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Owner Operator 411


11 February 2009

Interactive Cost per Mile (CPM) Calculator to Aid the Owner Operator

To use: Just fill in the boxes on the lower part of the chart. The results will automatically fill in the boxes on the upper part of the chart. Depending on what you enter, the results can give you your Cost per Mile, Cost per Day, Income per Mile, Income per Day, Expense per Mile, Expense per Day, Net per Mile, Net per Day, Average Miles per Day and your Expenses to Income percentage.

You can enter actual amounts if you already have a truck (useful when doing your taxes, too), or you can play around putting in different figures to see "What If?", as in "What if I paid off my truck?" or "What if the price of fuel goes up (or down)?" 

If you are wanting information about becoming an owner operator, you probably want to know how much much it will cost you to get started, and how much money you will make, or even if you can make money if you buy your own equipment.

These are all good questions that need answered before you take the plunge and spend all that money on a tractor trailer rig. I have developed a Cost Per Mile (CPM) calculator to help you answer these questions.

After you get a good grip on your initial outlay, this calculator will help you with the numbers you will need to write a business plan for when you go to the bank to get financing.

These are questions no one can give you a dollar amount on. It depends on many factors and variables (see previous posts). You need to determine how much you will be paying for your truck, find out how much your insurance payments will be, and find out how much loads pay at the company you want to lease to. You need to figure in all expenses, including Miscellaneous (paper towels, glass cleaner, etc.).

Enter these amounts in the spreadsheet and you will get a rough answer to the questions above.

If you are thinking of getting your own authority, then this spreadsheet will help you determine how much you would need to charge to haul each load.

You need to talk with other owner operators (see “Income and Expenses” post). You need to determine what you will be hauling, and to where. You need to find out approximately how much these loads pay. If you are going to lease to a company, you need to find out what expenses they will pay and what expenses you will need to pay (taxes, permits, etc.). Do they pay a fuel surcharge?
You need to get a rough estimate of what other expenses you will have: truck/trailer payment, licenses, permits, insurance, cell phone, accountant, etc.
What else are you going to have to buy? Will you need tarps, chains and binders? What about straps or load jacks and hand tools?

If you don't even know what some of this stuff is, then you need to ask more questions and talk with more drivers.   Be sure to ask your questions in the comment section.

You need to determine about how many miles a year you will have to run to deliver the loads the lease company contracts for, and how many days you will be on the road.

After you get all of these numbers, then it is time to use the calculator.

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Anonymous said...

Hey, I have been researching this for about 2 weeks now, because I fell prey to the "truck driving school, drive for 1 year and buy your own truck and make $120,000 a year." I just want to thank you so much for putting this information out there. This plus a few other websites has illuminated the subject. Thank you, thank you. Gary H.

Road King said...

Gary H.

Thanks for the comment and the information.

I haven't written anything about "truck driving schools" because I really don't know anything about them, but you have inspired me to do a post on them.


Anonymous said...

Hey, just want to say hi. I'm new here.

sam said...

Hi, I guess you could call this a late start but at almost 60 I am at a point where I'd like to start using my CDL for myself rather than others. I've had a class b since '78 but never really used it for income. The company I worked for requested that I get it so I did. I had it to drive the Mach wrecker they had and also their Mach tandem straight trucks. I have access to a 26,000 gvw vanbody for the moment and figuir I would get started in it, then moving up when things took off. I guess I should buy the book as well as listen to what you have to say. Thanks!! sam

Road King said...


They say that age 60 is the new 50, so you wouldn't really be getting a late start. I can understand and identify with you wanting to work for yourself instead of others, but as I have stated before, it isn't easy at any age.

If you are thinking about driving just because you have always wanted to drive a truck and not because you need the money, I say go for it!

If you just want to drive, you may be better of driving for someone else. You probably would have benefits (health insurance, worker's compensation, maybe disability insurance and a retirement plan) that you most likely could not afford to buy on your own.

You said you would move up "when things took off." What if things don't take off? Can you afford to break even or take a loss? If you are thinking you will add to or supplement your retirement, it probably won't happen.

I am glad you are on the "Interactive CPM Calculator" post page. Hopefully you have already run some numbers and think you can make it. It would be wise to run them again using a "worst case scenario".

As we get older (I am 62), we are less likely to take risks and incur debts that we would have taken at 25 or 30. Maybe I am too conservative, but one never knows what will happen.

Please post another comment and let us know what you decide. Whatever it is, Gook Luck!

Sully said...

Road King,
I am a retired Air Force Veteran and have decided to obtain my CDL to try to make more money than where I'm working at now. First of all, how much time will I realistically need before stepping out on my own? Second, how much money will I need to buy a decent used truck and put it on the road with the plates, permits and insurance?
When starting out as a O/O...Should I obtain my business by searching for my own loads off of "online load boards" or utilize some other fellow drivers sources.. (family friend who owns their own small company)?
Should I just lease-to-own or solely lease one only?
Thank you for your time!
Sully :)

Road King said...


You cab start working as soon as you get legal and find a load. The peoblem is it difficult to get loads without experience, usually at least a year.

The amount of money you need depends on so many variables, it is impossible for me to give you an estimate. Cost of truck, licenses, permits, other equipment, and insurance is different in each situation.

Check out trucks for sale websites to see how much the cost of the truck you want is running. Also check out forums and Facebook. My FB page is: Owner Operator (trucking) Brokers and companies list available loads, and dealers and OOs list trucks for sale. Your suggestions for finding loads are also good. If you lease your truck to a company, they may find loads for you, or have their own load boards.

I urge you to buy, not lease a truck. Read this to see why: Lease-purchase: Sounds like a good deal, right?

Sorry for the delay for answering your comment.

Good Luck.


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