10 things every Owner Operator should know
Posted: May 21, 2021
Are you an Owner Operator or thinking about becoming one? Being your own boss can be an incredible feeling, but it also comes with a lot of responsibility if you want to be successful at it. There are a lot of things you should consider in order to turn your career into a profitable business. Whether you’ve been working at this for a while or are new to owning your own trucking business, here are 10 things that every Owner Operator should know:
1. Be professional
Your new trucking business is all about you - your work ethic, your attitude and your ability to get the job done. Customers and fleets will remember which drivers they like working with. It’s important to work hard, make connections with each contact or customer, communicate when something unexpected comes up, and look for ways to provide excellent customer service.
2. Know your costs
Owning your own business gives you the freedom to run your business however you want, but it also means you’re responsible for all the costs associated with it. As an Owner Operator, you’ll have a number of expenses, including a truck payment, fuel, insurance and permits, and truck maintenance. Create a budget with these business expenses and your personal ones, like your mortgage or rent, utilities, food and retirement investments. Having everything laid out in a budget will help you see how much money you’ll need to have coming in to pay for it all. In order to be financially stable and grow your business, your income will need to be more than your total expenses.
3. Stick to your budget
It’s not enough to just have a budget written down somewhere - you’ll need to stick with it too. Not keeping track of where your money is going is an easy way to go out of business. Roadrunner recommends Owner Operators use the services of ATBS, the nation’s largest tax and accounting firm dedicated to truck drivers. Services include establishing a budget, tax consulting, bookkeeping, and profit and loss statements, payroll services and more. Owner Operators who work with us at Roadrunner get access to maintenance and fuel discounts - these are also great ways to save additional money. Always look for ways you can cut costs, such as paying off debt, selling unused cars, prepping your meals at home instead of getting takeout, and doing away with cable TV.
4. Be smart about your truck purchase
Figure out what truck you’re going to need. Do you want a refrigerated truck? A comfy sleeper? Should you buy used or new? Is a lease purchase the right choice for you? Buying a truck is a big investment, so it’s important to decide what kind of truck is the right one for you. Think about what you’ll want to haul and how you plan to finance the cost. If you decide to lease with Roadrunner Freight, you can get a step ahead with no money down and no payments for the first 60 days.
5. Know where to get your loads
How you get your loads is just as important as delivering them on time. The more time you spend waiting to schedule a new load, the less money you make. Getting a good load board is so important. Here at Roadrunner Freight, we have an app that makes scheduling loads easier than ever. The Owner Operators that partner with us can get on the app to see available loads and book the ones they want. This not only reduces their downtime, but they also have access to important load documents, settlement information, and directions to service centers.
6. Save, save, save
Owning your own business means that you also take on a lot of additional financial risk. You’ll want cash in the bank as an emergency fund in case you get injured or if your truck needs repairs. This money will help you pay for fuel, maintenance, and any important expenses in the interim. Pay off your debts as quickly as possible - this will also help reduce your costs in the event you find yourself unable to get back on the road right away. We recommend setting aside at least three months of your operating costs.
7. Pay your taxes on time
A lot of business owners - not just in trucking - start their businesses because they love what they do and it’s a great way to make money. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll enjoy all the business aspects equally, especially when it comes to organizing and paying your taxes. However, this is definitely an area where you can’t afford to procrastinate. As an Owner Operator, you’re responsible for setting aside part of your income (we recommend 25-30%) for your taxes. It might be more than you’ll actually pay, especially once you take out deductions, but this way you won’t be surprised by an amount that’s larger than you’re prepared to pay. Set this money aside in a separate bank account so it stays safe until tax day. You’ll need to plan to pay your taxes quarterly to avoid penalties from the IRS when you file your annual taxes. Note the dates your taxes are due on the calendar, set reminders, and pay early whenever possible.
8. Make your health a priority
Sure, you can take a sick day if you need it, but ultimately it will cost you money if you can’t keep your truck moving. Focus on taking care of yourself: Eat healthy, work out regularly and get plenty of sleep. Making your health a priority will likely mean fewer sick days and save you money in medical expenses. You’ll also have more energy to work hard and to stay alert while you’re driving.
9. Create a business plan
Having a business plan as an Owner Operator is a great way for you to set some short- and long-term goals and lay out the steps for you to achieve them. This can help you stay focused and motivated while you work to build your company.
10. Have a good support system
Truck driving can feel isolated with all those hours you spend behind the wheel. That’s why it’s so important for you to have a solid support system behind you - both at home and when you’re on the road. Our team of industry professionals are committed to helping you navigate anything that comes your way. When it comes to staying connected with your loved ones, use technology to your advantage by communicating via social media and video chat regularly. Another great benefit of being an Owner Operator is that you can create your own schedule. Make sure you’re also scheduling regular home time so you can be present with your family and friends whenever you have time off.
Partnering with Roadrunner Freight gives you the freedom to build a successful business with the flexibility, stability and support of our whole team behind you. If you’re interested in learning more about partnering with us, connect with Roadrunner Freight to find out how we can help you.