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Steps for Becoming an Owner Operator Truck Driver

Owner Operator


The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) defines an owner-operator as a  business owner who owns their own tractor and in some circumstances their own trailer or trailers. Some fast facts—most owner-operators were also company truck drivers who have been in the trucking industry for an average of 26 years. If you are considering a career move from truck driver to owner-operator jobs, here is an overview of the steps you need to take to make this happen successfully.

Evaluate Your Financial Situation
As an owner-operator, you are going to become a self-employed business owner. This means you will not be a company truck driver, and you will need to fully evaluate your financial situation now—and how you expect it to be in the next six months to a year. Without a solid understanding of how much you are worth now, you will struggle getting out of the gate with a new trucking operation. Furthermore, you need a baseline to use when deciding how much you want and need to earn as an owner-operator for your salary.  

Decide on Lease versus Purchase
To qualify as an owner-operator, you need to own your own tractor and/or trailer. Deciding whether you want to lease or purchase a new or used truck will make all the difference for your career goals. A new or late model truck may offer the best in safety features, warranties, and fuel economy, and that can save you money over the lifespan of your equipment. 

However, a new truck can cost upwards of $180,000, which is more than most homes. A lease-purchase program will allow you to purchase your tractor-trailer and pay it off like a loan. There are many places that will lease trucks, and you can explore leasing through a trucking company. This way you pay a set amount each week, for your loan and expenses. 

Leasing through a trucking company can be a more convenient way to stay on track with your finances as an owner-operator. If you decide to operate older equipment, you might discover that this is a misstep because older equipment can leave you spending more on maintenance and repairs. These older trucks also lack many of new safety technologies and they are not as fuel efficient as late-model tractors. 

Getting the Proper Documentation
As a truck driver, you are required to have a commercial driver’s license. As an owner operator, you also must have a USDOT and Motor Carrier (MC) number. You will need to request a DOT number from the FMCSA, after which you will be provided with an MC number. There is a fee of $300 for permanent authority. If you need to reinstate your operating authority this has a fee of $80.
Another option is to operate under the authority of a trucking company. Again, this option can simply the process and help you be successful in your new truck driving business.
You will also need to decide which operating authority fits your owner operator establishment. The types of operating authorities for drivers interested in owner-operator jobs include:
  • Motor carrier of property
  • Motor carrier of household goods
You will also need to invest in an electronic logging device. An ELD is a requirement for all commercial operators in the trucking industry. This device tracks your driving times, as well as off-duty hours, to record your hours of service for the FMCSA. This information is transmitted electronically to the state DOT, replacing the paper logs that owner-operators once utilized.

Finding Loads for Owner Operators
The next step for an owner-operator is to find loads to haul. This is different than being a company truck driver where your loads are provided to you. As an owner operator, you are responsible for finding truck loads from shippers. You can search online on load boards to find this information or depend on a third-party dispatch and logistics service provider. Once again, partnering with a trucking company can make a big difference because they access to freight, lanes and established customers that you do not need to develop.

Becoming an Independent Contractor
When you partner with a trucking company as an owner operator, you can become an independent contractor. An independent contractor has the self-employment status of an owner-operator, and you are typically contracted to a single carrier for all of your freight loads. This way you have more consistent hauls on hand to keep your trucking business booming.

Finding Trucking Jobs at Roehl Transport
If you are in the trucking industry and trying to decide what is the best way to make money as a trucker, check out Roehl Transport. You’ll have options that range from company driver truck driving jobs, to lease purchase options to becoming an owner operator with your own authority. In addition, Roehl offers the Business Owners Support System to make you the B.O.S.S! In addition to helping create your business, Roehl provides tons of other support, including the opportunity to lease trucks with the latest trucking technology – from equipment support and maintenance to in-cab safety and efficiency features to the reputation and freight network of one America’s most successful trucking companies, Roehl is a place to grow your business!

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