How to become an owner-operator

July 30, 2019

An owner-operator in front of his Freightliner Cascadia truck

Deciding to become an owner-operator truck driver and figuring out how to get started can seem daunting. If you’re looking for insight on how to become an owner-operator, follow these useful tips below.

Steps to becoming an owner-operator

1. Gain some experience

Before becoming an owner-operator, you will likely need to gain experience as a company driver first. You may want to spend time getting to know the trucking industry and make sure you enjoy what you do before transitioning into an owner-operator role.

Additionally, many trucking companies require their owner-operators to have company driver experience. When deciding what type of freight to haul and who to lease-on with, check to make sure you’re qualified first.

The amount of experience you need to lease-on with Schneider, for example, varies by line of business:

2. Do some self-evaluation

Transitioning from a company driver to an owner-operator is big decision because you’re becoming the owner of your own business, not just driving a truck anymore. Make sure it’s something you truly want to do. Questions to ask yourself could include:

  • Do I have the finances available to become an owner-operator?
  • Do I want to become an owner-operator for the right reasons?
  • How is becoming an owner-operator going to benefit me (and my family)?
  • Do I want to select my own loads or get dispatched by the company I lease with?
  • What kind freight do I want to haul as an owner-operator?
  • What are the regulations or requirements for the company I choose to lease-on with?
  • What kind of home time configuration do I want and how is it going to affect my revenue?
  • How am I going to get loads as an owner-operator?

3. Educate yourself

As a company driver, your primary focus is hauling freight from point A to point B. As an owner-operator, you’ll be responsible for your book keeping, budgeting, maintenance and more. Before leasing-on with a company, you may want to consider doing the following:

  • Research what types of trucks are available, and which one would work best with your business goals
  • Consult a tax accountant and/or attorney for financial and legal help
  • Learn how to use Excel spreadsheets to manage your finances
  • Take a course in basic diesel mechanics to save money on truck maintenance

4. Decide how you are going to finance a truck

There are many of ways to finance a semi-truck as an owner-operator, and you need to choose which way will work the best for you and your small business. At Schneider, owner-operators can go one of three routes:

5. Obtain the necessary documentation

Before you’re able to head out on the road as an owner-operator, there is a handful of necessary documentation you may need to purchase, which could include:

  • USDOT/MC (motor carrier) number – Can be obtained through the U.S. Department of Transportation
  • Base plates, permits and licenses – Go to your local DMV
  • Trucking insurance – Talk to the company you lease-on with for more information
  • HazMat endorsements – Learn more on the TSA’s website
  • PrePass – Purchase on the PrePass website