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Pros and Cons of Becoming an Owner-operator in Trucking

Pros and Cons of Becoming an Owner-operator

The transportation industry is exploding, and there is a much greater demand for truckers than ever before. Whether you have worked as a truck driver in the past or are new to trucking entirely, you might consider a career as an owner-operator.  As opposed to the typical company truck driver, who utilizes a company vehicle to work company jobs, owner-operators own their own vehicles — which comes with several advantages and a few disadvantages, as well.

Advantages of Being an Owner-operator

Independence

It can be frustrating going wherever a dispatcher sends you, hauling whatever your company tells you to haul and meeting a client’s deadlines, no matter how unreasonable. As an owner-operator, you have complete independence to work the way you want to. You get to choose the jobs you want to work, which allows you to create the working environment of your dreams. Of course, you are still beholden to the expectations of your clients, though you may be able to work with clients to make their demands more reasonable.

Flexibility

Company drivers are almost constantly driving, which can make it difficult to fit the enjoyable parts of life into their work schedule. If you need more flexibility in when and where you work, you might need to become an owner-operator. Because you have full control over your schedule, you can choose your working hours to fit around other important events in your life, like your child’s piano recital or your mother’s birthday.

Earning Potential

Drivers receive only a small percentage of the earnings of any job they complete for a trucking company. Companies take a majority share of income to pay for the resources that drivers rely on — and to line the pockets of company owners and leaders. As an owner-operator, you gain access to the full sum paid for jobs you drive, increasing your earning potential radically. The average salary for a company driver hovers around $81,000 while owner-operators on average take home almost quadruple that annual income —upwards of $323,000.

Disadvantages of Being an Owner-operator

Responsibility

When you drive a company truck, you are entirely dependent on your company. Your company is responsible for providing you with a vehicle and ensuring that vehicle is properly maintained. Likewise, your company is responsible for selecting jobs and scheduling them for you. To some drivers, this level of control is chafing, causing them to dream of becoming an owner-operator and achieving independence. To other drivers, independence comes with an overwhelming amount of responsibility that they have little interest in assuming. Before becoming an owner-operator, you need to recognize whether you thrive with autonomy and enjoy greater responsibility or whether you are happy giving up control to an employer to reduce your workload.

You need to also consider the fact that you are liable for your own maintenance, meaning you come out of pocket for any and all upkeep on your truck. Everything from changing your transmission fluid to replacing your semi truck mattress falls under your umbrella of responsibility. This is something that a lot of owner-operators handle by putting funds aside as they go to prepare for large expenses, such as engine work. 

Time Commitment

With the added responsibility of being an owner-operator comes the increased demand on your time. Truck drivers always work long hours, but when you no longer have a dispatcher to manage your schedule, you can expect to devote even more time to your job. When you are not driving, you might be maintaining your truck, communicating with clients, chasing leads and setting up contracts, planning routes and more. If you are hoping that becoming an owner-operator will reduce the time you spend at work, you are sorely mistaken.

Startup Costs

Before you can be an owner-operator, you need to be an owner — which is to say that you need to be able to afford a tractor and trailer of your own. You may be able to find a used vehicle for a few tens of thousands of dollars, but if you want a brand-new truck with appropriate upgrades, you should expect a bill well into the six figures. Fortunately, you don’t need to wait to save up for the truck of your dreams; lenders can help you learn how to get trucking business loans to ensure that you can acquire not just your first vehicle but an entire fleet of trucks to launch your own trucking company, if that is your desire.

Working as an owner-operator in the trucking industry is not unlike being an entrepreneur. If you want a career in trucking that offers more income potential, more prestige and more control — even if that means you work longer and harder — you may be ready to become an owner-operator.


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