Many owner-operators, and Americans across the country, took on substantial debt during the recession. While many are still working to climb out of it, factors such as slow freight, switching carriers, increasing fuel costs or family emergencies can slow this process. For owner-operators, debt doesn’t just affect your personal life; it can also affect your business.

Debt resulting in a bad credit rating can make it difficult to get a truck loan. This is a big deal since your truck is one of the most valuable parts of your business. Lenders’ access to data from the CSA gives owner-operators more reason to boost credit scores as much as possible. Access to CSA data has made an impact on the ability of small operators to get loans. Banks and lenders view that data, and if they think they’re not safe, they won’t give loans. However, decreasing debt and improving your credit rating can be easier than you think by following the tips below:

  • Take advantage of regular bill payments. A fuel card account, for example, can improve your credit. Take your fuel data to a bank and show them. It establishes an impressive pattern of on-time payments.
  • Run at least 2,500 miles per week. This starts by communicating your need for more mileage to your dispatcher. Do this early in the week.
  • Cut food costs in half. Add a microwave in your cab and stock a refrigerator or cooler with food. Use store coupons when you can. Your per diem is 80% of $59/day and you get to claim this amount whether you spend $10/per day or the full amount.
  • Use your smartphone to process paperwork. Instead of paying for truck stop scanners, use your smartphone to accomplish these tasks for you. An app like Camscanner can file your documents and send them to your business service provider.
  • Watch your credit card balances. How much revolving credit you have versus how much you're actually using is a huge factor to your credit rating. The smaller that percentage is, the better it is for your credit rating. The optimum is 10 percent or lower. Boost that score by paying down your balances.
  • Eliminate nuisance balances. Small balances on a number of credit cards can hurt your rating. Gather up all the credit cards on which you have small balances and pay them off. Then select one or two go-to cards you can use for everything.
  • Don't slight bills in favor of a down payment. If you're planning a big purchase (like a home or a truck), you might be scrambling to assemble one big chunk of cash. While you're juggling bills, don't start sending bills late. Even if you're sitting on a pile of savings, a drop in your score could scuttle that dream deal. Saving money for a big purchase is smart. Just don't slight the regular bills, or pay them late, to do it.
  • Avoid cash advances. Cash advances indicate current or future money stress and will negatively affect your credit rating. 

Repairing bad credit is a bit like losing weight; it takes time and there is no quick way to fix a credit score. But if you follow these tips to decrease your debt and boost your credit rating, you will be on the road to financial recovery. 

Comments (6)

Heather Dunn

Heather started with ATBS in April of 2012 as the Digital Marketing Manager. Heather is a graduate of Michigan State University earning her Bachelor of Arts in Communication with a specialization in Public Relations. When Heather is not working she enjoys being outdoors. She loves the beach, the mountains, and riding her cruiser bike.

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All of the comments and article are true. i think that its more difficult these days to keep and maintain a good rating, there are too manys things that work against us

June 28, 2013 4:32:14 AM

Thanks for all the additional tips and feedback!

June 14, 2013 14:35:37 PM

Henry I agree living on credit is a very stressful lifestyle. Many years ago we bit the bullet and paid off all debt which enabled us to have a lifestyle change! We still stick by the beliefs that if we cannot pay cash we do not need it and it works for most things. We almost have our house paid for and we are paying the truck down quickly. Amazing how much easier it is to breath when bills are under control.

June 14, 2013 14:22:39 PM

Thanks Heather! I run on the old adage if I can't pay for it with cash, I shouldn't be buying it. This has really helped in decreasing my splurge spending!

June 13, 2013 9:14:01 AM

Very good advice Heather. In my school days a year of personal finance was required of all students. As my kids go through the school system (different town and district), personal finance is no longer required and I believe this is wrong. The affects of not teaching these concepts can be seen today with many young people. We are teaching our kids those concepts ourselves.
Thanks for this article.

June 13, 2013 8:52:34 AM

The only thing better than having a great credit rating is , not needing credit. Protecting your credit rating gives you shot at being the one who is loaning money instead of being the one borrowing money. I am not there by any means, but but you can't move forward if you are falling deeper in debt.

June 13, 2013 5:53:36 AM