If you are in trucking then the chances are good that you have at least thought about becoming an owner operator – if you haven’t already done it.
Most people have questions in mind about what it would really be like – what the daily and weekly routines would be and how it compares to those of company truck drivers.
Let’s start with the “Operator” part being an Owner Operator.
Driving as an Owner Operator
Once you have your load booked and your pickup information it is very similar to what a company driver does. You still need to inspect your truck, put fuel in it, plan your trip, drive the trip, maintain your status in your ELD, and communicate with shippers, receivers, and brokers.
So running loads is almost the same between owner-operators and company drivers.
However, the feeling of knowing that you are your own employer and you get to call the shots makes each trip a far more enjoyable ride!
You will be far more aware of things that can cost you money and you will work very hard to avoid them all as much as you can. For example, many company drivers think nothing much of allowing their trucks to run and idle all the time. They go inside a shipper or receiver and let it run.
Even when they stop for lunch or a break where they go inside a truck stop or restaurant they will often leave the truck running and burning fuel.
You will be far more aware of and concerned about the costs associated with such habits – and far more likely to shut your truck off every chance you get to save fuel – and that money saved goes directly to your bottom line profit.
Of course, a company driver does have some benefits and some advantages too.
He or she does not have to worry too much about equipment failures and breakdowns for one.
While it would certainly be an inconvenience and possibly impact their overall earnings for the day – that’s about it. They know they can call for roadside assistance or a tow to a repair shop – and get the truck fixed with no cost to them personally.
Not so as an owner operator – you and the company are one and the same fr all practical purposes – and you are paying the bills. Towing can be well over $1000 and even “minor” repairs can run a few thousand dollars.
Choosing Where to Run and What Loads to Take
As I mentioned once a load is booked and you have your pickup information – the driving part is very similar between owner-operators and company drivers.
But choosing which loads to run and which not to take is a whole other matter.
Most company drivers have very little say over which loads they are going to haul. They are assigned loads by their company – and expected to take them and complete the assignment/dispatch.
This is understandable and should be a matter of common sense to most people.
The company supplies you with a truck, trailer, fuel, and information and resources needed to do the job, support, etc. and it handles all the behind-the-scenes stuff necessary for both it and you to operate. The responsibilities of the carrier (company) and its expenses and risks are significant.
So in exchange for it handling such risks and responsibilities and supplying you with what you need to get the job done – it is going to choose the loads and expect you to get them done.
A good trucking company will still seek to work with its drivers and try to the best of its abilities to have loads that are in alignment with both its need and those of its drivers – but when push comes to shove the company needs will always come first, and company drivers will never have as much freedom or independence as Owner Operators do.
This is not so with you as an Owner Operator.
You get to decide which loads to take and which to decline – and there are usually many choices.
The choices you make mean everything.
They are not only impacting your satisfaction and level of happiness in your work but they dramatically affect the revenue and the profits you earn.
Choose wisely and run efficiently and you achieve Trucking Business Success.
But if you choose poorly – you will suffer, may go broke, and fail as an Owner Operator. That sadly happens to far too many owner operators – choices have consequences both good and bad.
Most company drivers are paid based on the miles they run. Typically a company pays its drivers for all miles the same – loaded or empty. This makes sense and s fair as the company driver has no say typically in whether they run loaded or empty.
An owner operator is usually paid by a percentage of the revenue when leased on to another company or if they are Independent – they get all of the revenue the load generates – and they get all the expenses too.
The earning potential for a successful owner operator is far greater than it is for a good company driver – it can be double or more. While that sounds good – the risks are also far greater too.
Some owner operators make nearly the same – or even less – than some company drivers. Yet many still prefer the owner-operator route because of more freedom and independence.
Other people are more concerned about the bottom-line money to be made.
Which is better – owner operator – or company driver – depends almost entirely on the driver.
If you are well informed, have adequate skills, and operate efficiently you can and will do far better as an owner operator financially.
However, if you can not or will not do what needs to be done consistently you will make less than an average experienced company driver makes.
Keep in mind we are talking net spendable income here.
Lots of people like to brag about their GROSS revenue. That means very little when we are talking about actual spendable money. It is possible to have a very high gross – and little if any actual profit or spendable net income.
So be sure to learn and understand the difference so you can compare apples to apples realistically when making your own choices.
Which is Better – Owner Operator of Company Driver?
The answer changes depending mainly on YOU.
It depends on your trucking knowledge, experience, skills, and abilities.
Even more than that it depends on your own internal drive, ambition, and motivation.
Some people are better off as lifelong company drivers. Others are better off as Independent Owner Operator – and many are best served by being Leased on Owner Operators.
Even then, the seasons of life and personal situation changes – sometimes the choice needs to be changed too.
I have known many Owner Operators who have sold their trucks (or parked them) and become company drivers for one reason or another. Sometimes as full-time drivers and other times as part-time drivers.
Likewise, many longtime company drivers eventually see to buy their own trucks and many do just that and transition the other way.
That’s one of the beautiful things about trucking for a living – you do have plenty of choices.
So the choice is YOURS to make my friend – just be sure to choose the right choice right now for you!