Owner-operators are challenged daily with being a reliable driver and a competent business owner. For new owner-operators, owning your business and the managing the responsibilities that come with the business can be overwhelming. Take a moment to review our strategies for owner-operators to achieve and maintain business success.
Being a responsible driver is not a new concept. Safety rules and regulations are always changing and even the seasoned owner-operator needs to stay informed. Here are some essential tips to stay safe and lucrative while on the road:
- Pre-Trip Inspections. Doing this before every trip will make you immediately aware of any potential issues, and will help ensure the safety of your rig and the safety of others on the road.
- Logbook. It’s important to keep your logbooks up to date and in compliance. It’s a DOT requirement that you keep a logbook of your driving. Your receipts and toll fees are used to corroborate your logbook so keep it as accurate as possible.
- Practice Safe Driving Habits. Safe driving habits are essential to the performance of your truck and your business. You should always be aware and willing to stop driving when driving conditions are unsafe due to traffic, weather, etc. Getting enough rest is especially important so you are alert while driving.
- Choose Loads Wisely. Make wise decisions regarding what loads to carry. You know your schedule and your ability better than anyone else. Never take more loads than you can reasonably handle, and always be certain the profit is worth the drive.
- CSA Compliance. Ensure you and your rig are in compliance with all the rules and regulations –federal, state, county, and city. CSA can shut down your business and have your license revoked if you do not meet their safety standards. You can find more information on the CSA’s requirements and repercussions in these Team Run Smart articles.
- Personal Health. Maintaining personal health is not only beneficial to you, it’s also important for your business. The CSA has a list of physical qualifications you must meet to qualify as a fit driver. You may need to be able to lift and carry on a regular basis for your business. Also, a sickness or injury could put you out of commission for awhile. Therefore, staying healthy and injury-free is an essential aspect of your long-term success.
Being organized and financially responsible is imperative for success. This can be a big change for company drivers who did not have to take on the additional responsibilities listed below:
- Calculate Your Profit Potential. Getting the most profit and operating with the lowest costs are the main priorities for any business owner. Stay educated and informed on your business performance. A company like ATBS can be a great resource to help you calculate and understand your profit potential. ATBS can provide you a monthly Profit & Loss Statement to show fixed and variable costs. They also benchmark your data against others in the industry to help you understand how your business is doing compared to your peers and highlight areas for improvement.
- Communicate Effectively. Your customers should be kept informed of your schedule, especially if there are any changes. Unsafe conditions, mechanical problems, or other factors that can affect timing should be communicated in a forthright and professional manner.
- Be On Time. Making all of your pickups and deliveries on time is important to your customers. A reliable reputation could make or break your business and can always influence the loads offered.
- Control Costs. Monitor fuel usage to get the most reasonable mileage. Take care of your equipment and do regular maintenance and repairs as they arise. This can help prevent major mechanical expenses in the future.
- Pay Your Taxes. As a company driver, your carrier was responsible for paying your taxes. As an owner-operator, you are now responsible for determining the correct amount and sending it to the IRS every quarter. To receive your maximum tax return, accurate records must be kept of estimated tax payments and to prepare your taxes. Having accurate financial records and setting money aside for taxes are an invaluable practice that will alleviate stress come tax season.
- Be Productive. Be aware of the freight schedule and plan accordingly. Just because you can take time off, doesn’t mean you should. So when you schedule your days off, make sure you’re taking your business’ needs into account. It’s important to know what your breakeven miles are to understand how best to manage your time and schedule. Your breakeven mileage is the minimum number of miles you need to run each month to cover your expenses; everything after that number is profit.
You do a lot more than drive a truck down the highway. With so many responsibilities, the role of a driver can be complicated and, at times, overwhelming. But once you learn to manage the many different responsibilities of an owner-operator it can be a very enjoyable and rewarding profession.