STEP 1: Get driving experience
First, you’ll need a commercial drivers license (CDL). You can go to private truck driving school, or some trucking companies have their own training programs. Some companies might also help pay for you to go to a CDL school. Many drivers who eventually become owner-operators will cut their teeth in the business as a company driver for a few years.
STEP 2: Make a business plan
Your business plan should show what you expect your revenue and expenses to be. Remember that your expenses need to include salary that you will pay yourself too. You may want to hire a business adviser to help figure out the best plan for you.
STEP 3: Pick how your business will be structured
Common structures of trucking businesses include:
Each structure has different advantages and disadvantages based mostly on liability and taxes, and it varies with each state. You might want to meet with an accountant to find out which structure best suits your business.
STEP 4: Save money for start-up expenses
There’s going to be a big investment up front to purchase a tractor and/or trailer(s), plus licensing requirements and registration. Research financing and secure a line of credit. It’s a good idea to save up enough money to cover your first six months of operation.
STEP 5: Plan your business operations
STEP 6: Comply with safety regulations
Before you start operating, your company needs to comply with the following trucking-specific requirements:
Other federal and state regulations, including size and weight standards, EPA/air quality regulations, and safety rules. The U.S. Small Business Administration has a list of links to the regulations and compliance standards for the trucking industry. DAT MembersEdge can also help you through the regulatory maze so you can get your authority. We can even handle your IFTA tax reporting, and assist with other compliance requirements.
STEP 7: Get insurance
Insurance is a major expense for trucking businesses, and there are several types you’ll have to get:
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has more info on trucking insurance at www.ooidatruckinsurance.com.
STEP 8: Buy or lease a truck and/or trailer
For the tractor, do you plan on only running day trips, or will you need a sleeper cabin? What kind of freight will you be hauling? Will your need a van, reefer, or flatbed trailer? Below are some common types of leases:
STEP 9: Build Your Business
DAT MembersEdge can help you every step of the way in starting and growing your trucking business. Click below to find out more about any of these services.
Authority – Get your operating authority without all the hassle.
Load Board – Looking for loads? DAT MembersEdge is the biggest load board in the industry, and you get tools like broker spot rates, so you can see what other trucking companies got paid on the lanes you search.
DAT Fuel Card – Save on fuel costs at more than 1,900 truck stops nationwide.
Freight Factoring – Increase cash flow without debt with OTR Solutions.
Mobile App – My DAT Trucker is a free mobile app that helps you find the nearest truck stop, rest stop, service station, Walmart, or trucker-friendly hotel. You can also use it to find nearby loads.
Starting a Trucking Business, U.S. Small Business Administration
Partners in Business: A Business Manual for Owner-Operators, Overdrive Magazine
Starting a Trucking Company: How to Run a Trucking Business, TruckersReport.com
Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association
American Trucking Associations