My love of trucks started at a very young age, probably about the time I became a teenager when a driver let me sit in his cabover and step on the brake pedal. The view from the driver’s seat and the feeling of being in control of such a huge monster totally appealed to me.
Fast forward to having children and being married to a diesel mechanic and once again I was able to be around trucks. With small children, the last thing I wanted to do though was become a full-time driver. Luckily Bob’s boss helped both Bob and me to get our Class A license in the early eighties and let me fill in when another driver was needed behind the wheel of an an oil field water truck. I realized the thrill of trucking was still there.
Move forward again as our daughters moved on to college and it was time once again to think of finally becoming a full-time driver with an over the road company. Bob attended truck driving school as he had no log book experience and while he learned long haul driving I rode with him. In no time I hated trucking. The company was forced dispatch, the pay was low, and we were treated as a number and a very inferior number. We left trucking after a few years of this.
As the saying goes once living the dream you cannot get away from it and in no time Bob and I were once again longing to go somewhere and we started looking at trucking again. Through our research we learned of expediting. This time we wanted to enter the industry as owner-operators and the following is what we had to learn:
• Down Payment – before buying our first truck I saved every cent I could for expenses. What was a surprise was how much of our savings we had to use as the down payment. Buying a truck is not like buying a car.
• Sales Tax – Luckily, we live in a state where if leased to a company we did not have to pay sales tax on the truck when we tagged it. If we would have needed to pay this tax we would not have had much left in the emergency fund.
• Taxes Taxes Taxes – the amount of taxes we pay still astounds me. Going from having taxes withheld from our checks to paying them ourselves was a surprise. We pay quarterly taxes, we pay payroll taxes, we pay taxes at the fuel pump, we pay mileage taxes, we pay ad valorem taxes, others taxes not listed, and then on top of that, we have to pay someone to figure all of these taxes.
• Downtime – When our truck is down for repairs we are down, there is no jumping in another truck to keep making money. We sit and sit patiently waiting until our truck is repaired before we can get back into the income stream. While we sit and wait we know that we still have our fixed expenses and that truck payment is not cheap.
• Home Time – Home time does not equal time off from trucking. It means preventive maintenance so that when on the road we can continue to make money and not sit at a shop. The truck always comes first and when the truck is taken care of we can enjoy some downtime but I am never away from the expense side of trucking. Bills rack up even as the truck sits patiently in the driveway.
• Paperwork – one truck owner and never would have I guessed the number of receipts we would gather while on the road running loads or while sitting at home. As we say trucking never stops well neither do the receipts that we have to keep.
• FMCSA - Keeping up with regulations that could shut our business down and the regulations that say what we can and cannot do with our truck.
What I wish I had known earlier is how much I would have enjoyed being an owner-operator. The challenge of being successful is addictive. Bob drove and I was a passenger for about the first four years of our journey into trucking and the next fourteen years have been as owner-operators. Our first success was leasing on to a company that paid a percentage of the load. Figuring miles and income is fun, rewarding, and profitable.
- Getting our truck washed when we want.
- Not worrying when we were going to get pulled out of a truck and have to move to a different truck
- Control of our own destiny
- Making our decision when it was time to go home
- The thrill of owning our own business and making wise business decisions
- Walking back to “our” truck from inside a building
- Figuring our monthly expenses, monthly income, and seeing us come out in the positive
Once again, I am back to the more we learn, the less we know. The struggle is constant to learn more about our business. Emotions run high in trucking and when listening to other drivers it is easy to get excited. Before letting emotions get away from us we go to the source to find out the details. Regulations change and while at first, they might not appear to be beneficial, it is up to us to figure out how to be profitable while running safe and compliant. Remembering that everyone has to run under the same regulations always helps.
Becoming an owner-operator was the best thing we have done since entering trucking. The last fourteen years have been awesome and we plan on staying in trucking as long as our health holds out as neither one of us are ready to sit and rock on the front porch day in and day out. We are still living the dream and loving it.