Personal Assessment for a Truck Owner-Operator

Taking up the job of a truck owner/operator is lucrative and exciting. However, you have to be sure that you are cut out for the task of becoming an owner-operator before you jump in. You need to take a serious look at your attitude to work, work habits and ethics, among other factors to determine your chance of success at a career as a truck owner-operator. Also, you must be sure that you have what it takes to take up the rigours that are involved in operating or owning a truck. Some essential personal characteristics you need to evaluate before making your decisions are highlighted below. 

Preferences in Driving:

Do you like speed? Are you comfortable with maximizing your hours in order to run as fast as possible for as many hours as possible? Alternatively, would you rather be more concerned about getting a great parking spot and a nice time out?

Preferred Home Time:

If you would rather spend your weekends at home instead of shooting around town in your truck, in spite of how the free weekend will impact on your take-home wage, you are better off working a nine-to-five job than becoming an owner-operator. 

Considerations for Family: 

If you have a unique family condition that will significantly restrict your availability for trucking at off hours, you may want to rethink. You might need to consider issues like joint child custody or a having spouse with highly flexible work schedule. It is possible to handle these issues successfully. But there are times when you may have to sacrifice your family comfort to earn a profitable income and vice versa.

Career Goals:

You need to define both your short and long term career goals. Do you have the plan to move into a non-driving job position anytime soon or are you in the trucking career for life? If you have a long term plan to remain on the road, you may give becoming an owner/operator a good shot.

The above are just a couple of what you need to consider before you make up your mind about becoming an owner-operator. You should assess yourself honestly, considering your goals, needs, and wants before making the decision.

How to Choose a Truck Wisely:

Owning a truck is indeed a nice and fulfilling feel, but you have to be sure that you are ready to go the long haul to stick with the strict payment plan that comes with being a truck owner. There are many decisions you have to make when making the choice to purchase your big rig. You cannot afford to skip this process if you want a successful ownership process. Top among the decisions you need to make include the following:

  • Used vs. New truck

  • What is your budget?

  • Specifications of your truck for various types of work, dependability, and durability

  • How old is the truck? You should consider the mileage, amenities, and warranty

  • Distance to be driven – do you need to make regular trips back home? If you answer yes, you might want to let go of some comfort features to get a better bargain.

  • Fuel economy: This is a crucial factor in choosing a truck. Irrespective of whether you are buying a used or new truck, you should be sure of the fuel consumption of the truck before you make the purchase. You might want to consult some experienced owner/operators with the same engines and trucks to have an idea of their experiences.

Really, there is nothing cast in stone when choosing your truck to become an owner/operator. Major factors that contribute to your whole trucking experience include the horsepower, transmissions, engines, torque, and your driving style.

Developing a Maintenance Culture

Now you have your truck, what’s next? The first thing you should be mindful of is keeping your overhead and maintenance cost to the barest minimum. How do you achieve this? Slow and steady does it. Now you don’t have to drive the longest miles per day to earn a fixed rate, rather, you are your own boss. So you have to drive carefully and slowly. Maintain an average of ninety to one hundred kilometres per hour and preserve your brakes and sparingly use the engine brake. Make sure you get your oil changed every month and get the grease job done on a weekly basis. These are highly cost-effective, and you will save yourself from huge repairs.

Understand the Industry and Business Before You Get Into Becoming an Owner-Operator and the Carrier Relationships

You have to be sure you know what you are doing before you sign on the dotted line. Understand that you are getting involved in a serious business. Know that internal relationship, rates, customers, cost, and safety records, all have a significant impact on your operation. Don’t jump from carrier to carrier because this can be quite expensive. Remember, there is hold back money involved, and you may lose out if you don’t meet up with the obligations and commitments of the contract. It is important to understand that this is not the kind of trucking job you have the opportunity to simply walk away from. You have to be ready to be financially committed by hire agreement with a customer or a carrier.

You Must Think Like an Entrepreneur 

As a business owner, you must understand trucking is the business, and the tool is your truck. You must be ready to embrace work ethics, smart and hard work in order to succeed in the business.

Have Enough Money for Emergencies and Slow Days (even start saving before becoming an owner-operator, if possible)

It is essential that you plan for rainy days. Every week, make it a habit to set aside some cash for emergencies. Anything can happen; you may be sick, or you may be short of jobs. Nothing is permanent, and you may be affected by revenue and cost fluctuation. Therefore, it is critical that you have an emergency fund. Have between three to six months living expenses saved up in case of any emergency or inability to work. Do not be carried away by the cash coming in. Save up because the cash might not come in for the next three months.

Get Professional Services

To be successful, you must be willing to get and pay for professional services. Get professionals to handle your legal and accounting issues and set up the right business structure. Keep accurate records, address legal matters and plan for your taxes. Acquire professional advice on specific situations and treat your trucking business for what it is – business.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle and Start Before Becoming an Owner-Operator

You are now your own boss and the life of your business depends on you. Therefore, you have to maintain a healthy lifestyle and remain in good health. If you have to be on the road for a long duration of time, make sure you are in the right frame of mind and optimal health. Remember, you cannot afford to be down with health issues. When you’re not working, you are not making any money.

Do Not Go Overboard with Your Spending

Yes, you are now an owner/operator, and you make and keep your money. However, know that your ability to manage money well and live within your means will impact greatly on your becoming a successful owner/operator. Never spend what you do not have and don’t spend all your earnings. Don’t buy or lease an expensive truck that is beyond your means. You should also make allowance for maintenance, repairs, and of course insurance, irrespective of whether you are buying a brand new or used truck.

Have Realistic Expectations

Although you have a great opportunity of making more money as an owner/operator, you should not go overboard with your expectations. You need to carry out proper research on the industry to know what to expect in terms of your income and expenditures. Additionally, take advantage of your downtime. The time involved in waiting to load or unload should not be seen as your downtime. Use the seemingly downtime for something meaningful that will impact on your business. If you need to make plans or carry out maintenance on your truck, do it at this time.

Be a Continuous Learner

The trucking industry is competitive, and you must continue to learn to stay ahead. Get in touch with some industry leaders and take learning from them. Network with experienced owner/operators and learn how they have been able to grow their business. Never become content with your knowledge base. Be an avid learner and take regular professional training.

We hope you have taken away something from these tips that will help make you a successful owner/operator. Be proactive in your thinking and think like an entrepreneur. This is what distinguishes a successful owner/operator from someone simply driving his own truck. If you are thinking seriously about becoming an owner-operator, contact us today!

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