Many options become available to you as a commercial truck driver once you receive your Class A CDL. Leading carriers offer perks like sign-on bonuses, good pay, and plenty of benefits. You can choose the company route and drive for OTR, regional, or local trucking firms.
Or, you can become your own boss as an independent contract truck driver—otherwise known as an owner-operator—and run your own trucking business with your own equipment. Many carriers offer affordable lease-purchase options, so you can get on the road quickly.
What Is an Independent Contract Truck Driver?
Independent contract truck drivers don’t necessarily work for a single company. They are independent, as the name implies. Owner-operators can subscribe to load boards to find loads or work with third-party brokers.
Many independents start as company drivers to gain driving experience and then shift to calling the shots themselves. One in every nine truck drivers in the United States is self-employed, and the majority are owner-operators.
How to Become an Independent Contract Truck Driver
Assess Your Personal Situation
The first step to becoming an independent contract owner-operator truck driver is to assess your personal situation. Running a business isn’t for everyone.
Being an owner-operator isn’t just a job—it’s a lifestyle. Even though being a full-time independent contractor is one of the highest-paying jobs in the trucking industry, you’ll spend many days and nights traveling over the road away from family and friends.
Get Your Finances in Order
Leasing a truck and, possibly, a trailer isn’t cheap. There will be credit checks, and you must make a sizable down payment. You’ll also have to drive for the carrier who leased the truck to you until you own it outright.
Another option is financing your own truck through a manufacturer, which may impose greater financial hardship, even though you will be a fully independent trucker and can carry loads for several companies.
You would be wise to speak with a financial professional—banker, financial advisor, or accountant—to see if you’re in a position to take on such responsibility.
Other Necessary Steps
You must form a business as a sole proprietor or LLC and apply for a USDOT number. Both are Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requirements.
You also have to get your trucking authority, which means you have the government’s permission to get paid to haul freight as your own trucking company. The FMCSA issues the operating authority as a Motor Carrier (MC) number.
Whether you lease or finance, you won’t be able to put a single mile behind you without purchasing truck insurance. The FMCSA requires general freight carriers to carry $750,000 in liability insurance. However, most shippers and freight brokers mandate $1 million.
Is it Better to Be a Contractor or Work for a Trucking Company?
As you can see, a lot goes into becoming an independent operator, running your own company, and maintaining your own equipment.
But whether you should become a company driver or an independent contractor/owner-operator depends on you. Driving for a company or striking out on your own both have pros and cons.
Of course, the first step toward a trucking career starts with getting a valid CDL. There’s no better place to do that than at The CDL School. Contact us today to learn how!