Many of those who have achieved successful careers in trucking attribute it to becoming owner-operators on a dedicated business model. An owner-operator is a self-employed commercial truck driver or a small business that operates trucks for transporting goods over highways for its customers.
Job security and higher pay are two big reasons drivers choose this career path. According to The Trucker’s Report, thousands of these truckers have found a way of remaining profitable – regardless of a sluggish economy, low freight rates, and high fuel costs.
Those that have achieved success as owner-operators can also go on to become fleet owners. Fleet owners typically purchase, manage, and assist in operating a small fleet of trucks.
The life of an owner-operator is entrepreneurial. There are highs and lows, as with any business venture. If you choose to lease on to a carrier, you can lessen some of the financial hardships and burdens that go along with being fully independent. For example, you can gain access to fuel cards, money transfer systems, consistent load and freight, access to fleet rates on insurance, and company-paid tolls.
Chuck Pearson, a Greatwide owner-operator from Pauls Valley, OK, recently spoke about becoming a profitable owner-operator.
Greatwide: What is it like being an owner-operator?
Pearson: Being an owner-operator means many things. First and foremost, an owner-op is a small business owner. Small business owners need to know many things about their business and probably the most important thing one needs to know is how to make the business profitable.
GW: How does an O/O achieve success?
Pearson: An owner-operator is a small businessperson. The profit or loss of one’s business, regardless if it’s trucking or not, should always be front and center on the radar screen. For an owner-operator, the old adage of “a penny saved is a penny earned” is extremely important. For example, an owner-operator’s number one expense is diesel. So a successful owner-operator is always looking for the cheapest fuel price. Assuming their truck runs 2000 miles a week and gets 6 mpg, that is approximately 333 gallons of diesel per week. If the owner-operator can save .05 cents on those 333 gallons, he saved money that week and positively contributed to his profitability.
An owner-operator needs to be familiar with his equipment. If he can fix something himself, he saves money. Most shops charge at least $80 per hour labor plus mark-up the price of parts the use on one’s truck. Something as simple as replacing an air line and glad hand would probably cost one $130 or so in a shop; the owner-operator can do the same for about $30.
In a nutshell, in the trucking business as an owner-operator, one of the primary ways you make money really is by saving money and making smart business decisions relative to the operation of your equipment. Pick good loads, work on your own truck if you have the knowledge and time to do so, be proactive with maintenance, and above all, protect your driving record and be safe.
GW: What other advice would you give to those looking to becoming O/Os?
Pearson: The first thing a new owner-operator does is buy a truck, obviously. Be smart with this decision. There are many, many resources out there for locating new and used tractors. Do not pay, for example, $10,000 more for a truck than what it is worth. I would also suggest not buying a truck if you know absolutely nothing about and do not care to learn about simple mechanics. If you don’t care to buy a 9/16 wrench and change your own batteries or know how to change a fuel filter, this is not for you – remain a company driver.
Being proactive is a big part of success. Have extra air lines, have a good set of tools, have a spare set of fuel filters and air governor, etc. Another piece of advice is to have a mechanic you can trust to do a good job at a fair price. Have that person in your phone directory.
For more information on becoming an owner-operator with Greatwide, please click here.