Ways to make money owning a semi-truck: 7 tips to consider

July 11, 2022

A Schneider owner-operator poses next to his truck with a hand resting on the sideview mirror

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Regardless of how long you’ve owned your trucking business, your goal is to generate revenue and be a successful owner-operator.

The amount of revenue you need to generate as an owner-operator in order to be considered “successful” is relative because everyone measures success differently. Additionally, how much money you can make owning a semi-truck is dependent on a variety of factors, including how hard you run their business and what type of freight you haul.

Regardless of what your version of success looks like, there are a handful of steps you could consider taking that may help you generate more revenue while owning a semi-truck.

7 pieces of advice on ways to make money owning a semi-truck

1. Have a complete understanding of your business.

As the owner of your business, you are responsible for understanding how much revenue is coming in and how much of it is going toward expenses. If you don’t already know what your cost per mile is, now’s the time to figure it out.

Being familiar with your cost per mile helps you know exactly how much you need to bring in to earn a profit. Additionally, it shows you exactly how much you are spending on your fixed costs (truck payments, insurance, permits, etc.) and your variable costs (fuel, food, maintenance, etc.).

Fully understanding your expenses makes it easier to determine ways to cut back and save more money. You can put together a budget during this time as well.

2. Consider hiring someone to handle your books.

If doing books, filing taxes and handling all the other business-related items are cutting into the time you spend driving, it may not be a bad idea to have someone else do these tasks for you.

While hiring a certified public accountant (CPA) will most-likely come at an expense, it may actually lead to more money in your pocket in the long-run. Having a professional handle your books means you get to spend more time hauling freight. It could also mean less risk of making an error when filing your taxes.

3. Be prepared for the unexpected.

Figuring out how to make money while owning a semi-truck includes preparing for all the expenses that come along with it. Whether it is an unforeseen out of service, a truck breakdown or something else, the unexpected can hurt a little less if you are ready for it.

We recommend setting aside enough money to cover three to six months of your expenses. If you don’t have cash set aside and something goes wrong, it could result in the loss of your truck or your business.

4. Don't forget about your monthly bills.

As someone who is out on the road most of the time, it can be easy to forget about those bills sitting on the counter back home. This could include anything from your cable bill to healthcare bills, cell phone bills, electricity bills, etc.

We suggest taking proactive steps, whether that means setting up direct payments or logging into your bank account on your phone, to make sure your bills are paid on time. Missing a credit card payment can drop your credit score and cost you interest.

Also, if possible, work on creating a plan to pay off any debt you may have.

5. Pay off your truck early.

Speaking of debt, unless you bought your truck with cash, you most likely have a weekly or monthly truck payment for the loan you took out. While making at least the minimum payments is a must, try to make every effort to throw additional cash at the loan. Even if it’s just an extra $20 per week, every little bit adds up.

Once your loan is paid off, you will own the truck outright. Imagine how much additional revenue you’ll have each week when you no longer have a truck payment. Those additional funds could go into savings, help pay off other debts, go toward buying a new truck, etc.

6. Find the loads that help you earn the most revenue.

Your revenue is dependent on what loads you haul, so how you choose to get your loads is one of the most important business decisions.

What works best for someone else’s business may not work for yours, so it’s imperative to trial and error how you get your loads. If your current method requires you to work harder than you want to, then it’s time to experiment with another option.

Not only does the method in which you pick your loads matter, but the loads themselves matter. For example, while a cross-country load may seem like a huge money maker because it’s a ton of miles, it’s important to remember your expenses for that type of load will also be much higher.

In summary, don’t be afraid to find the best load solution for your business, even if it means trying a few different things.

7. Lower your operating costs by leasing on with a carrier.

One of the simplest ways to make more money with an 18-wheeler is to spend less of your revenue on expenses. Saving money could mean leasing-on with a company that offers discounts on fuel, maintenance, tires and more.