It’s rare for company drivers to not wonder what owner-operator trucking is like. Even those who have been happily employed by the same firm for 20 years get the itch to buy a rig and turn their job into a business. But before you go this route, there are a lot of things to consider, including, frankly, if you have what it takes to strike out on your own. Here are some of the qualities and skills a successful owner-operator must have.
- The ability to handle money wisely – All of us know how to spend. It’s both easy and pretty fun to boot. But when you’re an owner-operator, you can’t simply cash your check and use it as you please. If you blow a tire in the Arizona desert, you can’t call the company to send out a mechanic. You are the company. Also, as any person who is self-employed can tell you, your income will vary at times—sometimes by a wide margin. At times you’ll have more miles than you can keep up with and your settlements will be huge. At other times you might barely be able to pay your bills. So, when you get a fat wad of cash in your hands, you have to pay yourself a set salary from it and put the rest away for the ‘rainy days’ that will surely come. Do you have that level of discipline?
- You have to know whom you’re dealing with. Take lease-to-own opportunities, for example. These can be a great way for a driver with poor credit to get his or her own rig. But some of the companies who offer these options love to string their leaseholders along, giving them just enough miles to make the payments on the rig. Then at the end of the term, the driver loses the truck, since he or she was never able to put back funds for the final payment. The company leases it out to another trucker, and the con game goes on. To avoid traps like this, make sure you check on a company’s reputation before signing anything. Are you savvy enough to spot the cons?
- You have to have good people skills. You don’t have an employer anymore; you have clients. Dealing with them requires both knowing how to listen and how to choose your words carefully at times. Without these strengths, you’ll quickly gain a reputation as being hard to work with, and your load schedule will suffer as a result. This doesn’t mean that you become a doormat; agreeing with whatever your clients say can be as hazardous for your business as arguing every little point with them. As the old Kenny Rogers song The Gambler says, you have to “know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.” Do you have the personal maturity and diplomatic ability needed for this kind of give-and-take?
- These days you also have to have basic computer skills, such as typing (it’s okay if you’re a little slow) and knowing your way around the Internet. You also have to be able to handle paperwork, like keeping track of maintenance records, tax receipts, etc. This is where TruckingOffice can be a huge help. We take the hassle out of scheduling loads, estimating miles, tracking expenses, sending invoice, etc. Our IFTA software features alone can save you endless hours of headaches, as well as costly errors. But don’t take our word for it; try us free for a month. You don’t even need to give us a checking account or credit card number. Then decide for yourself if we can help your owner-operator business run smoother and more profitably than you ever dreamed.