In this installment of the Weigh-In, Uber Freight collaborated with Tim Ghorley to hear his opinions on the industry. Scroll down to watch the video to listen to Tim’s tips and tricks on becoming an owner-operator.
What draws so many of us to the open road is the freedom that truck driving affords you. You can be a company driver, you can lease on to carriers big and small, or you can take the plunge and become an owner-operator, remaining a one-truck operation or scaling up to manage a fleet. I’ve done it all. I worked for a company for nearly 15 years, and with a carrier for five, but nothing compares to being on my own.
Becoming an owner-operator takes discipline, but don’t let the paperwork and money matters scare you away. The best decision I ever made was getting my authority and I wish I’d taken the leap 10 years sooner. The world of possibilities opened up and I had so much more freedom and control over what I did and where I went. It was kind of scary going out into the unknown, but these are the things that helped get me there.
Once I knew I wanted to be on my own, I started reaching out to other drivers who’d become owner-operators for their advice. Their suggestion was to have six months of operating expenses in the bank before you get your authority. That’s for fuel, insurance, startup costs, and all of your living expenses. Everyone has a different situation so you should figure out what’s right for you. I had built-up relationships with shippers that I could depend on during my transition, so once I had 30 days saved up, I felt I was ready to go out on my own. Once you get started, the first 30 to 45 days can be very costly, so you need to have all that money saved.
The task of keeping track of all the paperwork seems intimidating at first, but when you map it all out, most of the forms only need to be completed or filed once a quarter, some once a year. You should investigate the requirements yourself, but if you want the freedom of choosing your loads and picking your lanes, you may want to consider reaching for your authority. It’s the natural next step, and paperwork shouldn’t be what holds you back.
So many drivers go to purchase their first truck and are scared off by the upfront cost of a new rig. They end up coming home with leased used trucks, some with 500K miles on them that they bought for half of what it sold for new. With my old used truck, I started calculating how much I was losing in downtime and how much I was paying in repairs. I realized with all of the money spent and lost, I could’ve purchased two new trucks.
When it came time to buy my next truck, I saved and went straight for a brand new, 2018 Peterbilt — it’s a beautiful rig. All of a sudden I have zero maintenance costs, zero down time. And it’s a really nice feeling to see my name on the truck versus a company.
Even with a new rig, you need to be ready for unexpected costs. Trucks are mechanical beasts and you’re working them hard — especially if you’re an over the road (OTR) driver. Everyone experiences abnormal breakdowns, a rear-end failure, a blown tire. They’re hard to avoid and even harder to plan for, so always have a reserve account that’s easy to maintain and easy to access. My rule of thumb is to save 10 percent of every dollar you make.
Personally, I like to put all of my maintenance charges straight on a credit card. It’s easy and it allows me to get right back on the road while I rack up points and good credit. I pick up a few extra loads, and then pay off the card in full every month to avoid interest. Relying on a credit card also sets me up for low-interest rates when I purchase my next truck. My dream has always been to own five trucks, so I’m focused on staying organized and building my savings before the next big purchase. In the meantime, I’ll keep my eyes on the road.
Technology has completely changed the game for owner-operators. Every time I pull a load, I write down the rates, the route, all of the details, and every night I input the data in an online tracking system. So not only do I have a daily and weekly record of what I’m owed and what loads are in the pipeline, but I also have records of what seasons were busier and how I’m growing year-over-year.
Freight apps, too, are essential to streamlining operations. Back in the day, you’d have to pull over at a truck stop and use a pay phone to negotiate prices. Sometimes the line was busy, or they’d put you on hold, or accidentally hang up, and by the time you reached the broker and said, “Hey, I want that load,” the load was gone. Now, all of your information is kept in an app and you can pick and choose what loads work for your schedule. There’s no hassle, and the availability of freight is incredible.
For me, truck driving isn’t a job, so much as it’s a way of life. It gives me the chance to do what I love, while being able to see the world from my cab window, one load at a time.
The views expressed in this post are solely those of the individual being featured. Experiences may vary.
We’d love to hear about your own journey to becoming an owner-operator. Feel free to share your story in a comment below or leave us a message at (415) 612–2622.