2001 Kenworth T600
Information About How to Become an Owner Operator
FAQ for the Owner Operator
Definitions and Industry Terms
Blackrock Auxiliary Power Unit (APU)
Interactive Cost per Mile (CPM) Calculator Spreadsheet
1) Owner Operator 411 – Welcome
2) Income and Expenses
3) Financing and Credit
4) Operating Authority or Leasing?
6) How To Do Bookkeeping and Other Necessary Paperwork
7) What You Need to Know About Loadboards
8) Companies That Lease Beginning Owner Operators
9) What You Actually Need to Get Started - Licenses, Permits, Insurance, and Taxes
10) Truck Driving Schools
This will determine what company you can lease to (all companies don't haul all types of freight) and what kind of equipment you will need. If you are buying your own trailer, then you need to know what kind to buy based on what you will be hauling. For example, do you need a refrigerated trailer (reefer) to haul food, a dry van for general freight, a flatbed to haul steel, or a drop deck or goose neck to haul equipment?
Even if you don't buy your own trailer, knowing what you will be hauling will determine how to spec your tractor. If you are going to be hauling heavy loads, you need to spec a tractor with heavy duty suspension and a big motor. If you are going to be hauling mostly light loads, you might be able to get by with a tractor with a smaller engine or lighter suspension. Also, the type and length of trailer might determine the length of the wheelbase of your tractor. What you are planning to haul will definitely decide how much your tractor can weigh.
Deciding what you will be hauling will also tell you what other equipment you need to buy. If you are going to pull a drop deck or goose neck, you will need chains, tarps and binders. If you are planning on pulling a flat bed, you will need all of those things plus a side kit. If you pull a dry van, you most likely will need load jacks.
When you are deciding what you are going to haul, don't forget to think about the physical side of what you choose. If you are going to be pulling a flatbed, you will have to be outside in all types of weather chaining and tarping your load. If you want to pull a reefer, you may be required to unload it, which means you will be working in very low temperatures, regardless of what the outside temperature is.
When you spec your tractor, there are several factors you need to need to consider. Will you be making long or short hauls? If you make long hauls, you will probably want to spec a sleeper. You don't want to spend all of your money on motels, and besides, there are a lot of times when you have to spend a night on the road and can't get to a motel.
What kind of engine do you want and how much horsepower do you want? The three major engines are Cummins, Caterpillar, and Detroit.
You need to decide what size tires you want, and what kind of a transmission and how many gears. Today, you can get a semi with an automatic transmission! Definitely a far cry from the old days when many trucks had two sticks (two gearshifts).
Modern trucks have power steering, ABS brakes, heat and air conditioning. They have big comfortable seats and privacy curtains. The beds are large and comfortable and some have a couch, and some have two beds. Most have closets and storage space. You have to decide what you need, then decide how much of what you want you can afford.
Other equipment you will need is a CB radio, gloves, coveralls, fuses, flares, a fire extinguisher (mandatory), tools, oil, fuel, and water filters. You should also carry oil, grease, and anti-freeze.
Optional equipment you may want is a cell phone, a satellite radio, and a TV. If you are planning on being gone from home a lot, you might want to consider buying an inverter. Then you can buy a coffee pot, a toaster and a microwave, and save yourself a lot of money on meals.
A note about meals: When you file your taxes, the IRS lets people who are in the transportation industry and those who are regulated by hours-of-service rules (see "Income and Expenses") deduct meals differently and at different rates than everyone else. See an accountant or tax preparer for details. To simplify a very complicated rule, basically you can flat-rate your meals for every day you are on the road long enough that you are required to take a sleep break, even if you don't eat a thing, or spend a dime. Of course with the IRS, there are 40,000 ifs, ands, ors, and buts, so be sure to check it out with a tax professional or preparer.
An auxiliary power unit (APU) is becoming a must have. These range from about $6,000.00 to $10,000.00. What is an APU and what does it do? Basically, it is a generator. It is used when you are not driving to eliminate idling. Why is idling necessary? If you have to sleep in the truck in the winter or summer, you will probably run your truck so you can have heat or air conditioning. It is hard to sleep when it 25 degrees or 118 degrees in the sleeper.
With an APU, you can heat or cool your cab without running you truck. This is very important, as an APU can reduce your fuel consumption by about 75 %. Yes, I said 75%. Instead of using a gallon of diesel an hour idling, you use a quart with an APU. Not only is this important for your bottom line, but more and more cities and states are making anti-idling laws with fines ranging from $50.00 to $25,000.00 and/or up to 1 year in prison, for idling your truck.
Sometimes the idle time allowed is as few as three minutes. These anti-idling laws were written to reduce noise and air pollution.
Click here to go to an: Anti-idling Regulations Chart
The cost and age of your equipment can affect the costs of your license plates and insurance.
As you can see, it is very important to decide on your equipment before you make a commitment. Once you have bought that $40,000.00 used truck, it is very hard to change to another truck if you find you don't like what you bought.
Although you will never know exactly what it is like until you actually do it, you need to ask questions of other drivers about their equipment, and what they like and don't like about it. If at all possible, go out on a load with someone. Volunteer to help them load/unload to get a feel of what it is like. The more you know before you buy, the better off you will be.
What make of a truck should you buy? That is up to you. Just a some people wouldn't own anything but a Chevy, some people won't own anything but a Volvo.
Any make of truck, if spec'd correctly, will do the job, it is a matter of personal preference and how much you can afford to pay.
The most popular trucks are Peterbilt, Kenworth, and Volvo. Other popular truck makes are: Freightliner, International, Ford, Mack, Sterling, and Western Star.
Anything with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating above 33,000 lbs. is a "Class 8" truck.
Good places to look for a truck (new or used) are "The Truck Paper" and "Truck Trader". If you have cash and are very familiar with trucks, good deals can sometimes be found on eBay.
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