Last updated: September 25, 2023
Most truck drivers dream about becoming an owner-operator at some point in their career. The thought of being your own boss appeals to a lot of people. However, not everyone has what it takes to be an entrepreneur. For instance, if you have an issue with either time management or procrastination, it could be tempting to put off scheduling work to free you up to commit your time to something else.
Becoming an owner-operator requires a lot of self-discipline. In addition to being solely responsible for finding loads or negotiating a contract to haul for a specific company, there is all of the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) red tape to contend with. Dealing with all the required documentation is a huge chore. Keeping up with your logbook is just a drop in the bucket when it comes to staying in compliance.
Moreover, there are other factors to consider besides paperwork. We have five other things for you to think about too.
Employee documentation still applies
Owner-operators own their own truck and either lease to a carrier or obtain their own authority and are responsible for finding their own loads to haul.
Owner-operators must complete a job application for themselves, do an employee background check, obtain an annual DMV records review, give yourself the road test, and enroll in the Federal Motor Carrier Administration’s Drug and Alcohol Clearing House.
Drug tests don’t go away
Even though it may seem strange to order yourself to take the DOT drug test, an owner-operator takes a pre-employment drug and alcohol test before getting behind the wheel—random drug tests still apply too.
The DOT requires drug testing documentation and you want to remain in compliance. Failure to do so results in fines and bans you from driving… not your end goal by any means.
You need to have an official drug-free policy on file and a designated person to oversee it for you. The easiest way to handle this aspect of your business is to join a consortium.
There aren’t any DOT qualification requirements to consider when choosing a consortium. It’s expected that they are familiar with all of the DOTs employer requirements and responsibilities in regard to drug and alcohol testing. It’s important that you ascertain this to be true because ultimately remaining in compliance is your responsibility.
Are you healthy?
The cost of health insurance is astronomical and many self-employed individuals—in all fields of employment—go without the luxury of having health insurance due to the expense.
If you have a health condition that may worsen over time, it might be in your best interest to continue working for a trucking company for the insurance benefits. It doesn’t take much for the medical expenses to begin racking up and that can cause serious financial problems in no time.
Family life may be affected
Every truck driver knows they can spend long hours away from home—especially if you haul over the road rather than locally.
Are you actively involved with your family’s scheduled activities? Have children, a wife, or a girlfriend who would suffer from missing you if you were gone for extended periods of time? Would you suffer from the separation?
If you answered yes to any of the above, being an owner-operator might not be a good fit for you right now.
For instance, you might be unable to make many of your children’s school or sporting events because you’re on the road. The same can be true if you look forward to spending weekends doing things together to strengthen your family bond.
Time passes quickly. Think about the factors that make you want to be at home and the reasons that your family wants and needs you to be there. Weigh them against the reasons that have you considering making the change to become an independent contractor.
Odds are that you’ll be away from home more often when you’re working for yourself.
When it breaks down… you fix it
Your truck is going to require maintenance and repairs to keep it on the road. You’ve carefully considered all that entails, right? The cost of new tires, for instance… And, what if something major goes wrong with your engine?
It happens—usually when we’re the least prepared for it.
When it does, it can affect every aspect of your life because if you aren’t logging miles, you aren’t making money. Add to that a major repair bill and you can get upside down pretty fast.
We all know how tough it can be to get flipped right side up again too, huh?
Plan ahead. Get a maintenance and repair fund set up in your budget if you strike out on your own.
Insurance figures in here
You know driving commercially without insurance isn’t allowed.
Have you looked into the insurance requirements yet? It’s a major expense for an owner-operator.
Here’s a precursor for you of the public liability insurance requirement taken from the FMCSA’s Insurance Filing Requirements page.
- Freight:–$750,000 – $5,000,000, depending on commodities transported; $300,000 for non-hazardous freight moved only in vehicles weighing under 10,001 lbs.
- Passengers:–$5,000,000; $1,500,000 for registrants operating only vehicles with seating capacity of 15 or fewer passengers.
You’ll want to carefully consider the cost of insurance compared to your earning potential.
To be or not to be
The thought of being your own boss and not answering to anyone doesn’t really apply here, does it?
The DOT requires that an owner-operator adheres to strict guidelines. It’s responsible for regulating the trucking industry to ensure that the roadways are safe for public travel.
If owning your own truck and working for yourself appeals to you—and you’ve carefully considered the expenses that go hand-in-hand with that—then, by all means, go for it!
Fuel your dream with your drive…
The road to success is just outside the door.