Becoming a trucker owner-operator has many benefits: you get to be your own boss, keep all of your profits, and there are no set limits in place when it comes to success and profitability. When transitioning to becoming a self-employed truck driver, however, it's also important not to ignore the practical and logistical considerations. By being proactive in managing the practical aspects of running your own trucking business, you will help ensure your success. Here are five practical considerations to keep in mind:
Buy the Best Used Commercial Truck You Can Afford
Considering that brand-new semi trucks start at $80,000 and run up to $200,000 or more, buying a used commercial truck is a much more feasible choice for most truck drivers. A good rule of thumb is to buy the best used commercial truck you can afford. Starting out as a self-employed truck driver can be financially risky, so it's important to minimize debt by avoiding a truck payment that is beyond your means.
On the other hand, if you spend too little, you may end up with an unreliable truck that needs frequent repairs and keeps you off the road (and not making money) way too often.
Register as an LLC
Registering as an LLC will protect your personal assets from liability and help you get legally structured as a legitimate business. Registering for an LLC is usually a fairly simple and affordable process, but the forms and fees vary by state, so you will need to look up the rules for your own state. Registering as an LLC will also make it possible for you to legally subcontract work to other truck drivers as your business grows.
Sign Up for Health Insurance
Another practical consideration to keep in mind is health insurance, since once you become self-employed you will no longer have access to employer-provided health insurance. One option is to look into getting added to your spouse's employer-provided health insurance if you are married and your spouse is employed with benefits. Another option is to sign up for your own insurance through the national health insurance marketplace.
Plans on the marketplace vary widely in cost and coverage, so plan to spend some time thoroughly reading through each plan before determining which works best for your situation.
Get Your Finances in Order First
While many truck drivers are drawn to becoming self-employed owner-operators because of the possibility of greater profits, it's wise to make sure your finances are completely in order before you make the leap. If you are drowning in credit card debt or have no savings, this is not the right time to become self-employed. Consider that if you are injured or become sick, you will not have paid sick leave like you would if you worked for a company.
You are also responsible for all of the operating and mechanical costs of running your own trucking business. Ideally, you will take some time to pay down debt and build some savings before transitioning to self-employment.
Practice Proper Maintenance
When you drive for a company, you may find yourself driving the truck as hard and fast as possible in order to make your delivery more quickly. When you own your own truck, however, it pays to drive carefully and take good preventative care of your truck. Checking your truck for leaks, cracks, working lights, etc. before every trip will help prevent costly breakdowns on the road. Having a trusted mechanic who can look over your truck on a monthly basis and perform regular oil changes is also a good idea.
By tackling these business and practical considerations head-on, you will have smooth sailing as you become a self-employed truck driver.