Fuel for Thought
Driver vs. Owner
Driving for a fleet owner is not without it’s perks. As an owner - operator, I get approached by drivers often. While they will have many questions about becoming an owner - operator, often times they overlook critical aspects of taking the risks that are involved if they were to buy a truck.
As a driver, especially new to the trucking industry, don’t discount the advantages of driving for someone else. Depending on your contract with the truck owner, you may only incur a small cost, such as food, entertainment, mobile phone service, etc., while the owner picks up the tab for all the other associated costs required to keep the truck legal, compliant and maintained.
Many new drivers tend to find out “how much the owner is making” from each load they haul for them. This gets the driver to thinking “if I owned the truck, I could make all of that”. This could not be farther from the truth. While drivers may see the GROSS amount paid to the owner and the smaller percentage they receive, many times they will not see the whole picture. That larger amount that goes to the truck owner has to cover more than just driver pay and fuel. Permits, fuel taxes, tires, preventive maintenance, taxes, driver pay, possible truck payments, insurance, truck breakdowns, equipment replacement, various fees, and tolls are just a few truck related expenses that the GROSS pay to the owner may have to cover. Then there are the office related expenses required to make it all happen from getting the load from the shipper to actually collecting the charges.
A couple of months experience driving someone else’s truck is not nearly enough for most drivers to make an informed decision about becoming an owner - operator, yet they want to make the leap based on what they “see” the owner making. Be patient. Get at least one full year of driving, two or more would be even better, especially the winter and summer months. You may find that snow and ice driving are not for you and the summer heat can wreak havoc on equipment and the driver. Use this time as a learning experience. Gain the driving experience while the truck owner pays the bills. Understand the true cost of ownership, prepare financially for it and absolutely have emergency funds ready when you buy your truck.
While you are acquiring valuable driving experience, driving for a fleet owner, learn more about the actual costs involved of becoming the owner of your own truck. Talk with your current fleet owner and discuss your goal of ownership. A good fleet owner will want to retain a great driver, but they will also want to help you succeed, rather than hold you back. They will also understand that an unhappy driver is less productive and also less concerned about the owner’s equipment.
Becoming an owner - operator, whether leased to a carrier or your own authority, can be a rewarding career, but be as prepared as possible for it by using your “driver” time to learn and understand the true costs of ownership.
See you down the road,