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Should I Become An Owner Operator
June 20, 2022
Should I become an owner operator? It’s a question every truck driver asks themselves eventually. Owner operators have the potential to earn more, and they have more control over their schedules. The appeal is obvious, but so is the risk.
Owner operators also have to line up their own jobs, and handle the back end of the trucking business as well as doing all the driving. It’s a lot more responsibility, and you may not be sure you want to take that on.
If you’re struggling to make this decision, we can help. We can go over the pros and cons of being an owner operator, and give you advice on how to make this difficult decision.
Should I Become an Owner Operator?
If you’re asking this question, there’s a good chance you’re already getting fed up with working as a company driver. If not, maybe you’re thinking about getting into trucking and you’re trying to decide where to start. Either way, we’ve got you covered.
We’ll give you both sides of the story: why you SHOULD be an owner operator, and why you SHOUDLN’T.
Why You Should NOT Become an Owner Operator
Becoming an owner operator means taking on a lot of responsibility and risk that company drivers don’t have to deal with. If you own the truck, you’re responsible for it. You pay the insurance on it. You pay for the fuel. You pay for the maintenance.
Have you seen how much it costs to change the oil or put new tires on a semi truck? It’s not cheap. And that’s all coming out of your pocket. On top of that, of course, you have to pay for the truck itself. A new truck will cost over $100,000, and used ones aren’t far behind. You might be able to find a used truck for around $45,000, but that’s the very bottom of the price range, and that truck probably won’t last you very long.
As an owner operator you have to handle all the administrative parts of the business, and you have to line up your own work. That means you have to be good enough at bidding on each job to keep a steady flow of loads coming your way. These are all headaches that you don’t have to deal with as a company driver.
Why You Should Become An Owner Operator
If you got excited reading about all the things an owner operator has to do, then you should definitely take the leap. In all seriousness, being an owner operator can be great. You would be your own boss. That alone is enough to convince a lot of people.
You get to pick the jobs you work, which means you won’t get stuck doing runs that don’t interest you. You’ll only work when you want to. Owning your own truck means you can customize it as much as you want. You’ll probably be much more comfortable than any company driver, and you won’t have to share your truck with anybody.
If you lease to a carrier that only uses owner-operators, you won’t even have to worry about lining up jobs, they’ll take care of that for you. You’ll get all the benefits of being an owner operator, with the stability of being a company driver.
Should I Become an Owner Operator? Top Reasons To Consider
Let’s dive deeper into the reasons why you might want to become an owner operator. It’s a big and risky decision, so you want to be sure that you think it through carefully. These are some of the best benefits of being an owner operator. If they sound appealing to you, then the answer to “should I become an owner operator” is yes!
You Can Work With a Business Partner
One of the most intimidating parts of becoming an owner operator is having to do it all by yourself. Luckily, you don’t have to! If you can find someone willing to do it with you, then you and your business partner can work together to start your own trucking company.
Having a partner makes things easier. It will also help reduce the costs since you’ll be splitting the costs between the two of you. You may choose to partner with another driver, or you could partner with someone who can function as a business manager, running the back end, lining up jobs, and managing the finances.
You Can Have a Lot of Flexibility
If you’re really wondering “should I become an owner operato,” flexibility is something to think about. As an owner operator, you can choose what kind of freight to haul, who you’ll drive for, and where you’ll drive.
You can also choose when to drive. If you don’t feel like working one week, you don’t need to bid on any loads. Then you’ll have that time off, and you don’t have to worry about using up vacation days or getting permission.
It’s a Challenge
We’ve already talked about the challenges faced by owner operators. But those challenges don’t seem like a negative thing to everyone. Some people like a challenge. If you’re asking “should I become an owner operator?” odds are good you like a challenge.
If you find challenges like this rewarding, then you’ll love being an owner operator.
You’ve Got a Knack For Business
A lot of owner operators struggle because they don’t realize they have to actually run a business. They’re drawn to the idea of owning their own truck, being their own boss, and setting their own schedule, but they don’t pay attention to everything else that has to get done.
And then, once they’ve actually taken the leap, they’re miserable. So, if you’ve got a knack for business, the answer to “should I become an owner operator” is yes! Not only could you end up earning more money, you might end up building your own successful trucking company.
You Can Choose Your Own Routes
Company drivers are told what route they can drive for each load. An owner operator gets to choose their own route. You may end up picking the same route a company driver has to use, but you might not.
There are plenty of times when you’ll have multiple routes that would all have a similar ETA and similar fuel efficiency. You can choose the one you like best. In a sense, this is the essence of the most idealized part of the trucker lifestyle- getting to see the scenery of the American countryside along the open road.
You Choose Your Own Speed
Company drivers are usually in trucks that have a speed limiter built in. They can’t go above a set speed, no matter what. That can be great for fuel efficiency- lower highway speeds burn less fuel per mile. But it can be frustrating for drivers. There are times when being about to accelerate above the set speed would be useful, like when you’re passing another car on the highway.
And of course there are times when you need to drive faster to make up for delays along the route. Finally, it simply feels good to be able to choose your own driving speed.
You Only Work With Shippers You Want To Work With
Since you own the truck and you choose all your own jobs, you don’t have to work with shippers you don’t want to work with. If they treat drivers poorly, you can ignore them. If they aren’t willing to pay a fair price for the delivery, you don’t have to pick up their load.
For many owner operators, this is the best part of owning their own truck. They enjoy their work more because they only accept jobs from shippers and receivers they like working with.
Taxes for owner operators can be complicated, but you can actually end up saving quite a bit on your taxes. That’s because there are a lot of tax deductions available to you that company drivers can’t take advantage of.
The per diem tax deduction is a good one. You can also deduct the depreciation in value of your truck. If you bought a new truck, that can be significant tax savings for the first few years.
Choose Your Loads
Just like choosing shippers and receivers, you don’t have to pick up loads you don’t like. Every trucker eventually develops preferences from some types of freight over others. You can choose to focus on high-paying, long haul loads or lower paying short haul loads. It’s all part of how you decide you want to set up your business.
You Can Earn More Money
This is not at all a guarantee, but you can potentially earn a lot more money as an owner operator than as a company driver. That’s because there’s no middle man taking a cut of your earnings from each load.
You’re getting paid by directly by the shipper or the receiver. Nobody takes a cut of the money before it gets to you, so you can pay yourself more than you would on a similar company job. As long as you run your business well you can seriously increase your income.
You Have a Lot of Freedom
Ultimately, you can sum up a lot of these reasons in one word: “freedom.” You have the freedom to set your own schedule. To work when you want to work, and to choose who you work with. You choose how and where you drive. You choose what loads to carry.
You even get to choose what truck to drive. Most workers in America- in any field, not just trucking- don’t have anything close to that kind of freedom.
Should I Become An Owner Operator: Pros and Cons
If you’re still on the fence, it may be helpful to read this pros and cons list. We’ll go over all the pros of being an owner operator, as well as all the cons. That way you can clearly see what the advantages are, but also what the drawbacks are.
In fact, nobody can really answer “should I become an owner operator” without first knowing all of these.
- Potential for higher pay. Anybody asking “should I become an owner operator” is probably thinking about the possibility of making more money. It all comes down to you. Since you’re the business owner, you can negotiate for better rates on each load, choose only the best paying loads, and take advantage of tax deductions.
- You can pick your own truck. Company drivers are stuck with whatever the company bought. It might be uncomfortable, it will definitely have minimal features in the cabin, and there’s no concern about whether or not you like it. You can choose a truck based on comfort, if you want. Or pick the one with the best fuel economy. You can also customize everything else. Many owner operators splurge on high quality tires for better road safety.
- Flexibility. The ability to only work when and where you want is huge. It can make all the difference in the world in terms of your happiness. For a lot of drivers, this flexibility is so appealing that they don’t even worry about whether or not they’ll end up making more money. Many truckers choose to be owner operators knowing they won’t make as much as they could as a company driver. The freedom to control their schedule is that important to them.
- Be your own boss. Along with schedule flexibility, being your own boss is one of the biggest pros for being an owner operator. In fact, a lot of people are driven to ask “should I become an owner operator” after dealing with a particularly terrible boss. If you owner your own truck, you wouldn’t have to answer to people like that. You’d be in complete control. If you get sick, you don’t need to prove it to anyone. If you want to take a vacation, you don’t need permission. It’s a level of freedom few people really experience during their working life.
- Financial risk. You’re going to be spending tens of thousands of dollars on a down payment for your truck. And that’s not including tens of thousands of dollars you’ll own to your lender after financing the truck. You’ll be responsible for insurance, fuel, and maintenance costs. And you’ll be responsible for finding your own jobs. If you can’t find enough work to cover your costs, you could be in big trouble.
- There’s a lot of stress. People asking “should I become an owner operator” don’t always realize what a stressful job it is. Company drivers fed up with their working conditions dream of the freedom of being an owner operator, but they don’t always realize how much their company is doing for them. They’re free to just focus on driving; they don’t have to deal with the insurance companies, the clients who need emergency shipping, and the bookkeeping. As an owner operator, you’re handling all of that.
- Your schedule isn’t as flexible as you think. While you do get to choose when and where to work, you also have to work enough to pay the bills and turn a profit. So, while you don’t have to ask permission to take time off, you do need to make sure you can afford it. Plus, you’ll spend a lot of your down time having your truck maintained and keeping up with business records and paperwork.
As you can see, being an owner operator isn’t all fun and games. Those who love it really love it, and they tend to romanticize things a bit. That’s because they either don’t mind the drawbacks of this career, or they love the good parts of it so much that the drawbacks don’t seem so bad.
But you shouldn’t make this decision without giving serious consideration to these cons. Becoming an owner operator is a big risk, and once you take that leap you’re stuck with your decision for years. There’s no easy way to back out once you’ve bought the truck.
Should I Become An Owner Operator: The Bottom Line
We can’t tell you which choice is right for you. Plenty of people love being an owner operator, but there are also plenty of truckers who love working as a company driver. A lot of those people will tell you that becoming an owner operator is a crazy idea- why would you take on all that stress?
But the owner operators who love what they do will tell you the added stress and responsibility is worth you. You can earn a lot more money and have a lot of freedom to go along with it. It’s worth the risk.
What it really boils down to is this: can you run a business successfully? Can you find consistent work for yourself, with loads that are paying well enough for you to turn a profit? Can you manage your time effectively? Are you comfortable with all the aspects of running your own business?
If the answer to all of those questions is “yes” then that’s also the answer to “should I become an owner operator.” But if the answer is no, then you might be better off remaining a company driver. Becoming an owner operator is a risk you should only take if your truly ready for it.
About Booker Transportation
Booker Trans is 100% Owner Operator. It is our belief that an Independent Owner is the best way to get a customers freight delivered timely and safely. Booker is a leading Refrigerated Carrier providing the best lease options in the industry for today’s Owner Operators. Monthly and Yearly Awards, Longevity Bonuses, and the Free tires for Life of Lease Program, are just a few examples of what Booker Trans offers the Owner Operator. Booker Trans has built it’s success upon working partnerships with Customers, as well as Agency Relationships built over the last 20 years. Those same relationships are what makes consistent year round freight possible.
Are you interested in becoming an owner operator driver or getting into the logistics industry?Let’s connect!