Becoming an Owner Operator

An owner operator is a truck driver who owns his own truck and operates as an independent contractor for a variety of companies. An owner operator chooses his own loads, manages his own schedule and works for whomever he likes. The job can be rewarding financially, if the operator manages himself correctly. It is not for the inexperienced, however. Most owner operator truck drivers have several years of experience working for an established company on a set route before they strike out on their own.

The owner operator, often called an “owner op” or “OO,” work for a variety of truck lines and companies. Her “rig,” which is their tractor-trailer, is driven to a site where the load is attached and then driven across the country. The job has rewards that include high pay (as much as $65,000 a year or more in some cases) and a sense of freedom, but the challenges include managing your own schedule and finding loads to haul.

Things You’ll Need:
• Truck
• CDL endorsement
• Experience


(1) First obtain your CDL endorsement if you do not already have one. A CDL is a commercial driver’s license, an endorsement issued by the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles). To get a CDL you must take and pass a commercial truck driving exam, which is offered by your state. It includes a written knowledge test and an on-the-road skills test.

(2) Get your own truck. Lease or buy. This is an obvious step, but there are many things to consider. First, used trucks cost much less than new trucks. However, they can break down. Research used trucks and search for good deals. Find out which ones (make, model and year) have the best history and least number of problems. Mechanical problems will cut into your earnings, as you must now pay for truck repairs. In addition, consider mileage and load restrictions, as each affects how much you can earn.

(3) Secure a loan through a commercial bank to pay for your truck. You will have to pay a deposit, and have money left in reserve to pay for repairs should the truck need them. In addition, you will have to pay for any modifications that the truck needs in order to take certain routes (for example, special snow tires and cold weather gear).

(4) Locate trucking companies that hire owner operators to haul their loads. These companies take on contractors for set routes, or as fill-ins when they lack available employees to fill the routes. There are hundreds of trucking companies so take your time to research them. Compare their rates and what they pay while you are on the job. Some offer toll payments and allowances for meals and gas. Rates also vary as do the routes the companies offer. Some will be more profitable than others.

(5) Secure loads through a trucking company. As an independent contractor, you have the freedom to choose who you want to work for and when. Consider the flexibility of the company and its reputation. Working for a disreputable company can harm your business, earning power and reputation, because missed loads and poor communication cost you as the operator.

(6) Research the available jobs in your area and find out which permits are required to carry them. For instance, there may be steady loads for those with double trailer experience and permits. Or, there may be loads for those with a hazardous waste endorsement. If so, take the required tests to obtain these permits and add them to your credentials and resume.

(7) Continue to network with other truckers and business owners to find and secure loads for your business. The more you network, the more loads you will be able to haul.