How much does an owner-operator make?

July 19, 2021

A wallet is pulled open to reveal a stack of cash

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

A unique thing about being an owner-operator is that you get to decide how much or how little revenue your business is going to earn. The harder you run, the higher quality loads you haul and the more you cut down on operating expenses, the more money you are going to bring home.

So although we cannot provide the perfect answer to, “how much does an owner-operator make?”, we can state that owner-operators who do business with Schneider are averaging $210,000-$250,000 annually, depending on what type of freight they haul.

How much an owner-operator makes, depending on what type of freight they haul

Van truckload owner-operators

Owner-operators who haul van freight and do business with Schneider are averaging $250,000 in annual revenue. The highest earning van owner-operators, which are often team owner-operators, are exceeding $7,500 on a weekly basis.

Tanker owner-operators

Owner-operators who haul tanker freight and do business with Schneider are averaging $210,000 in annual revenue. The highest earning tanker owner-operators are exceeding $6,000 on a weekly basis.

Port dray owner-operators

Owner-operators who haul ocean containers in and out of the ports and do business with Schneider are averaging $150,000-$180,000 in annual revenue. The highest earning port dray owner-operators are exceeding $210,000 reach year.

What influences how much an owner-operator makes:

1. How they select their loads.

How owner-operators select their loads can have a big impact on how much they bring home because many of the methods have costs associated with them.

For example, using a broker or dispatcher could mean losing 5-25% of the revenue on the load you haul in order to pay them for their services. Whereas using a public load board or leasing-on with a carrier and using their private load board, would most-likely not cost your business anything.

2. How they get paid.

There are three major ways owner-operators earn revenue from the loads they haul:

  • All-in or flat rate: Often, when owner-operators lease-on with a carrier that has its own load board, they earn revenue through an all-in or flat rate for each load they haul. This method is similar for owner-operators who utilize brokers for their loads.
  • Percent revenue of the load: Earning a percentage of the load is another way owner-operators who do business with a carrier are paid. For example, owner-operators can receive 65% of line haul revenue and 100 percent of fuel surcharge and accessorials on the loads they haul.
  • Mileage: Usually when owner-operators obtain their loads from a load board, loads are shown as a rate per mile. These rates vary between what load board they use, what type of freight they haul, etc.

3. What their operating expenses are.

Expenses have a huge impact on how much an owner-operator brings home because there are so many expenses associated with operating a semi-truck and running a business (i.e. fuel, insurance, truck payments, maintenance, etc.)

A great way to determine how much you make after expenses is to calculate your cost per mile. By adding up your fixed costs and your variable costs and dividing them by how many miles you drive, you can determine what your rate per mile needs to be in order to make a profit.

4. The quality of freight they haul.

One of the many reasons why owner-operators fail is because they don’t have the right strategy when it comes to the loads they choose to haul. Through trial and error, many owner-operators discover it’s not always about choosing the biggest loads with the longest length of haul, but rather finding loads that pay well, require less travel and bring them to a desirable area.

It’s up to you to figure out what loads are most profitable for your business.