If you’re considering making the jump from being a company driver to an owner-operator there are several things you can do to become more successful. Start by creating a business plan. Before you decide to go out and purchase or lease a truck, take the time to put your personal finances and financial goals down on paper. Understanding and knowing where you are financially is extremely important. Next, you need to operate from the mindset of business owner. This is your truck, this is your business, and responsibility now falls on you. Last but not least your driving habits need to be fine-tuned. The little things matter more now and every detail has the potential to affect your bottom line.
Creating a business plan is one of the most important steps you will take as a successful owner-operator. The plan you create serves as a financial road map that allows you to track your income and expenses over time. When you know your operating cost per mile, you are able to calculate how many miles you need to drive each week to cover your expenses in order to break even. This is known as your breakeven point, the point where your business expenses along with your personal expenses are covered and every mile driven over that point puts money in your pocket.
Too many drivers try to make the transition from being a company driver to an owner-operator and fail to run their truck like a business. These drivers are caught in the “company driver mindset”. They think they are just a truck driver and as long as they drive the miles everything will be alright.
Operating from the mindset of a business owner means recognizing the challenges you may encounter and having a plan in place to handle them. Saving receipts and tracking every expense, sending in quarterly estimated tax payments, and planning ahead for potential events such as weather, breakdowns, and tires are just some of the obstacles you may need to plan for. Someone can be business minded with excellent intentions, but without a plan of how to execute your intentions, you are setting yourself up to fail.
Don’t judge the performance of your business by the size of your settlement check. There are always ways to improve your business’s performance. Changing some habits might put more money in your pocket while running the same amount of miles. Try sacrificing a few MPH for RPMs. In other words, slow down and ease off the fuel pedal to maximize your fuel efficiency. You now pay for fuel, and slowing down just might put some cash back in your pocket.
Driving slower also means less wear and tear on your tractor. Take the time to do a really good pre-trip and post-trip evaluation of your tractor trailer. The sooner you notice a problem that can be fixed, the sooner you can prevent a bigger breakdown later on. This will help to minimize down time, and avoid more extensive maintenance expenses. If you check things thoroughly and regularly, you can schedule repairs during home time and save your drive hours to be on the road and not waiting in the shop.
Wrapping it up
The transition from company driver to owner-operator is not something that happens overnight. As an owner-operator your primary goal is to make more money. With a business plan in place you can make educated business decisions based on numbers. You’re going to have a lot more expenses and accounting for them will only help plan for the difficult times. Knowing your expenses, being business minded, and practicing good daily driving habits will allow you to create a solid foundation on which to build your business as a successful owner-operator.
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