Getting started as an owner-operator? Picking your loads, choosing your routes, taking care of your rig, it’s all part of the new world you’re working in. The freedom of the road is far better than the the lack of choices you had when you worked for a transportation company. But with great freedom comes great responsibility. And now you’re responsible to make the choices that will lead to your trucking business success. We’ve got three tips for you.
1. Be a pro from the start.
We don’t recommend that you get your CDL and then get your authority right away. A year under your belt in the trucking industry by being a driver for a trucking company gives you the experience you can’t learn from books or the old truckers on the road.
That experience will make you a pro because you’ll know what you need to do.
- Communicate with your shipper or broker whenever there’s a problem.
- Drive safely and professionally. That means respecting the HOS requirements but it also means not being a jerk on the road. Tailgating? Cutting people off? Ever see a couple of truckers who decide that the merge point should be behind them when a lane closes ahead? Research shows that when drivers merge politely at the merge point, traffic moves smoother, more quickly and with less road rage.
So, okay, we get it, like the New York Times says in their coverage of the zipper merge point, people don’t play nice. But professionals do. They respect the road and the drivers around them.
- Manage the paperwork. Trucking isn’t just about driving. It’s also about managing the business end. That means handling the paperwork. As a driver, it’s making sure that all the receipts and records are turned in properly. As an owner-operator, it’s that – and more. You’re in charge of your billings, your late invoices, your IFTA and IRP taxes… all those things that the transportation company you worked for handled.
Drive like a boss. But once you’re the boss, it’s not just driving. Your trucking business success depends on you driving like a pro.
2. Know What You Need to Know
New owner-operators can make a few simple mistakes that will lead to disaster.
- Buying the wrong rig. It’s a crazy vehicle market out there right now. If desire to get your own rig outweighs your good sense “Don’t go into huge amounts of debt,” you’ll be in trouble pretty quickly. Not every load is going to be hugely profitable. Sometimes you may have to take cheap loads or deadhead, which means you may not be able to make the payments. Pick the rig you can afford now. If you’re buying used, get it inspected to be sure what you’re buying is worth it.
- Cutting corners on savings. Saving for the rainy day isn’t sexy. It’s boring. It’s safe. But it may save your life. The on-the-road breakdown disaster has broken not just the rig but the owner-operator’s business. You need a deep pocket for expensive repairs. Saving up and putting the money away in a safe spot may protect you from bankruptcy. Create an emergency fund with at least $2,000 in it as soon as possible. Add to that balance every year – the older the rig, the more expensive the repairs. Your trucking business success requires a running rig.
- Ignoring maintenance. How much does a new tire cost? How much does it cost to get a used replacement tire on the road from some unknown source? The mistake that many new owner-operators make is not knowing what maintenance should be done on their rig based on miles or time. They wait for something to tell them “go get your brakes checked” like they want it written in the sky. Don’t ignore the regulary scheduled maintenance tasks.
Know what you need to know. Ask for help when you need it. You can and should get an inspection – so find a trusted mechanic to do it. Have trouble with savings? Talk to your bank or credit union about tools they have to help you save. Read your manual to know when your truck needs attention and get it on your calendar.
3. Use professional tools.
Trucking business success relies on professional tools. We’re well past the time when a trucker can jump on Google maps and get a route for a delivery, and dash off an invoice in Google Docs and track the miles per state in a Google spreadsheet.
In the time it takes for you to do all that, you may have lost a load. Or your laptop doesn’t have the data WIFI link you need at that moment.
If you’re a pro, it’s because you have the tools you need to do the business right. Do you use
- a routing system for trucks, not the tourists driving on vacation.
- an accounting system that manages your invoices, late pays, remitance/factoring, and driver pays. (You’re paying yourself, right?)
- A scheduling system that tracks miles and/or time between maintenance checks, and keeps the records ready for a DOT compliance review.
- a customer management software to keep in contact with shippers or brokers.
- IFTA and IRP tax calculators.
- a business software that shows profits, losses, revenues and expenses per load, per mile, per year.
Your trucking business success starts and ends not in your truck, but in your ability to manage a business. That’s why you need professional trucking software.
TruckingOffice offers 2 levels of trucking software. The basic program will provide everything that a new owner-operator needs to get started. The PRO version also offers
- Factoring support on Invoices (remit-to and the ability to enter quick payments/factoring fees)
- Driver Settlement Deductions, Additional pay, and reimbursements
- Two invoice templates, Basic PDF and Detailed PDF
- System Generated BOL
- Document Storage/the ability to upload documents, such as your BOL, into the system, as well as sending these uploaded documents via email from the system.
- Customer Report-shows total revenue per customer type (direct customer, broker, 3pl), number of loads, revenue per load, number of days since last load, top 25 customers, etc.
- Load Planner for LTL.
Your Trucking Business Success Needs Trucking Software.
You can try out a lot of software programs for a short time. Many of them don’t let you try out the entire package.
Not TruckingOffice. Sign up today and you’ll have the entire system available for your use. You can enter your dispatches, create invoices, bill your customers, and see how your business is running and not pay a dime on our free trial. Make your trucking business successful with TruckingOffice today.