How to Become an Owner-Operator Truck Driver

If you’re curious about how to become an owner-operator truck driver, check out our tips for getting started and finding the right companies to work for.

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It’s more lucrative than ever to pursue a career in trucking, especially as an owner-operator. Truck owner-operators not only transport goods for a living, but they also own or lease their truck and essentially run their own business. If you already have experience in the trucking industry, you may want to consider striking out on your own as an owner-operator truck driver and working under the umbrella of a logistics company to get the best of both worlds. Let’s take a look at how you can take your trucking career to the next level.

Steps to Becoming an Owner-Operator Truck Driver

Get a Commercial Driver’s License

All operators of commercial vehicles are required to have a commercial driver’s license, also known as a CDL, regardless of if they are owner-operators. If you’re already in the trucking industry, make sure your CDL hasn’t expired, as it needs to be renewed every five years. Consider the type of CDL you’re pursuing as well; at Tenpoint, we only work with drivers and owner-operators who have a Class B CDL license or higher.

Acquire, Register & Insure Your Truck

What makes an owner-operator different from a truck driver is that they own or lease their own truck. This means you’ll need to acquire a commercial truck instead of being assigned one from a company fleet.

When purchasing or leasing your own vehicle, it’s important to follow all state and federal regulations that apply. You can’t simply purchase a commercial vehicle and start hauling cargo as an individual; you’ll need to form a business and register for a USDOT number. You’ll also need to make sure you have the proper insurance, which will be different from the type of car insurance you may be familiar with for a personal vehicle. 

These business headaches are one of the biggest downsides of being an owner-operator—all of the documentation and legal requirements fall on your shoulders. However, when an owner-operator runs under a carrier authority (a trucking logistics company like Tenpoint), the carrier handles all of this for them. Owner-operators working for a trucking company will operate under the carrier’s DOT number—and often their insurance as well. The carrier will also usually supply commercial plates for the vehicle.

Find the Best Trucking Companies for Owner-Operators

One way to alleviate the administrative burden of owning your own business is to work under the umbrella of a trucking logistics company. Instead of being a company driver, you’ll maintain your autonomy as an owner-operator. However, you’ll gain the benefits of being part of a team, such as safety bonuses, breakdown assistance, fuel discounts, cargo and liability insurance, zero start-up costs, career growth opportunities, and more.

Keep a Record of Business Expenses

As an owner-operator, it’s important to keep a comprehensive record of your business expenses. If you work with a logistics company, some of your expenses may be eligible for coverage or reimbursement, such as fuel costs. Even if you’re working completely on your own, organized business records are a necessity to make tax season less of a headache.

How to Get Owner-Operator Trucking Jobs

Build Your Experience

You’ll probably struggle to get jobs as an owner-operator if you purchase or lease a truck fresh off of gaining your first CDL. Put in the hours gaining experience as a driver before taking the plunge with starting your own business. Many companies only work with owner-operators with demonstrated experience. At Tenpoint, we require owner-operators to have a minimum of two years in the trucking industry.

Drive Safely

Whether you own your own business or drive for someone else, safe driving is of the utmost importance. Be sure to adhere to all regulations regarding safe driving, such as mandatory resting periods. Your vehicle should also pass DOT inspection. Many companies will reward drivers for driving safely; at Tenpoint, for example, safe drivers and owner-operators can expect to earn bonuses for a job well done.

Plan Routes Wisely

If you’re driving for yourself, you’ll need to plan your routes to maximize efficiency. Every unnecessary second you spend on the road is money out of your pocket. 

It can be a difficult balancing act to prioritize efficiency while also staying within regulatory guidelines for rest as an owner-operator. Logistics companies like Tenpoint will plan routes for drivers and owner-operators alike, alleviating one more burden and letting drivers focus on what they’re best at: driving.

Network with Industry Professionals

As an owner-operator, you’ll need to mix and mingle with other industry professionals to make connections and get contracts. It can be difficult to hustle up jobs as an individual. Logistics companies like Tenpoint can help connect you to others in the industry while also ensuring that you have a steady stream of work.

The Cost of Starting a Trucking Career

How Much Does Truck Driving School Cost?

The cost of getting a CDL varies from state to state. Training programs are often offered by local colleges. Tuition is typically in the thousands of dollars, although assistance programs are often available.

How Much Does It Cost to Start a Trucking Company?

Combine the cost of purchasing a commercial transportation vehicle with the cost of starting a business, and you’ll get the estimated price tag for what it costs to become an owner-operator truck driver. The upfront costs are steep, but because you’ll own your own business, the reward is often high.

How Much Does a Semi-Truck Cost? 

Expect to spend between $50,000–$200,000 on a semi-truck. Many factors affect the cost of a semi-truck, including:

  • Ownership history: Used semi-trucks will cost less than new ones.
  • Features: Add-on features, such as a sleeper cab, will increase the price.
  • Insurance: The cost of a semi-truck is more than just the sticker price; you’ll need to consider the cost to insure the vehicle as well.
  • Method of payment: Leasing a semi-truck will bring down your monthly costs, but interest rates can be high, resulting in a higher price overall.

Become an Owner-Operator Truck Driver with Tenpoint Expediting 

Want the benefits of driving for yourself with the support of a larger team? Drive as an owner-operator truck driver for Tenpoint Expediting Services. Apply today.

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