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Owner Operator 411


11 February 2009

1) Owner Operator 411 - Welcome


2001 Kenworth T600

Becoming an Owner Operator

1) Welcome to Owner-Operator 411

See my other posts:
FAQ for the Owner Operator
Anti-Idling Regulations
Definitions and Industry Terms
Blackrock Auxiliary Power Unit (APU)
Interactive Cost per Mile (CPM) Calculator Spreadsheet
Privacy Policy
2) Income and Expenses
3) Financing and Credit
4) Operating Authority or Leasing?
5) Equipment
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 is the place for owner operators to gain information and tips about starting a business. It probably will be most useful for the beginner owner operator, but old-timers should find it useful, too. This is not the place to be (or the job to choose) if you want to get rich quick. If you want to do that, you need to learn how to hit the lottery, make money online, or have a rich relative die and leave you a lot of money – or anything as long as you don't have to work, because as a small business owner you will have to work - hard.  Driving a truck and being an owner operator can be rewarding and satisfying in a lot of ways and you will learn about that in future blogs. So check back often and see what you can learn about being an owner operator and about the trucking industry.

I often get asked, "Is it hard to become an owner operator?"  The short answer is "No."  Just buy a truck and start driving.  The real question should be, "Is it hard to become a successful owner operator?"  The answer to that questions is "Yes."  These is so much a person needs to learn and it is a lot of hard work - both mentally and physically.  So read on and see if you still think this is what you what you want to do! 

Some of the things I will be writing about are:    
Income and Expenses; This will cover the difference between gross and net, and an overview of what can and can not be deducted. 

Financing and Credit; I will explain the basics of getting a loan, and what to do if you have debt problems. I will be telling what you need money for in addition to the truck itself. I will talk about business plans, and the importance of credit reports and FICO scores.   

Operating Authority or Leasing?; There are two kinds of owner operators – those with their own authority and those leased to a company. This will explain the difference and advantages and disadvantages of each.

 Equipment; This section will cover the equipment an owner operator needs in addition to the tractor and/or the trailer. It will explain necessary and optional equipment. Equipment can be something as expensive as an auxiliary power unit (APU) or as inexpensive as a screwdriver.  

Miscellaneous; I will be listing resources, definitions, and anything else I think might be helpful or informative. I will try to do all this in a simple, easy to understand way, with a little experience, and (I hope) humor thrown in to make a boring subject a little less so I hope to give you enough information so you can make an informed decision about starting your own business, for that is what you are doing when you become an owner operator. You aren't just becoming a truck driver, but a businessperson. Maybe after reading this, you will decide to not to become an owner operator, but a company driver instead-- or maybe even find another profession.  

Two of the main reasons a lot of people say they want to become an owner operator is: to make a lot of money, and to be their own boss. As I stated earlier, you will not make a lot of money, and very few people are their own boss. Sure, you have more freedom to make decisions when you are a tractor trailer owner operator, but everyone has a "boss", of one sort or another.  Mainly, those in long haul trucking has the shipper as their "boss".  The shipper tells you when they expect a load to be picked up, when it is to be delivered, under what conditions it is to be shipped (tarped, refrigerated, on an air ride trailer, etc.).  If you don't follow through in a professional manner, you may get a second load, but you probably won't get a third. You may be thinking, "Well I am going to lease to a company, I don't have to worry about that." You would be wrong.  Your company may be the one giving you the information, but it is the shipper who has the ultimate say. 

My next post will be: Income and Expenses  Be sure to subscribe to this blog to get the latest and newest information.
I am sorry I have to do this, but due to spam "comments"  I feel I need to moderate comments from now on.
I am sorry for any inconvenience this may cause to my legitimate commenters.


Coupon Mommie said...

What suggestions do you have for the best load boards? Thanks for your advice!

Coupon Mommie said...

Road King, Came back to test out your new comment changes for you to see if your changes worked. :)

Yes, our truck is paid for - CASH. My father bought it for my husband to drive and we basically make the money for running it and he will get a small "owner's fee" if you will. My dad and husband have researched and talked about this for about 2 years before they ran across a good enough truck.

Once they got the truck we actually paid for the for a month to get the company info and do all the "calling" because like you said only 1 in 40 leave the actual load pay amounts. And once we started watching both load boards we did see things that were posted on both boards.

I believe next week will be our week on the road so I'll be stopping into your site quite a bit. I haven't saw any posts in awhile so I look forward to more. I wish you luck on your blogging and that it gets easier.

Road King said...

Thanks for the test. It looks as though I made a friend. Sorry for the delay in posting, but I don't have a laptop in the truck.

What subject would you like to see next? I was thinking about more details about licensing, taxes, other paperwork.

It sounds as though you all have all your ducks in row. I think you will do well, especially as you don't have to worry about a truck payment.

I am sure my blogging will get easier with the help I have had from you.


Road King said...

Coupon Mommie,

I just spent an hour giving you all the details about the loadboards that I use, costs, services, etc., and when I hit, "Post Comment", it disappeared!

As I am basically lazy, I don't feel like doing all of that again, so I will just give you their web address and let you look them up for yourself.

I use OOIDA's Members Edge at:

You do not have to be an OOIDA member. They have a free live interactive demo. I have the Standard Plan.

I also use 123 loadboard at: They have a free 10 day trial and a live demo. I have their Premium Plan.

I have found about the same number of loads from each of them, so I can't say one is better than the other.

I like the alarm that Members Edge has, and I like the fact that you can mark individual loads on 123. As for all the other loadboards out there, I haven't used any of them and can't give a comment.

Hope this helps.

Thank you for your question, and thank you for being my first follower.

I am sorry for the way this comment section looks. For some reason, when I try to respond to a comment, it disappears(see above).

I am brand new at blogging, so I must be doing something wrong, but I just can't figure out what.

Anyway, I don't want anyone who takes the time and makes the effort to leave a comment to be ignored. So, I figured out how to get the comments and the responses on here, but it ain't purty. So, please hang in there until I get my mistake figured out.

Thank you.

Follow up note:

Coupon Mommie helped me figure out what was wrong when I tried to post a comment. I am trying to fix the past comments, but it is messing up the dates and times. Also since Coupon Mommie was able to post but I wasn't, it messed up the order of the posts.

Thank you for your patience following these scrambled posts.

Coupon Mommie said...

Thanks for the information on the load boards. My father has been a company driver for 25+ years and bought a truck for my husband to drive who has also drove for 5+ years. (I'm a youngun here).

We've been watching the loader boards for months now as it shows live loads without paying a subscription. You have to subscribe to get company info but we were able to see where things were moving.

We are almost at a point where we are going to start rolling and wanted to scope out some more loader boards to make sure we were exploring all avenues before we narrowed our choices down.

We've watched for the last few weeks and they haven't seemed to have much. I will be checking your suggestion out this weekend. Wish us luck!

Coupon Mommie said...

Coupon Mommie,

Thanks for the additional information. As I told Anonymous, above, if you are already in the trucking game, then you are ahead of the competition and have a much better chance of making it. You already know a lot of the ins and outs, like the disadvantages (being away from home).

You are smart to watch the loadboards before you start trucking. You are also smart to use a free loadboard for that purpose. That is a good suggestion and I hope people read these comments in addition to my posts.

Since you already have a truck (it sounds as though it is paid for?), you should make it. Good luck.

Since Coupon Mommie requested information about load boards, I wrote another post titled "What You Need to Know About Loadboards". Please go to that post for more information.

Florida Commander said...

Don't a lot of truckers and companies compete for the loads on the load boards? who determines who gets the load/

Road King said...

Florida Commander,

Great question! Yes, a lot of truckers and companies do compete for the loads on load boards. In most cases, who gets the load is determined by who calls for it first.

Let's say you call about a load that is available, and are told that it pays, ummm, $1.10 a mile and it is 500 miles. You tell them that you will have to call them back and let them know. You figure out how much fuel you will use, add on a few dollars more for other expenses, and decide that is a fair rate you can live with. You call back to say you want the load, but it is gone. The next person who called after you definitely committed to it.

That is why it is so very important to know what your cost per mile is. Had you known that it cost you 93¢ a mile to operate, then you could have taken the load on the first phone call, and you would have been on your way. Or if you had been told the load paid 90¢ a mile, you could have turned them down and been looking for another load.

Thanks for asking.

Florida Commander said...

Thanks! So that $.93/mile in your example covers everything, including a small profit? Anything over that is just a bonus?

Also, is there a certain type a freight that is good and steady for a beginning driver? Fuel, no way. Any other ideas?

Road King said...

You're welcome.

The 93¢ a mile in the example is what it cost you to actually operate, not including any profit: all expenses, fuel, oil, maintenance, permits, taxes, equipment payments, etc. See Income and Expenses for more detailed information about gross and net.

In a way, anything over the 93¢ a mile is a bonus, but don't forget - that is your "take home" pay. That is what you have to live on, save for repairs, and (hopefully) save for retirement.

If you only make 5¢ a mile "profit" and you drive, let's say 150,000 miles a year, you would would only have $7,500.00 after truck expenses to live on, pay house payments, eat, or whatever else you do, and don't forget, out of that $7,500.00 you still have personal federal and state income taxes.

Use the CPM calculator to see what I mean.

Sorry, I don't know of any certain type of freight that is good and steady right now, except maybe food. No matter what happens to the economy, everyone has to eat, right?

Harjinder Dosanjh said...

Hi! My name is Harjinder Dosanjh, and I was wondering where the best place was to get a Hazmat and Reefer Certification and I mean like the fastest places. Also I've been driving for about a year for Swift, but I'm thinking of changing companies, what company would be good pay and let me slowly let me be a owner operator? Oh I drive a tractor-trailer. Please email me at
thanks a lot

Road King said...


Thank you for your questions.

If you will go to What You Actually Need to Get Started - Licenses, Permits, Insurance, and Taxes and scroll about half way down the page, you will find the information you need to get a hazmat endorsement on your CDL. Since it is the government you are dealing with, it can't be speeded up, but you should be able to get it in about one week, but not more than two, if your background check passes. There is no other way to get a hazmat endorsement.

There is no certification needed to pull a reefer.

I am not sure what you mean by "slowly let me be a owner operator". You either are an owner operator, or you are not. If you own your own truck and/or trailer, and have a business license (and all the other stuff you need, as listed on the post site above), then you are an owner operator. If you don't - then you aren't.

As to what company you can drive for, I really am not all that familiar with a lot of companies, so I can't recommend any, but you might want to check out, Companies That Lease Beginning Owner Operators

If you need more information about becoming an owner operator, read all of the other posts on my blog.

I hope this helps.

Good Luck!

Road King

Florida Commander said...

I'm still tossing this around in my head. I'm curious, if there is so much money to be made, why are there so many trucks for sale out there? If you look at ebay and some truck sales sites, there are a ton of trucks for sale, some fairly new. should this be a concern? Also, I have a friend that transports cars but he uses big pickups, not semis. Any advantage to doing this? He says his outgoing trip (to whereever) usually pays the bills and any loads coming back is mostly profit. Can you confirm this? Not trying to be a bother, but I have less than a month to decide what training I want to take that the state will pay for and I want to be sure.

You've been a big help so far,

Road King said...

Florida Commander,

First, you are not a bother. I am pleased that I have been able to help in some small way.

Yes, the number of trucks for sale should be a concern. There is a difference in "money being made" and profit. As I stated on different posts, an owner operator only nets about ¼ of what they gross. Fuel will run you about 50% of your gross, and all other expenses will eat up about 25%.

IF you can gross about $150,000 a year (and it can be done if you only accept decent paying loads and run your butt off), then you can expect to net about $37,500 a year.

Out of that amount you still need to pay personal Federal and State taxes, pay your personal expenses (food, clothes, household expenses, etc.). From this amount you also need to save enough to cover any unexpected expenses, such as a breakdown or an engine overhaul.

Hopefully, you will also be able to save for retirement. If you run enough to make that kind of money, you will seldom be home.

So, while there is a lot of money to be made, assuming you can get good freight, you will not be living high on the hog.

The reason there are so many trucks for sale, it that there is not enough good freight to keep everyone in business. Many owner operators and even some trucking companies are going out of business.

Now is a good/bad time to buy equipment. It is a good time because there is a lot for sale and the prices are down somewhat due to a poor economy and many places selling out. It is a bad time due to a poor economy and many places selling out.

Your friend has a 'hotshot', a pickup which usually pulls a flatbed trailer. I don't know a lot about hotshot freight. It is different from tractor trailer freight. I don't know if it is better or worse. Most of what I have written (taxes, insurance, bookkeeping, etc.) applies to both.

I would assume that a hotshot gets better fuel mileage, probably 10 to 15 mpg, depending on the load and the terrain, whereas a tractor gets about 5 to 7 mpg. So fuel costs would be an advantage. Other than that, I don't know.

I suggest you try some truck driver forums and see if you can get some answers about hotshots there.

Anyone out there reading this who can give Florida Commander a heads up on hotshots?

It sounds as though you are determined to become an owner operator, but as I have said before, I would not recommend it to anyone at this time.

One other thing, if you do buy a truck and look for a company to lease to, make sure they do not have "forced dispatch". Forced dispatch means if they tell you to take a load, you have to take it. It doesn't matter if you wanted to take a day off, or if the load pays so little you would go in the hole hauling it, you still have to take it, so choose a company that allows you to pick and choose your own loads.

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Aggie said...

yes i have been driving a truck now for about 6 years. i feel i am ready to become an o/o driver but i dont have a clue how much money i should save up before i do so. how much do you think it would take?

Road King said...


Sorry, but I can't give you a number.

You will need to save enough to:

Make a down payment on a truck -- 10% to 20% of the cost. Are you going to be buying a trailer? Then same thing.

Enough to buy all of your licenses, permits and to pay your taxes.

Enough to buy any additional equipment you may need (depending on your operation) such as tire chains, spare tires, headache rack, tarps, load jacks, etc.

Enough for repairs and breakdowns until you get things squared away. I can almost guarantee you will need to do some work to your tractor before you put it on the road, or shortly thereafter.

Enough to live on (personal expenses: food, rent, utilities, etc.) for at least 2 months, and six months would be better.

At least one equipment payment (tractor and/or trailer), in case you break down, or don't net as much as you figured on.

I can't give you exact numbers because of these things are variable depending on your equipment and operations.

Hope this answer helps you to get started saving!

Good Luck!

Anonymous said...

Very good stuff.

Road King said...


Thank you.

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Anonymous said...

We have been in business for 2 1/2 years. We are getting out of it..we have used up every possible source of income, including 401K, savings bonds, and savings, not to mention money we have borrowed from family...It is a hard business to make money in. Your tome away form home, missing family activities..etc...we Grossed $180,000 in 2010, and we figured that out of that we made about $25000. You can find a job that pays that much pretty much anywhere, or work a full time job and a part time job..I would not recommend this type of work to anyone, unless you live on the East coast, that area seems to pay the most..hope this helps people who have questions, I must add I have never lived so poor in my entire life and I am 49 years old..

Road King said...


Thank you for leaving a comment and sharing your experience.

I am very sorry that you have to get out of trucking, but your situation underscores the point I've been trying to make on the blog from day one -- it isn't easy to be successful!

I hope everyone who reads this blog reads your comment, especially the part about how much you grossed and how much you netted. People are always telling me they have heard that an OO can "make" 6 figures, but they are just hearing about the gross. As I have said before, it doesn't matter how much you gross, if your net isn't enough to constitute a decent living.

You also found out that being away from home can make as much of an impact as not making enough money.

I hope you find some satisfactory work that you like and do well and are happy.

Thank you again for writing and good luck in the future.

Jerry said...

Other than Landsafe, what company will you recommend as a owner operator?

Road King said...


I'm sorry, but I am not in a position to answer your question. I have been leased to the same carrier for the past 17 years, so I don't really know anything about other companies. Frankly, I have never even heard of Landsafe.

I wish I could help.

How about it readers, anyone able to help Jerry?

jerry said...

I am thinking about buying my Jan truck and found your blog during my research. It has been very helpful, thank you for taking the time to share your experience. Hope to talk to you in the future.

Road King said...


Thank you for writing. I'm pleased you found this blog helpful. As I stated elsewhere, I wrote this to help others avoid some of the mistakes that I learned the hard way. Nothing beats experience, but learning from the mistakes of others is almost as good.

Good Luck, and please do keep in touch.

carlos alfonso said...

thank you for what you do ,great blog

Road King said...


Thank you for your compliment.

Anonymous said...

very helpful "road king"...thinking i may need to go in another direction unless things(fuel prices,shipping rates)get better

Road King said...


I agree. Fuel prices are going up --- again!!, and shipping rates are generally down.

You would think that a nation that depends on trucks to deliver everything would appreciate us more, and pay decent rates.

Thanks for your comment.

melinda decker said...

Driver's is a formal class or plan that prepares a new driver to get a learner's allow or driver's license.Thanks! Look for additional posts on this topic soon. Thanks admin.
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Road King said...

melinda decker,

Thank you for the link. Although this blog is for U. S. readers, and your link has U.K. info, someone may find it useful.

Willie Sager said...

Nice post with awesome points! Can’t wait for the next one.

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Catherine McKenna Bibescu said...

I can see from your example how important it is to know your operating costs per mile, if you were in a locations where freight was hard to come by but this load came along and took you to a busier location it would be worth it just to get you moving...

Fortunately $7,500.00 is way below poverty level so when you file the income taxes you won't owe anything on that. But hopefully no one is making that as an owner op! :-)

Road King said...

Catherine McKenna Bibescu,

Thank you for your comment.

Yes, knowing your CPM is very important!

Sometimes you have to make the decision to bite the bullet and take a cheap load, as that will cost you less than laying over waiting for a good one.

The $7,500 is just an example, of course. I hope no one consistently runs for that amount. You will have to pay self-employment taxes on any amount over $400. This is comparable to withholding and covers social security and medicare.



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