day.
From the Office to Trucking
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Time to Roll
After spending significant amounts of money in preparation, the day has finally come. I picked the truck up from the shop around 4:30PM after the initial items previously mentioned and DOT inspection were completed on Friday, 6/29 (month end/quarter end). I was hoping to go pick the trailer up and get something last minute that needed to move to get out before quarter end. I arrive to the trailer dealer and inspect what was needed in order to put the license plate on and to determine if any additional items were needed before “hitting the road”. I made a list and bobtailed back to Lowes (one exit away from the trailer dealer). I come out after purchasing the necessities and see oil seeping out from the grill. I immediately start to panic. No indicator lights came on, and the oil was full prior to departing the shop. After some diagnosing, we realize the oil seems to be seeping out from the bypass oil filtration system. After dropping the filter cartridge, we realize the O-ring had broken which was causing the leak. Additionally, the engine fan had been spraying the oil everywhere causing a huge mess. After replacing the o-ring and attempting to clean up the engine bay, it was already 9:30PM on Friday. The load boards had dried up and everyone seemed to be gone for the day. Needless to say, Day 1 did not go as planned.
I ended up sleeping at the trailer dealer after resolving the o-ring issues. The next morning I made my way to a nearby truck stop and ended up running across the street to Lowes and picking up some additional items I felt would be useful to have in the truck. After running those errands, I finally started working on getting a load picking Saturday. I posted my truck and started getting some calls soon thereafter. After talking with a few brokers, I only ran into issues with being a new authority one or 2 times. The other issue I ran into were brokerages saying they could not set me up on the weekend as that would have to be done on Monday. By now, it was probably 4:00-4:30PM on Saturday and I had not locked anything down. By this point I was getting desperate and wanted to start generating ANY sort of revenue possible. I finally got a call from a broker on a Mooresville, NC to Columbia, SC run. We came to terms and agreed upon $800. I was initially shooting for $1,000; however, again with it getting late in the day on a Saturday and just wanting to have something to look forward to as far as income is concerned I figured I would roll for the $800. I was only 10 miles away from the shipper, so made my way over there to get loaded. I got yelled at by the check-in people because I didn’t turn the truck off when pulling up to the intercom to check-in. Lesson learned . Once loaded (about 45,000# of product), I made my way to the guard shack to get the BOL’s and be on my way. Upon receiving the seal and the bills, I started closing the trailer doors. I know the driver’s side trailer door should be closed prior to the passenger side trailer door. I could not get the drivers side door to close at all. The folks in the guard shack, I think could tell I was fairly new at this, and provided advice that drivers would some times pull up a bit to get on a bit more level ground. I pulled up a little bit and was still having these issues. We eventually got the door to close (after pushing on it like a maniac) and I was on my way. I made the delivery that evening and ended up deadheading home the following day due to it being Sunday (I am based out of Charlotte, NC). I opted to “take Sunday off” to reflect on the maiden voyage and to look over the truck to make sure everything still looked good and operational.
I knew Monday’s are typically slow, so I stayed at the house for a few hours in the AM, and then headed to the truck at around noon to start looking for a load. I currently like to get to the truck and do a quick lookover prior to finding a load to ensure there isn’t anything obvious wrong with the truck that could cause a service failure. I ended up getting a call from a broker that needed a run covered from Black Mountain, NC to Beach Island, SC. After negotiating we agreed upon a rate of $1,575. I got the rate con, and noticed the consignee address was not listed. I figured the shipper would have this information, so I didn’t think too much about this, and started making my way up to the shipper to get loaded. While heading out to the guard shack to check out (about ~30,000#), I once again had issues with closing the trailer doors. This time I was “prepared”, or so I thought, with a dead blow mallet. I pulled up to what I thought was pretty level ground, and tried to beat the door shut where I again encountered issues. I noticed that the locking rod on the driver’s door was completely underneath the locking bracket at the top of the drivers side door. At this point I e-mailed the dealer and told them I would be coming by to have them look at this. I eventually got the doors to close (a couple hours later) after deciding to run the load with the passenger door closed first with the driver door closed on top of it. After getting the doors closed, and looking at the BOL’s, I noticed again that the consignee address wasn’t listed, but only stated the commodity I was hauling. At this point it was about 12:30AM. I attempted to reach out to the broker, who had an after hours person from a different office that could unfortunately provide no assistance. They stated I would need to wait to get in touch with my contact the following morning for this information. Lesson learned here: If something doesn’t look right, go ahead and question it on the front end. Do not assume someone down the road will have the needed information. I finally received the delivery address around 7:30AM the following morning. I made my way to the shipper where I got held up for approximately 4 hours. I ended up not getting unloaded until 6:30PM the day before the 4th of July. I attempted to look for a load that would allow me to get reloaded with the hours I had left, but could not find one. I opted to deadhead home to enjoy the holiday at home with the wife instead of in the truck.
On Thursday, my dad thought it would be cool to come with me on a trip. We attempted to book a load and headed to the shipper. The shipper advised the pickup number we received was not valid and was not heading to the destination I was supposed to be heading too. After sitting at the shipper for 3 hours and working with the broker, the broker confirmed the load was not valid and confirmed a TONU ($150). They then advised me of a load they had going to Raleigh from the same shipper that was to pick at 4:00AM the following day (Friday morning). My dad and I head home after agreeing to that load to get some sleep and make our way to the shipper on Friday morning for pickup. After arriving to the shipper, they confirm they did not have enough product to ship the load out and that it was cancelled. The broker then confirmed another TONU ($150). By this time, I was exhausted and headed to a nearby truck stop to get some sleep and to reset my hours to have a fresh clock. My dad opted to go home as I would be sitting for a while. My clock reset around 15:00 on Friday afternoon, and I posted my truck. I got a call from a broker who had a Charlotte, NC to Atlanta, GA run to pick that evening to deliver tomorrow morning. We agreed on a rate of $1,100. I headed to the shipper and got loaded (~18,000# of product). This time I had no issues with the trailer doors closing which was quite the relief. I figured with the load delivering to Atlanta, that I would be able to get reloaded on Saturday; however, I was not able to secure anything after getting unloaded. Lesson learned: If looking for weekend pickups, it seems to be worthwhile to go ahead and lock something in on Friday to ensure you get a load. It doesn’t seem a lot of brokerages are working or are available on weekends. I ended up delivering the load Saturday AM, and headed back home after realizing I wasn’t going to get a load picking Saturday. I ended up taking Sunday off, and figured I would hit it again on Monday.
Monday rolled around, and I posted my truck around 2:30PM on Monday. I got a couple calls from some brokers with nothing too worthwhile and were going to areas I didn’t have interest in going to yet. My plan was to stick around the home front in the event something happened. This was my plan for the first few weeks being a new driver and still getting acquainted to the equipment. I called on the same Mooresville, NC to Columbia, SC load I had previously hauled to see what I could get. I ended up getting it for $925 ($125 more than what I initially ran it for), which I felt was a small success. I liked this run as I was familiar with both the shipping and receiving facilities and new I would get unloaded that night. I made my way to the shipper and got loaded. I again had issues closing the doors (loaded with 45,000#) but was able to get them closed much more quickly this time after having gone through this a few times already. Side note: It seems I was only having issues with the trailer doors when the loads were heavy (over 30,000#). The dealer confirmed after taking some measurements that the doors were not square and were awaiting direction from the manufacturer on what to do to fix it. I delivered the load and stayed the night in Columbia. I woke up the next morning and posted my truck around 8:30AM in hopes of finding a broker that needed something to pick and deliver same day. I had to get home as I was going on a beach trip with my buddies the following day so had to find something that fit this requirement. This broker called me on a Graniteville, SC to Dunn, NC run which she had started off by saying that she had been covering these for $900. I’m not sure what I was thinking but told her I could run this but would need $1,100. She immediately accepted that offer without hesitation which made me think I shot myself in the foot and left money on the table. I made my way to the shipper to get loaded where I was held up for another 4 hours. I did receive an hour of detention, but on this load, I was just looking to get loaded, unloaded, and home as quickly as possible. The broker advised that they could change the delivery appointment with no issues due to getting held up. I arrived too the consignee 15 minutes before the “adjusted delivery appointment”, but the receiver advised they had no record of the appointment change. After some coaxing, they were able to get me worked in thankfully and offloaded that night. I took that offer and headed home.
Trailer is currently at the dealer getting the doors fixed which will hopefully alleviate issues moving forward. There were also some issues with a few of the crossmembers which they corrected as well. The truck is in the shop to have the technicians do a good lookover after running for a little over a week, and to finish some items they did not complete the first visit.
All-in-all, I think it has been a successful first week and a half. I did not hit anything or hurt anyone (including myself), and it has been a great learning experience. I must get a bit better at negotiating, as I have joked with some folks saying I haven’t been hung up on yet or called crazy which lets me know I need to get better. A couple key metrics thus far: I am currently operating on a ~$2.41 rate per mile on all miles so far. $5,880 billable revenue on 2,430 miles (includes bobtail miles) as of the date I put my IFTA sticker on the truck to today. Fuel mileage and cost: Currently getting 6.48 MPG with an average cost per gallon of $3.299. This breaks down to $0.509/mile in fuel currently. I have just gotten some fuel cards setup so the cost per gallon should go down a decent bit which will help. I am also hoping to get a generator and A/C setup to avoid additional idling time which should help fuel consumption too.
Lastly, I would like to thank my wife for the support she has provided throughout the whole process and for standing by me the entire time, as well as my dad. Without the 2 of them none of this would be possible. The support base I have in my family and the group of fellow drivers I have interacted with has been incredible. Feel free to throw out any comments, suggestions, or questions you may have. You all be safe out there!
Awesome. I’m real proud of you.
Keep the updates rolling!
The FS bypass filters come with a new o-ring, replace them each time. Note the ft/lb setting on the top where the bolt goes through, it’s not a lot, 35 or 40 I think.
Sorry about the slack adjusters!
Hope you kept the steers, they’ll make good trailer tires.
Insurance is as follows. I was routed through a friend of mine who is a broker. This comes out to a little over $17K for the year. Note, the below also includes comprehensive and collision on both the tractor and the trailer. I did just get a notice in the mail today though that the underwriter (Lloyds of London) is cancelling the cargo policy and the comprehensive and collision on the trailer I believe. I am hoping this is just a clerical error and can be corrected.
$1M/$2M agg General Liablity
$1M Auto Liability
$2M umbrella policy
$1M occupational accident policy
$250K life insurance policy
For your 411,
Lloyd’s of London is an offshore insurance carrier. Big mistake if you ask me. You never use an offshore insurance. Always get an “A” or “A+” insurance company. Your broker didn’t help you one bit by going that route. They should of explain to you the difference between the 2. Seems you was opting for the cheapest route. Lesson learned, never use an Offshore carrier.
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