So, you want to be an owner-operator

So, you think you want to buy a truck and be an owner-operator.

In good economic times, it’s a bad idea.

In the current economic climate, it’s now gone from a *really* bad idea, to just a “you’re nuts” kind of bad.

You might say to the two previous statements, “But Truckie-D, you’re an owner operator”. Yup. Sure am. Have been for a long time, which is why I know it’s a bad idea — at least it is for most people.

So, here’s the rundown on being an owner-operator, or o/o for short.

Have I mentioned it’s a bad idea? Well, if you’re determined to do it, here’s the scoop.

First, if you don’t have experience driving a truck, go read my page on being a truck driver. Get hired somewhere, then come back here in a year or so. Do NOT get sucked into getting trained and buying/leasing a truck immediately.  That’s a recipe for going broke quickly.  Trucking as an owner-operator is a whole lot more than just “steering and gearing”.  The important point to remember is, you’re not buying a truck — you’re buying a business.  You need experience in the trucking business, and some general business experience if you want to be successful at it.

Can you read a profit and loss statement and make sense of it?  Can you do a cost/benefit analysis of adding an APU to your truck?  If the answer is no, you might want to consider getting some basic business education, or at least read a book or two or ten on the subject.  There are also courses designed specifically to educate new owner-operators on the business aspects of trucking. While there are management and accounting services that can help, YOU are the one ultimately responsible for the operation and profitability of your business.

Ok, if you’ve made it this far, here’s the rundown.

As I say in my page for prospective drivers, trucking isn’t for everyone. This goes double for being an o/o. There are *lots* more headaches and responsibilities than being a company driver. I know many successful company drivers who have no desire whatsoever to own their own truck. They’d rather not deal with the extra work and risk involved.

The first consideration is, are you going to lease to a company, or be a true independent?

There are advantages and disadvantages to either way. For a first-time o/o, I’d forget about going the whole way to complete independence. Yes, if you have your own operating authority, you’re collecting 100% of the gross revenue on each load, but you’re also picking up 100% of all the expenses too — and there are a *lot* of expenses. In the current freight environment, I very strongly recommend against this approach. *Way* too risky.

That leaves us with discussing leasing on to a larger company. Especially for a first-time o/o, this is a far better way of doing it, since it gives you a support system. Depending on the company, it may be better or worse, but at least it’s something.

Now, you have to figure out who you want to lease on with. If you’re already a company driver, a good place to look first is the company you’re currently driving for. This has a number of advantages. It’s usually easier to get on, since they already know you. You’re familiar with the freight they move, the customers, and their way of doing things. While this is a good place to start, you should also investigate lots of other companies.  A company that may be good for company drivers, may be much less so for owner-operators. The deals vary widely from company to company, and you want a good (or at least reasonable) deal that is a good fit for your requirements. Some things to look for (over and above the things you’d ask as a company driver):

Does the carrier provide base plates & permits?

Does the carrier file and/or pay fuel taxes?

Is pay percentage or per mile?

Are loaded and deadhead/bobtail miles paid? At what rate?

What about fuel surcharges? How much are they, and how are they calculated?

What are their accessorial rates (for things like stop offs, loading, unloading, etc.)

Do they pay tolls and/or scales?

Is there upfront money required for escrow? (or anything else, like painting or lettering ).

What are their truck requirements? (age, number of axles, weight, sleeper, 5th wheel height, painting, lettering).

Do they provide trailers? Is there a charge for their trailers?

What other benefits do they give you? (such as discounted fuel, tires, parts, maintenance, etc.)

The above list is not comprehensive, but is only a starting point for investigating different companies. It’s important to look at the total package offered by carriers, not just mileage pay. Some provide a lot of things, other provide little or nothing. For first timers, more is generally better, even if the mileage rate is lower.

Now, the part you’ve been waiting for — actually buying a truck.

I know you’ve got your eye on that overchromed, extended hood LargeCar with chicken lights and a dayglo paint job, but hold yer horses.

Pretty trucks are nice, but chrome doesn’t put money in your pocket. As the saying goes, “lots of chrome, never home”.

The first, and most important thing you want in a truck is reliability. You don’t make money sitting on the side of the road. Personally, I’ve had the best luck with Internationals. Talk to other drivers, and they’ll swear by (or at) every make of truck and engine on the road. I would avoid trucks with Cat engines. Cat has quit manufacturing engines for trucks (due to emission regulations), so it’s possible that it could eventually become difficult to get parts. Probably not in the short term, but it may eventually become an issue.

Next, is emission regulation compliance. California recently put into effect some draconian emissions regulations. The regulations aren’t terribly clear in some areas, but basically, it seems that any truck with an engine older than 1995 won’t be allowed to operate in California after 12/31/2009.     **The regulations have changed since I first wrote this post.  BEFORE you buy a truck, contact the California Air Resources Board and check if the truck you’re looking at is compliant, and for how long. **  If you live in California, you’re going to want to closely monitor the emissions regulations and make sure the truck you’re buying is compliant with the regulations. If you live outside California, you have (at least at the moment) more flexibility, but you might not be able to haul freight to or from California. These regulations also affect the resale value of trucks, so you’ll want to watch them too.

Another important consideration is fuel mileage. As an o/o, fuel is going to be your biggest expense. Small increases in mpg translate to big differences in your take-home pay. Avoid older, non-aerodynamic trucks. Look for things like side fairings, tapered (the so-called “anteater”) hoods, streamlined mirrors, etc. Newer, aerodynamically efficient trucks are certified by the EPA as “Smartway” trucks. Avoid huge, fuel-sucking engines. Engines for OTR trucks in the 400hp range are adequate. You may not be the first one up the hill, but you’ll have a bigger bank balance when you get there.

Unless you’re an established team, DO NOT go out and buy a brand new truck. While new trucks are (at least in theory) more reliable, a solo driver will find it extremely difficult to make the payments — even in times when freight is good. The way freight is right now, it could be nearly impossible.  A good, mechanically sound used truck is the only way to go for a solo o/o.

There are *lots* of trucks for sale, especially right now. A good starting point to look is http://www.truckpaper.com. They also have paper copies available for free at most truckstops. Take a look, and you can get a good idea of what the particular brand and model of truck you’re interested in is currently selling for.

Now, you need to figure out where to buy a truck from. There are dealers, auctions, online auctions, private individuals, remarketing companies, trucking companies, and others, who would all like to sell you a truck. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Dealers will generally be priced higher, but a good dealer will stand behind what they sell. Warranties are a very good thing to have. Even a limited warranty, that only covers engine, transmission, and axles is a good thing to have. Those are the components that can be *very* expensive to fix — especially engines. There are aftermarket warranties that you can buy. I’ve never bought one, and I’ve heard both good and bad things about them. Investigate the company offering the warranty, and the terms of the warranty very thoroughly.  Make sure you check the BBB about them too.

Auctions and private individuals are generally the cheapest place to buy a truck, but “ya pays yer money and takes yer chances” when you do that. You can get a good (or even fantastic) deal,but you (or somebody knowledgeable that you trust) have to check out your prospective purchase very carefully.

Remarketing and trucking companies usually fall somewhere in the middle on price. They will frequently have easy financing options, often with little or no money down. A well maintained former fleet truck can be good value, but again, you need to make sure you’re getting a good one, not one that was poorly maintained and beat to death. Avoid trucks that were used in tanker service — surge from tankers is hard on drivetrain components.

Wherever you buy a truck, have somebody hook a computer to it, and compare the electronic engine odometer with the one on the dash. Speedometers break, or are turned back, but it’s hard to do that on an engine computer without replacing it. When you’re pretty sure you’ve found the truck you want, if possible put it on a dyno, and have the blowby (and everything else) checked. Blowby gives you a pretty good idea of the engine’s internal health.  Having an oil sample analyzed is also a good idea.

No matter how pretty the truck looks, if it’s not 100% mechanically and DOT, look elsewhere.  Trucks that need work can be a good deal, but they’re a very risky proposition.

Now, let’s deal with the least fun part of buying a truck — paying for it. You can either buy, lease, or rent. Forget rent. Yes, it’s deductible, but you never have any equity in the truck. Leasing is a popular option. Lease payments are deductible in full (check with your tax adviser on this), and they normally come with a buyout clause. Buyout clauses normally range from $1, up to 10-20% of the total price. Leasing does give you some tax advantages, but you normally don’t have any equity in the truck until the lease is completed. Buying makes more sense to me, especially for a first time o/o. Since you’re not buying a brand new truck, you’re not going to have to eat a big chunk of depreciation as soon as you drive it off the lot. Even with a used truck, there will be a little, but not nearly as much. So, effectively, you have at least a little equity in the truck, particularly if you’ve made a down payment. If you decide you really don’t want to be an o/o, you can always put the truck up for sale, and will (at least hopefully) be able to pull at least some of your equity back out — something you can’t do with renting or leasing.

A short lesson on spending and tax deductions:

There is always someone trying to sell you something for your truck.  Whether it’s a salesman at a parts counter, or an ad you’re reading in a trucking magazine, they will often tell you “it’s deductible”.  They may even be right about that.  Just because something is deductible, doesn’t mean you should spend the money on it.  Here’s a very simplified example:

We’ll say that your income is $100 and this puts you in the 25% tax bracket.

You have the choice of spending $50 as a deductible expense, or not spending the money, and paying the taxes on it. expense for the same thing.

The first option comes out as: $100 – $50 = $50 – 25% = $37.50 take home after taxes.

The second option comes out as $100 – 25% = $100 – $25  = $75.00 take home after taxes.

While this is greatly simplified, it serves to get the idea across. Just because something is deductible, doesn’t mean it’s a good deal. The bottom line is, your bottom line. Consult your tax adviser about what is more profitable given your particular tax situation and income bracket.

Whatever way you go, look at the total cost. All of that money is going to come out of your pocket. Make sure it’s within your ability to earn with a comfortable profit margin left over.

If you can buy a truck outright for cash, that’s the best way. Then, even if freight gets even worse than it is now (which could happen) you won’t have to worry about making those easy weekly payments.

Now, you’re the proud owner of your very own truck. This is when the headaches really begin.

Your wife isn’t going to get an anniversary present this year because you had to replace your turbo.

Little Johnny’s not going to get a new bicycle for his birthday because you need a new steer tire.

You missed Little Mary’s soccer game because you had to change the oil.

The dog is going to have to wear a ragged sweater so you can put on a new muffler.

The list goes on and on.

Then, there’s all of the paperwork, and the money that has to go with it. Estimated taxes. Self-employment taxes. Federal Heavy Vehicle Use Tax. State income tax. Ad Valorem tax. Fuel Tax. Taxes that you never knew existed. You’d better have been putting aside a chunk of money every week. The government has NO sense of humor when it comes to not paying taxes on time.

You’d also better be *real* careful with birth control, because the exorbitantly priced medical insurance you had to buy doesn’t cover pregnancy for the first two years.

Are you sure you want to be an owner-operator?

If you read this and it helped you, or you have questions this page didn’t answer, please leave a comment. If you don’t want your comment published, add “not for publication” at the beginning.

Comments and questions welcome.

74 comments so far

  1. Kevin on

    I appreciate you sharing this information. I have been driving a truck since July 2008 and want to become an owner operator once I get a year in. I have found it very challenging to find information on even the basics of being an owner operator. I have spent countless hours searching on Google for information. I have not contacted anyone at my company yet because I do not want to hear some sales pitch. I want real life advice and information just like you provided here. Do you know of any other reliable resources?

    I have always wanted to drive a truck and my truck is my home. My mail goes to my brothers house and I have less than $500/mo personal expenses (cell, internet, and the basic necessities).

    I hope to hear back from you.

    Kevin

  2. truckied on

    Hi Kevin,

    Don’t know of much in the way of resources for prospective o/o’s; that’s one of the reasons I put that page online.

    As I say on the page, right now going o/o is a *really* bad idea. The only way I’d do it right now, is if I had enough cash on hand to pay for a decent used truck outright. That changes things from *really* bad idea to just plain old bad idea.

    I don’t know where you’re planning on operating, but pay close attention to the CARB (California Air Resources Board) emissions regulations that just recently went into effect. There are a number of other states that are considering adopting those same regulations, which would render any older truck more or less worthless.

    There’s still some stuff going on about the regulations, so I’d most certainly take a wait and see approach to see how it all shakes out in the end.

    Even if the company you’re driving for now would lease you on as an o/o after only a year, I’d wait until you have at least two years of otr experience before even thinking about buying a truck. I’d also suggest you get some experience as a trainer too. It’s amazing how much you learn by teaching. Also comes in handy if you ever want to hire a driver.

    If you have any specific questions, feel free to post them and I’ll post an answer.

    Regards,

    Truckie-D

  3. DounkTott on

    Отличный блог, интересное и полезное содержание!
    [Nice blog, interesting and useful content! ]

  4. [...] So, you want to be an owner-operator [...]

  5. Pamela Martin on

    Truckie-D. Why not get out of it and go back company then? My husband is an O/O for the past 10 years. We have always bought older used trucks with a monthly note of around $1000/mo. With all of them we have had to do several thousands of dollars in repairs a year, so now thats its time for him to get another truck we considering getting a glider kit (no EGR and better fuel mileage). The note on a new truck will be less than or equal to an older truck plus the fuel savings. VS. going back company driver and getting out of the headache all together.

    Also if you profiting more than $30K a year you could incorporate as an S-corp and not have to pay self employment taxes on some of that income.

  6. jim on

    yea i still do to. iam a company driver for a large chemical company. i drive a tanker and want to get my own. ive been driving since 1991.

  7. crlee3 on

    I stumbled upon this article looking for advice and hopefully to find some figures of what owner operators bring home. Plenty of advice, but the figures are a little blurry. So here’s the deal, the company I work for has a lease purchase program and although I haven’t read through or experienced other companies programs, this one doesn’t seem too bad. I was an owner operator and trained new students and I was averaging ~5500/week. Sometimes more. My gross pay ranged from, oh, 6000-8000$/week. After a series of payments, deductions and things I didn’t quite understand I was left with around $3000. So 30% for taxes and I’m left with $2400, which to me is a boat load of money. I never had any serious maintenance issues. I’d like to mention also that I had a responsible amount of cash deducted from each settlement to a maintenance account. My question is (after a long rant) can you make that kind of money with your own authority? If you could please reply directly to (email redacted). Also, thanks for a very informative and humorous article.

  8. crlee3 on

    Not sure if my previous post made it through, but as an o/o leased with a big company after all is said and done I’ve got $2400-2500 to my pocket. Keep in mind I’m also training fresh meat. Is it possible to make that kind of money with your own authority with your own truck and trailer?

  9. steph on

    Thank you for writing this. I knew there were taxes & expenises, but to read this, is a little overwhelming to say the least. My husband is curently considering becoming an o/o in IL. He has his CDL but is not currently using it. He has talked to my cousin, who is an o/o out of TN. He has had his own truck & company for many years. His company went under at one time, so he had to go back driving for a trucking company, but he is back driving for himself. So he has been helpful in giving my husband the ends and outs, and what mistakes he made in the past. So he is encouraging my husband to to lease on to a company to have more guaranteed loads. My husband is thinking about buying a straight truck instead of a semi, to save some money, as he was told that he can still make good money with this truck, he just won’t have bigger loads. But by leasing on with a company he will aleady know what he will be making. So I am just asking your opinion, as an outsider, as this is a huge investment for both of us.

  10. truckied on

    Having your own authority makes the whole thing much riskier. If you have a number of good shippers to haul for (i.e. that pay promptly), it can be quite lucrative. Bear in mind though, your expenses are going to be *much* higher. The required insurance isn’t cheap, and it never stops. Some drivers do quite well with their own authority — others go broke quickly. It helps considerably if you have someone at home to find freight for you.

    Drive safely!

    td

  11. truckied on

    Personally, I’d go the semi route. With a straight truck, you’ll mostly be doing expedited type freight. Pays well, but can be erratic. Also, many companies that lease on straight trucks require teams. If you need more or less steady income, maybe not the best choice. It also depends on the particular area you’ll be operating. Also, straight trucks aren’t all that much cheaper than a semi tractor. The thing to remember is, you aren’t buying a truck — you’re buying a business. So, you have to look at your particular market, and make a business-based decision. What are the potential revenues and expenses for each choice? Which will give you a better net? Making a decision based solely on the price of the equipment is probably a bad idea.

    Also, go and get hired/leased if possible BEFORE buying any equipment. Different companies have varying requirements. Not having any recent experience may also be an issue. Find out before signing on that dotted line!

    Drive safely!

    td

  12. chul on

    thanks ur blog
    best read so far

  13. reece on

    hah i drove for 2 years until my boss (co-driver) crashed the truck over an embankment, flipping it roughly 4-6 times down 35 feet, until some trees could stop it from rolling. We both survived and I just got a big cash payout and I am now looking into getting my own truck (business) Thank God. It was a rough start but was all worth it in the end. Im wondering if I should go back to team making $1100-$1400 a week. After taxes. Or should I buy a used truck in good shape and call it home. :)

  14. truckied on

    Personally, I’d go the good used truck route for cash. Not having to make those easy monthly payments helps considerably when freight slows down.

    Drive safely!

    td

  15. Pamela Martin on

    yeah but then if you get a older used truck you are still forking out repairs that average out to be as much or more as a montlhy truck payment. Ive been owner operator for 10 years and in the long run you will average what you would make teams or less with alot more stress.

  16. truckied on

    In my experience, a good used truck and a sound maintenance program works out to be very cost effective. For a team, a new (or at least newer) truck makes more sense because of the miles being run. For a solo, a good used one every time is my recommendation.

  17. David on

    First, thank you for taking the time to write a highly detailed and educated post. Just finding accurate information on truck driving in general is hard to come by for new truckers, let alone for prospective o/o’s.

    I have seen a few others on the net advising against becoming an owner operator. I am beginning to wonder why because the mathematics should speak for itself. If there isn’t any money in it, no one would be doing it. And as it is, there are still plenty of o/o’s on the road. I hate to ask this question because I don’t want to come off as suspicious but is it also possible that some o/o’s are trying to discourage newer prospective o/o’s because of freight scarcity or is that just a rumor? I’ve seen several truckers just purposely give bad advice for reasons unknown to me.

    I’ve seen one o/o on youtube who actually did his finances for a week and showed us accurately what he made. He only brought home $700 after taxes and expenses. He says, “this” is why i tell you guys its not worth it. Yet, he’s still there being an o/o. And on the other hand, I’ve talked with other o/o’s personally when I was OTR, and they were talking about just how much money they were making! One guy told me he made over 250k just last year and after taxes and expenses he saw about 150 of that. He was a solo o/o. So this low paying market just doesn’t make any sense to me. No one I know would go through all that kind of hassle if you saw less than 1k a week on a regular basis. Is it possible that there are just some people who have had really bad experiences, had to learn the hard way, and this has led them to have a real distaste for it? Is the reason why there is hardly any information out there on becoming an o/o due to the fact that it is largely a much more profitable endeavor than some would like us to believe?

    So long as I have a truck that isn’t breaking down every five seconds, is $2,000 a week after taxes and expenses something that is feasible? How can it not when o/o’s can comfortably make 10k a week before taxes and expenses? I realize there are fluctuations but what would you consider a rough figure to be able to expect? What regions do you recommend traveling to and from that are most lucrative? I live in the Southern Central portion of Pennsylvania right now, which from what I understand is a hub for freight transportation.

    I know there are many very real risks involved but that is true with any new business starting out. Not just with trucking. If it were that easy, everyone would do it. I personally have more of a business/profit mindset and I’m a good saver. I have already determined to go the smart route and either buy the truck outright or lease. I haven’t made up my mind which I’d rather do. Of course I’ll have to save up more before I’ll be able to buy outright which requires time. And ideally I want to have a good amount of savings on the side to absorb any substantial unexpected costs when starting out.

    I’ve never been an o/o but honestly I’d like to see more of them out on the road to break the stranglehold that companies like JB, US Xpress, Werner and Swift have on the freight market. I think someone somewhere is committing highway robbery by handing out drivers less than $500 a week. Where is the incentive? Honestly I’d rather work at McDonalds where I can still flirt with the co-workers and have some semblance of a social life. I would love to see these trucking giants brought to their knees and I only wish people could believe in themselves more to be able to do it. Because it can be a reality. They depend on us, not the other way around.

    In my opinion, so long as the world doesn’t grind to a hault, there will always be money in trucking. When one aspect gets tight, like fuel, then things like fuel surcharges will come into the market where they previously weren’t to compensate for that lack. The average person very much wants their coffee and doughnuts every morning and they will pay a lot of money to keep that happening.

    Any thoughts? Again thanks for your contribution.

  18. truckied on

    Thanks for your kind comments.

    “I have seen a few others on the net advising against becoming an owner operator. I am beginning to wonder why because the mathematics should speak for itself. If there isn’t any money in it, no one would be doing it.”

    It’s not just about the money. There are a lot of drivers who become o/o’s for a variety of other reasons, such as greater control of when and where you go (o/o’s can’t be force dispatched — if they can be, they’re employees, not contractors), wanting a customized truck, etc.

    “…is it also possible that some o/o’s are trying to discourage newer prospective o/o’s because of freight scarcity or is that just a rumor?”

    It can happen that way.

    “I’ve seen several truckers just purposely give bad advice for reasons unknown to me.”

    Some are malicious, some just don’t know any better themselves.

    “I’ve seen one o/o on youtube who actually did his finances… … a much more profitable endeavor than some would like us to believe?”

    In my experience, when talking to an o/o about money, they’ll either complain that they’re going broke, or making bags of money. The reality is usually somewhere in between. You CAN make decent money as an o/o — but you have to be tough, smart, and hardworking to do so.

    “So long as I have a truck that isn’t breaking down every five seconds, is $2,000 a week after taxes and expenses something that is feasible?”

    It’s within the realm of possibility, if you really want to work that hard. $2,000 a week after expenses, but before taxes is certainly doable.

    “How can it not when o/o’s can comfortably make 10k a week before taxes and expenses?”

    More like 6-7k gross max. Usually less than that.

    “What regions do you recommend traveling to and from that are most lucrative? I live in the Southern Central portion of Pennsylvania right now, which from what I understand is a hub for freight transportation.”

    Not quite that simple. Most freight markets are unbalanced when it comes to freight rates — i.e., Northeast loads pay quite well going in, but very poorly coming out. If you live in PA, you’ll find your outbound freight pays badly, but you’ll find a profitable load to get back home.

    “I know there are many very real risks involved but that is true with any new business starting out. Not just with trucking. If it were that easy, everyone would do it. I personally have more of a business/profit mindset and I’m a good saver. I have already determined to go the smart route and either buy the truck outright or lease. I haven’t made up my mind which I’d rather do. Of course I’ll have to save up more before I’ll be able to buy outright which requires time. And ideally I want to have a good amount of savings on the side to absorb any substantial unexpected costs when starting out.”

    A good general plan. Personally, what I always recommend is to buy the best truck you can for cash, or at least have a very substantial down payment. I’m not so thrilled about leasing. It does have some tax advantages, but until you buyout the lease at the end, you have no equity at all.

    You didn’t mention if you have any otr experience or not. If you don’t have at least two years otr as a company driver, get it, then think about going o/o. Really.

    “I’ve never been an o/o but honestly I’d like to see more of them out on the road to break the stranglehold that companies like JB, US Xpress, Werner and Swift have on the freight market.”

    They don’t really have a stranglehold — it’s just that competing with each other has driven freight rates down (and keeps them low). More o/o’s wouldn’t really have much effect in either direction.

    “I think someone somewhere is committing highway robbery by handing out drivers less than $500 a week. Where is the incentive? Honestly I’d rather work at McDonalds where I can still flirt with the co-workers and have some semblance of a social life. I would love to see these trucking giants brought to their knees and I only wish people could believe in themselves more to be able to do it. Because it can be a reality. They depend on us, not the other way around.”

    Yes, but unlikely to happen.

    “In my opinion, so long as the world doesn’t grind to a halt, there will always be money in trucking. When one aspect gets tight, like fuel, then things like fuel surcharges will come into the market where they previously weren’t to compensate for that lack. The average person very much wants their coffee and doughnuts every morning and they will pay a lot of money to keep that happening.”

    Not quite. In 2008 freight just dried up. I went from running 110-120k miles a year, to 70k. People were still eating, but not much.

    “Any thoughts?”

    Many. See above.

    “Again thanks for your contribution.”

    Gratifying to know that it helps and thanks for your thoughtful comments and questions.

    Drive safely!

    td

  19. alwayssmilin on

    How does o/o change with regard to running sand, water or crude in the oil fields?

  20. truckied on

    Good question. I do know that bulk loads like that tend to be heavy, and liquid loads are particularly hard on drivetrains. If the money and work schedule meet your requirements, it might be a good option.

    Drive Safely!

    td

  21. OMS on

    I’ve been hauling steel as a company driver for 6 years now. I’ve been with my current company for 1.5 years and I have been steadily finding better and better opportunity within my company. I get percentage, btw. Last month, I finally established a balance (family, work, finances). I am very very pleased with my work.

    Today, my boss rolls up on his way out and says in 10 days we are going to haul concrete to Toronto and I’m going to be one of the guys to do it. This is NOT good. If I figure right, he just rolled up and told me I will no longer be home every night, I will be driving two to three times as much everyday through traffic and weather, and I will be taking about a 25% pay-cut to do it. He has no idea what I have been up to this last year and a half! Last year I made X. This year I made Y, which is 30% better than X. He wants me to make Z next year which is 25% less than Y and close to 10% less than X! I told him I can’t start it until January because I’m about to have my 5th child!

    So… I need to get out from under ANYone that can roll up and do that kind of thing to me. I must get my own truck. Call me crazy, but I also want to continue working with this company if I do. I just have to find out if they would give me the same freight if I went O/O.

    Also, I have no money to get started with! But if I hang around and do this crap concrete, I will NEVER have money to get started. AND I will not find work that pays better than the concrete crap. I make as much as I do because I established good relationships with the shipping office and dispatch. The boss is not very involved in everyday operations. He just likes to show up and make declarations that change peoples’ lives now and again. But the money is there (if I can somehow have more of my own control) and so is the kind of work I enjoy doing — short haul – big pay!

    So question is, how to get a truck with little or no money, and how to negotiate a good deal with the boss, and, if that doesn’t work, how to get a good deal elsewhere? Any advice?

  22. truckied on

    Since you’ve been with your company for some time, I’d first try to work things out. If you can, great. Personally, with a boss that capricious, I’d be out the door. If you’re going to try negotiating a deal as an o/o, you want to do it from a position of strength — in other words, have an alternative lined up that you can walk right into. Good drivers are hard to find, so with a stable employment history and a good safety record, you can get a position just about anywhere. Also, remain calm and cool — you don’t want a (deserved or undeserved) bad reference.

    There are plenty of places that will give you a truck with little or nothing down if you have reasonable (or sometimes even not very good) credit. The trouble is, most of them want you to lease on with them. This can be good or bad, depending on the company. Investigate any offered deal carefully, and do the math.

    Not having money could be problematic even if you get a truck. Things that break on a truck are expensive, and the one thing you can be sure of, is something will always break. If you’re lucky (and careful), hopefully it’ll be later rather than sooner. Some places offer a warranty or maintenance program — if they’re fair and reasonable, they’re a good thing. Bad ones can be a serious ripoff.

    Running short haul freight as an o/o can be an iffy proposition. Since there are so many drivers who would like to be home frequently, much o/o short haul freight doesn’t pay very well, depending on the area. It all comes down to finding the right place with the right freight.

    Above all, don’t be discouraged — change can be a good thing, and might get you into a much better situation than you are now.

    Keep us posted about how things work out.

    Drive safely!

    td

  23. OMA on

    Capricious! Perfect word, TD! I like it.

    Thanks for reply. Good advice. Going to take some today about the concrete deal. Maybe (big, or little maybe, depending on how you look at it) it isn’t such a bad deal. The fact he felt he had to so forcefully include guys makes me pretty sure it’s a bad deal, and that he knows it is.

  24. Judas on

    No family no dog no rent no nothing, still a bad idea?

  25. truckied on

    Judas-

    That helps a lot. If you’ve got sufficient cash on hand, that’s even better. Go get some experience as a company driver first though.

    Come back and let us know how it goes.

    Drive Safely!

    td

  26. Daniel on

    I just leased on with swift need advice on paperwork and tax accountant or tax program 8287852853

  27. andrew on

    Well said… I was an o/o in 2011 and lost my shirt OTR.. I made more at the black jack tables … I’m now in the oil field biz and am getting back into o/o in the oil field.. Most guys I talk to say the same thing OTR freight just isn’t there.. From my mistakes I can now go into it with the ability to make good money but I would not recommend a new guy trying it.. Experience is a good thing.

  28. flight risk on

    Excellent blog… Love him…I mean I actually read the entire post and laughed through most of it….. VERY INFORMATIVE yet still so ENTERTAINING at the same time!!! Thx bunches

  29. Ryan on

    I’m looking at a o/o position. I can get a 2007 Volvo vnl670 well maintained by an older husband an wife team that had it since new for $19,000. They are willing to finance me 0 interest. Payments would be $1000.00 per month. Take home with the company I’m with now would be $1.10 NET per mile. I will be running mostly Winnipeg mb – Chicago il and back. So 2.5 days round trip. HOS rules dictate I can do 2 trips a week, and it still gives me home time. The loads are usually light never more than 36000lbs, dry freight – sometimes hazmat or reefer loads. I’ve been a company driver for 4yrs. Is it feasible to make more than I did as a company driver. Each Chicago run made me $900 with picks/drops/border crossings. That was at 40 cents/mile.

    Is there enough meat on the bone to do this as a o/o?

  30. truckied on

    Hi Ryan,

    Can’t tell from the information you’ve given me. You talk about $1.10 net — are you sure about that figure? Have you included fuel, insurance, base plates, tires, maintenance etc. in that figure? Have you broken down your costs into fixed and variable? Do you get a fuel surcharge? Would the fuel surcharge be adequate if fuel takes a sudden jump in price?

    Are you sure the truck is in good shape? If the truck was owned by a team, there could be 2 million+ miles on it. While trucks can be repaired more or less indefinitely, are you going to have to shell out for something expensive soon?

    Have you also investigated other sources of freight/other companies?

    Think really long and hard about this, and run the numbers. After all, it’s all about the Benjamins.

    Come back and let us know how it goes.

    Drive Safely!

    td

  31. Ryan on

    Thanks I’ll ask some more questions before I take the plunge… The questions don’t cost anything…

  32. David on

    Great insights. I’m starting a dump truck company but have never driven trucks. This scared the hell out of me but also has given me an awesome heads up. I’m mortified and relieved all at the same time.

  33. Zack on

    Excellent blog with huge resources from insiders….

    A little disclaimer to start. I have no trucking business / truck driving experience in the USA. Going through this entire posting and understanding it has required me to google up most of the “Jargon” that was not intuitive. But it was a great pleasure reading it and digesting the priceless information it contained.

    I, however do know my way around trucks. I have been around trucks in Africa (those were much older with all the baggage of problems that comes along with aging trucks, the roads over there were not very gentle neither). I know from experience, the joy one can feel when it all goes right in good times. I mean, plentiful of freight…. the money can be great if you willing to work hard and give up the time at home. The headache is almost always tremendous when stuff start breaking down….especially on the road in the middle of the night and miles away from mechanics…And the tires suck big time… Yeah, but over there, there was no heavy taxes, fees, charges, surcharges, tolls and insurance premiums all the way to the roof.

    Anyway, I have been flirting with the idea of starting a trucking business, but here are the facts:

    – I have no American trucking experience, I don’t even have a CDL
    – I don’t know about market segments and their seasons
    – I don’t know the different types of freight and the appropriate equipments (back home no one knows about American trucks. It’s all about Mercedes Benz, Man, Berlier, Volvo, Daff…)
    – I don’t know about the regulations ( I have been digging a lot though on the web and that’s how I got to this place)
    – I am not planning to drive, but to hire a driver or partner with one.
    – On the web, I learned about load board and brokerage firms , factoring, lanes, some regulation among the apparently trillion out there.
    – I don’t have enough cash to buy a brand new truck

    I have already used some of the “Points to look for, while searching for a truck” you mentioned somewhere in here. But honestly I felt totally lost when I got on the web page you suggested (http://www.truckpaper.com).

    Now, I should mentioned that I am pretty educated on the business side (BS in finance). So management is not a concern for me. Just FYI, I am Chemical Engineer and love what I do. I just happen to have “Business Gene” in me. It’s a tradition in my family to own some business and I have been unsuccessful trying to get away from that with the 9 to 5. So I would like to launch a side activity.

    Now I guess my question for you is (and I guess I have a list of them): What is your best recommendation in my situation?

    -I don’t intent to spent more than 50 000 (cash + financing combined)
    -buy?
    -lease?
    -which truck?
    -talk to who?
    -do what?
    -don’t do what?
    -go where?
    -don’t go where?
    -take what and don’t take what?
    -Do it?
    -Stay away all together…?

    I know I am asking a lot. But I am sure that every piece of information you will generously provide here through your answers to my question will benefit a millions of starving “Would be truck owners” out there. I just happen to be one of those who have the gut to ask…..

    Thanks for all you do on this blog.

  34. Lawrence scott on

    I work for trans am..and i want to become a o/o….but now i don’t thats to much to worry about..as a company driver they pay for everything…and i think that’s the best way now..thanks

  35. Owner Operated Business on

    Great post! Been reading a lot about owner operated businesses. Thanks for the info here!

  36. truckied on

    Hi Zack,

    Rule number one of starting any business is “Don’t get into a business you don’t know”. This applies double for trucking. Yes, there is money to be made, but the pitfalls are many.

    The hard part isn’t getting a truck, operating authority etc. — it’s finding a good driver.

    If you’re really determined to do it, I’d suggest leasing the truck on with one of the larger companies. Most of them are happy to lease to small fleets, and will provide some level of support. It will still be a lot of headaches though.

    Come back and let us know how it goes.

    Drive Safely!

    td

  37. Oscar on

    Thank you for the great blog! Question: What are your recommendations in light of the extremely likely spike in fuel prices coming up soon? Whether you think this will happen or not, what is your recommendation in light of IF this happens in the short or longer term?…. to someone like myself who hopes to become an o/o after getting significant experience as a company driver starting shortly in this role? I imagine that leasing as an o/o is less risky than 100% owning in light of a likely major spike in fuel prices, true? I’d appreciate your feedback. And thanks again!

  38. truckied on

    Hi Oscar,

    Whether fuel prices spike, or just gradually creep up, it’s almost certain that diesel is going to cost more as time goes on. Whether you’re a company driver, leased o/o, or independent, a good fuel surcharge is very important. Also important is running as efficiently as possible. Most companies have some kind of fuel bonus. If you’re an o/o, fuel comes out of your pocket. Simply slowing down and running 60 mph is a good and easy way to save fuel Not putting a lot of extra junk on your truck also helps (i.e. chicken lights, chrome etc.). Specifying/buying a fuel efficient truck is also important.

    Yes, leasing on to a company as an o/o is less risky that going independent. I highly recommend it when starting out as an o/o.

    Drive Safely!

    td

  39. OMS on

    TD,

    So hear is an update. I stuck around with that company for a couple more months. Things were changing all over that company. For me, the changes were for the worst. It became increasingly difficult to maintain the income I had enjoyed for so long. So I left.

    I’m doing the same work I had before, but now I have a boss I believe to be crazy! It is a bigger company with much opportunity within. This is good, and I have, for the most part, separated myself from the crazy boss and found my niche.

    The desire to go O/O is stronger than ever however. I believe there is much more money to be made as an O/O where I am at now … and in Michigan steel hauling in general. I have learned a few things about what to expect as far as business expenses versus pay as an O/O. My company is one that leases many O/O’s and will be happy to bring me on as one too. I’m going to do it.

    I will need to find my own truck first so I have some time to prepare. One thing I am having trouble finding is just a simple layout of the expenses I should expect right away – registrations, permits, taxes, fees, insurance, etc.Could you direct me to a link (or even just type up one for me!) to a list of these necessities? I would like to start collecting quotes and estimates for these things so I can get a better idea of how much start-up dough I shoot be shooting for.

    Thanks, TD

  40. OMS on

    Oh, I should say the “crazy boss” is of no concern. He is only the boss of one division within this company. As an O/O, I will not have any association with him. (I hardly even do now as a company driver!) The part of the company I would lease to is very professional, helpful, organized, and strong.

  41. truckied on

    Well OMS, it’s not quite that simple.

    How much you’ll have to lay out, when, and for what, very much depends on the company you’re leasing to. Some companies offer what amounts to a no up front package deal, then you just have to make those easy weekly payments. Others want you to put up quite a bit of money — say, for an escrow, base plates etc. It all comes down to what they’re currently offering (or what you can negotiate). They’re the people you need to talk to for the numbers you need. If they’re not willing to provide you those numbers up front, walk away. If they’re hiding something, it’s for a reason.

    What you DO need cash on hand for, is maintenance for the truck. Trucks can get *really* expensive in a big hurry. Not having enough cash (or at least a big enough credit line) can put you out of business pretty much instantaneously if something breaks. The one thing I can guarantee, is that something WILL break. Trucks are complicated mechanisms, and take quite a pounding on the road. Ideally, if you keep up with maintenance and inspections the way you should, that will be infrequent, but it WILL happen.

    I would also suggest that you learn to do as much maintenance on the truck yourself as you can. Even a minor repair job can run into the hundreds of dollars, especially if you need a road service truck to come out to you. They’ve got you by the short and curlies then, and they know it. You also want to carry some basic parts with you. Things such as air line, splicers, and fittings (for every size you have on your truck), spare belts etc. are cheap and don’t take up much space. Carry a mounted spare tire (steer tire type). Some nuts, bolts, washers, perforated iron strapping, and exhaust band clamps are handy too.

    Just what and how much you should carry depends on your particular truck, and your level of expertise. The more you can do and carry, the better off you are.

    Ideally, I’d suggest having at least $3000-5000 cash on hand to start, with a decent credit line for backup. With a big credit line, you could probably get away with less, but it makes things a bit riskier.

    Come back and keep us updated on how things go.

    Drive Safely!

    td

  42. OMS on

    Thanks, TD. I figured about the same for maintenance and repair. Chances are whatever truck I decide on will need some initial configurations (trailer lift axle switches, suspension gauge, possibly additional air lines, etc).

    However, I don’t think I was clear in what I was asking. I’m not really looking for numbers. I’m looking for items I will want to find numbers for. I know I need a base plate. I need to get registered in the states I plan to operate in. I need bobtail insurance. Is 2290 and IFTA the same? I probably won’t need cargo insurance. Do I need colission insurance? I know I will need some permits specific to my type of work in certain states. But I’m just looking for basic registrations, insurances, licenses, that sort of thing … Am I missing anything?

    If just like to go out and do some pricing on these things while I’m saving my cash, you know. I don’t want any surprises when I think I’m ready to go, like, “Oh you need to get such and such a permit license documentation inspection tax sheet from the whatever department of this and that!”

  43. truckied on

    Hi OMS,

    No, the 2290 is a federal tax you pay just for the privilege of owning a truck ($550.00 a year). 2290 payments stay with the truck, so watch out when you buy one to make sure it is paid up and current.

    IFTA is fuel taxes — paid monthly as you go. Depending on where you run and where you fuel, it’ll be anywhere from 0 to about $150 a month. It’s based on the miles you run in each state, so if your company doesn’t track and file it for you, you’ll need to.

    Most companies running o/o’s have a package with the required (basic) permits and base plates. Check with them to see what they’re offering. The same goes for insurance. They’ll provide insurance that covers you when you’re loaded, but usually you’ll have to provide at least liability insurance for the rest of the time. There may also be optional additional coverage available (collision, personal property, glass breakage etc) available. Most companies will let you purchase these through them, but you’re not required to — if you can find a better deal elsewhere, you can.

    Before making the decision to lease on with a company, you really need to sit down with them and see what they’re offering, as well as what they require. Do they require you to use their baseplate, or can you run your own? They may have specific requirements (max weight, # of axles, required equipment, age, color, lettering etc.) that can add up to quite a bit of money. A good company will go over everything with you, and give you the numbers you need to work with.

    Keep us posted.

    Drive Safely!

    td

  44. J.P. on

    Good insight on being O/O. Have 12yrs OTR. Looking to be O/O ,leasing on with ******. Anyone know inside details about this company? Thanks.

    *no names please.*
    td

  45. D. Reese on

    TD,

    Here is my situation that I would like your opinion on. I have a friend that I trust, She owns a dispatch business and is partners with a man that owns blankety blank trucking company. She has offered me 85% of the load Gross and he has offered to sell me a ’98 western star. I have seen the maintenance records on the truck New rebuild at 1.5M miles new trans and clutch. She has showed me her books that average 3-4k miles per week and avg $2.50/mile. one of her best accounts she has had for 4 years.The company will not pay tolls, base plate ect which I am ok with based on what I know of the runs she can get.

    Here is the deal.

    I drive the truck as a company driver out of Dallas Tx for 8 weeks. Then I run as a company driver the 9th week free as a down payment. I take over the truck as an o/o owing $15,600.00 on the truck at 0% interest and free use of a 2001 wabash dry van (for maintenance expenses only) with a monthly payment of $1200.00 I figure to put 10% of my gross into a maint account. She has offered to help me with my books for free. They will maintain the Liability and cargo ins.

    Deal or no Deal Howie?

  46. truckied on

    Hi Donnis,

    Interesting question.

    First thing that jumps out at me, is the number of miles. Since it seems you’ll be running with a specific trailer, that means everything is live load and live unload. That being the situation, 2500-3000 miles is more realistic, unless you’re planning on running multiple logbooks. Multiple books are a *really* bad idea, for lots of reasons. My philosophy is, if you have to use more than one logbook to make a decent living, then you’re working for the wrong company.

    Unless you have a good chunk of cash in hand, you’ll also need to cut some kind of deal regarding baseplates, permits, insurance, fuel, etc. You should also get some kind of warranty on the truck — even if it’s only short term. A major maintenance problem before you have maintenance money built up can put you out of business quickly. You didn’t say how many miles were on the truck. While trucks can be repaired and rebuilt almost forever, there comes a point when it’s no longer cost effective to do so. Also note, that unless the truck was re-engined with a 2010 engine, you won’t be legal to run in California.

    Your agreement needs to be in writing. That is an absolute requirement. Doesn’t matter how well you know/trust the individuals involved. Doesn’t matter if they feel insulted (“Don’t you trust me?”). It needs to be on paper. I’d also suggest negotiating several “escape” clauses. First, during your initial 9 weeks, if you find problems with the truck, or freight isn’t as advertised. Later, if freight goes away. A contract can go out for bid again anytime, and your friend could lose the business. Have an attorney look at the purchase agreement BEFORE you sign it. The same with the lease agreement. Any pressure to sign on the line without a review is a bad sign (pun intended).

    Whether to take the deal or not depends on how much risk you’re willing to take, given your personal situation. That’s a decision you’ll have to make after weighing all your personal factors.

    Come back and let us know what you decide, and how it goes.

    Drive Safely!

    td

  47. D. Reese on

    Thanks TD,

    I appreciate your thoughts. I wasn’t as thorough on the explanation as I should have bee. the truck has 1.75M miles so it has 250,000 on the rebuild. It was not re-engined and right now I feel that is ok. I don’t plan on running in Ca for quite sometime. By then I can make a decision on re-engine or newer truck. The most important thing is in fact that EVERYTHING will be in writing. Friend or no friend Business is business. I do have an escape clause for the first 9 weeks with an opt out if the truck isn’t what it should be. I do not yet have one for the decrease in freight or loss of miles.
    The base plates were just purchased in June and included in the first year deal. Permits will be purchased by the company and deducted from settlements. I have created a spreadsheet that allows me to put in best and worst case scenarios as well as track mileage and cost. I would like some input on it and your thoughts and the thoughts of some of the other readers.
    The owner of the company ( which is very small) wants out of the truck so he can concentrate on getting the maintenance shop up and going. this being the case I have negotiated good rates on labor for any maint that can be done at his shop. This being said I think your point of a warranty is a good idea. The last thing I want is to be 1500 miles away from the shop and be sitting on the side of the road with a blown head gasket. ( thank you for that advice)
    Additional thoughts?

    Thanks,
    D Reese.

  48. truckied on

    Hi Donnis,

    Sounds like you’re generally on the right track.

    Do make sure you’re fanatical about keeping up the maintenance on the truck. Good pretrip inspections, and a thorough going over at preventative maintenance times will help keep you running. I also recommend the use of synthetic oil. Contact your engine manufacturer for specifics for your engine. It’s more expensive, but will go longer between changes, and is MUCH more fuel efficient. I got an extra 3/4 of a mile per gallon when I switched over to it. That’s a lot of money in saved fuel every year. Your truck will also start considerably easier when it’s cold. Also, take regular oil samples for analysis at every filter change. It’s like a blood test for your truck, and can spot problems before they become expensive to fix. Well worth the investment.

    Learn to do as much maintenance on the truck yourself as you’re comfortable doing. MUCH cheaper that way. Also carry (at least) some basic stuff, like air line, fittings, splicers, coolant, oil, lights, wire, fuses, etc. and a spare tire.

    You might also want to consider either incorporation or an LLC structure for your business. There are a number of advantages and disadvantages to that vs. traditional ownership. Talk to your legal and tax advisers to see if they make sense for you in your particular situation.

    For a truck that old with that many miles on it, you probably won’t be able to get much of warranty out of the deal. If you got 30 days/12,000 miles, that would be about all you could reasonably expect. Anything over that is gravy.

    Don’t forget taxes. While you’re putting money away for maintenance, also put some away for taxes. Since you’ll be self-employed, you get the privilege of paying estimated taxes quarterly. The IRS takes a dim view of underpaying, so make sure you stay on top of the payments. Talk to your accountant about amounts.

    Keep track of every expense for the truck. There’s a lot that’s tax deductible, that you might not realize. Make sure your tax preparer is well qualified, and familiar with trucking, and keep all receipts.

    Run strictly legal — it’s simply not worth doing otherwise. Make sure you have all of your legal I’s dotted and T’s crossed. The liability for not doing so can be huge.

    Keep us posted on how things go.

    Drive Safely!

    td

  49. New trucking on

    I am needing some advice on renting / leasing a trailer as a new o/o. Can anyone provide information on how a new trucking company can lease or rent a trailer in this business? Everything else in coming together except this one road block. Any help or advice is appreciated.

  50. truckied on

    Hi New Trucking,

    There are a lot of trailer leasing/rental companies out there. There are also a large number of trailers available on the used market as well, which may be a more cost effective solution.

    You might also want to consider leasing your truck(s) and driver(s) to one of the larger carriers while you get going.

    Come back and tell us about the solution you decide on.

    Drive Safely!

    td

  51. Storm on

    Hi I TD your blog is just what I needed. I recently broke up with my boyfriend who once owned his own truck business. He is currently working for a company where he is saying that he is leasing a dump truck for $100K don’t know how true that is really if it cost so much. I was in it not long ago it is a brand new truck! He is also working for the company he leased it from. He inspired me to go into this business and being a single parent mother of two children I thought it was a good idea. I don’t want to drive I just want to the business and hire employees to work for me. What classes can I take to get started. I hear all the risk but in all things there are risk and being a woman I am hoping to get grants to help me along the way as well as putting in my own money. Thank you, Storm

  52. truckied on

    Hi Storm,

    First rule of business: Never get into a business that you don’t know well. Second rule of business: See rule #1.

    For classes, I’d suggest starting with an MBA degree. It’s not just trucks and drivers — it’s a business.

    Alternatively, you could get a job in the office at a trucking company. At least it would give you an idea of what to expect.

    Yes, it can be done, but it takes knowledge, time, money, money, money, and connections.

    Not having experience in trucking, there are quite a few better ways to make a living. Really.

    Yes, there are people running trucking companies without MBA’s, but they have all worked in the industry for years. See rule #1.

    Come back and let us know how it works out for you.

    Drive Safely!

    td

  53. jpeters on

    Hi TruckieD, I read this entire blog post and some of your others ones. I read all the comments on this one too. I read fast :]

    First, thank you for all the help you’re providing people. I have a pretty big project on my plate. I am trying to essentially spec out a fleet for 7-9 trucks, all class 8, all dry freight. There’s a need for about 4-6 day cabs and 2-3 sleepers. We are in CA so to save the CARB regulation headaches of putting a diesel particulate matter filters on old equipment, we are going to upgrade at least half of them at once. We need to upgrade regardless of CARB due to equipment age but they get on our case about the old units left :D

    What I had narrowed it down to:
    Daycabs – 2008 to 2009 International Prostars and 8600s along with Freightliner Columbias

    Sleepers – 2008 to 2012 International Prostars or Freightliner Columbias or Cascadias.

    All would have either Cummins or Detroit engines, no Maxforce junk. The problem is I’m getting mixed advice on those models. Some folks say those model years and engines with DPF + DEF tech are a good choice, others say only get ones with DPF and no DEF and some say stay away from both DPF and DEF (which we really can’t because eventually CARB will catch up to us).

    Could you make a recommendation for 2008-2013 tractors? Day cabs will be doing light local pickups at 40-50k miles/yr; sleepers doing about 130-180k/year from CA to FL. Price range is $30-60k each for the day cabs and $50k-90k each for the sleepers and we are pretty open on what to get, with the biggest factors being MPG and reliability. We are also considering leasing a few, will probably have to do a combo of lease and purchasing due to not wanting to use ALL cash on down payments. Thank you, definitely appreciate the help!

  54. truckied on

    Hi JP,

    Whatever equipment you buy, make sure it has 2010 compliant engines (not just truck model year). Any older and you’ll be doing the replacement thing again soon. Before you buy, you can email the particulars to CARB and they’ll tell you whether they’re compliant, and for how long.

    Also, don’t forget to make sure that you have EPA compliant low rolling resistance tires too. The list is available on the EPA’s website.

    When it comes to a particular brand, you’ll find some people who will swear by and others swear at any given make and model of truck, so I’m not going to tell you what to buy. The one thing I will say is, the earlier trucks did have a number of problems related to their emission control systems (and other things), so you might want to consider newer trucks over older ones, particularly if you can get a warranty.

    Come back and let us know how it goes.

    Drive Safely!

    td

  55. jpeters on

    Thanks TD. I did see that CARB requires you to have a PM filter on any engines model years 1996-2006 and so we are looking for 2008/09 trucks (which should have 2007 or newer engines) to avoid the added filter requirement.

    Could you tell me what years you are referring to as far as emission control problems? I’ve been hearing 07 to 09 maybe ’10 semis. I think we might just try to get 2011s and a couple 2012s. I’ve looked into gliders a little bit but don’t see how you can avoid the PM filter requirement. Thanks again!

  56. truckied on

    Hi JP,

    What I heard was that the 2007’s and 2010’s (the first years of the stricter requirements) had a number of problems. Trucks that aren’t compliant aren’t even allowed to be sold in California, so I’d try to stick to 2011 and newer, particularly if you’re planning on keeping the trucks longer term. It should also improve the resale value.

    Gliders can be a good solution if you’re only running in the 49 reasonable states.

    Come back and let us know how it goes.

    Drive Safely!

    td

  57. Young Chon on

    Dear TD,
    Thanks for helping truckers so much with your kind advices and my quetion is how I can buy a truck with some accounts already set up. I think many oo truckers need to sell their trucks with their proven loads. I ‘ve tried to look for any ads but couldn’t find one. I am in California so could you know how I find one?
    Thanks, Young

  58. truckied on

    Hi Young,

    There’s plenty of freight around, so it’s not really necessary to buy a truck with loads. If you’re looking for something more of a turnkey operation to buy, then look for small trucking companies for sale instead.

    Come back and tell us how it goes for you.

    Drive Safely!

    td

  59. Young Chon on

    Thanks TD and what I meant was I don’t like to seardh a load everytime so that means if a trucker had a routine dedicate loads for a long time proven account with a company and he wants to sell his truck with the account then that is what I want to buy.
    And I am so impressed with your so kind passion to serve for truckers who really need a help once again thanks so much and much. Young

  60. Young Chon on

    and I just wanted one or two trucks to have but after I tried to find a small trucking companies for sale, I couldn’t find one at all anywhere since they are so few of them for sale and too big.
    Young

  61. truckied on

    Hi Young,

    There are a number of large trucking companies that have dedicated operations (for owner-operators) of various kinds. I’d try inquiring with some of the large carriers to see what they have available and what would fit your particular situation. Much will depend on where you live (or are willing to move to). Again, it’s not customary to get loads with trucks unless you’re buying an actual trucking company rather than just a truck.

    Most places with dedicated operations want you to prove your reliability before they’ll take you on, so the large company route is probably easier. Dedicated routes are also in high demand, so it may take you a while to get one.

    Come back and let us know how it works out for you.

    Drive Safely!

    td

  62. jpeters on

    Hi TD, its jpeters. Thanks for the help on my previous question. I have something specific that you might have advice for. I’ve been offered this truck:

    2010 Cascadia sleeper
    550,000 miles
    Detroit DD15
    10 speed auto
    DPF
    King pins replacement recently
    Non-service agreement lease
    Can’t see any major issues but haven’t checked VIN or anything online yet because I’m leaning towards no

    Of course, there’s the whole DPF/DEF gamble. If you’re wondering why I’m even considering the truck its because of the price and the fact I wouldn’t be taking on a loan for this, I’d take over the lease with option to buy. The guy cannot make the payments because he is not physically able to work right now. It means about a $8,000-9,000 discount if bought at lease end.

    According to commercialtrucktrader the average price is $59,000 for similar miles and model year. A rough estimate omitting the well-specd trucks listed on there, I’d say the average price is $53-54k. So yeah I’d be paying about $45k with the purchase, he’s already paid about 1/3 of the total lease interest, wouldn’t have the loan on the company’s balance sheet/books or credit report which is appealing because we are trying to finance and lease several more trucks either through the bank or lenders/lessors.

    I’ve already told the guy I probably won’t do it but I’d appreciate some final opinions. And if my analysis is way off somewhere, I’d love to be corrected. Thanks TD!

  63. Ed Ramoska on

    Interesting post , had a blast reading it. Thanks for taking your time to put this out there.

  64. truckied on

    Hi JPeters,

    Personally, my #1 concern would be the maintenance history on the equipment. People who can’t make payments frequently neglect maintenance. At a minimum, I’d have an oil sample analyzed, and check the engine for blow by on a dyno.

    I’m kind of old school, so personally, I’d be wary of the autoshift transmission.

    Whether it makes financial sense for you or not is something you might want to take up with your accountant/tax adviser.

    Come back and let us know how it goes.

    Drive Safely!

    td

  65. Young Chon on

    Thanks TD,

    What I want is I don’t want any parties, like large carriers and brokers or free load boards, between shipper and myself at least for some loads within dedicate contract or whatever without hassles to go everyday to find a load to load. I thought there are some truck owners doing business like that and want to sell one or two of his trucks with the contract with a shipper. Is it a nonsense since I am not experiensed as oo at all?
    Sorry for maybe stupid question and thanks again. young

  66. truckied on

    Hi Young,

    If you don’t have experience, you *really* need to go and get some experience before buying a truck. At least a year, maybe two. Really. There’s a lot more to trucking than just getting a load and hauling it down the road. Yes, there’s money to be made, but you need to know what you’re doing.

    Most dedicated opportunities originally come from load boards etc. You build up a relationship with a customer and provide good service to them, and eventually you’ll start to get some of their dedicated business.

    By the way, there are no stupid questions here. If you don’t know the answer, then it’s a good question.

    Come back and let us know how it goes.

    Drive Safely!

    td

  67. Young Chon on

    Thanks TD,

    I’ve driven for companies for over a year and the reason I want to buy a truck turnkey from an experienced oo who could give some good clues since I heard so many oo drivers struggling to find fair loads to operate. So I tried to find one for sale by owner as turnkey but it has been hard to find one. any advice really apreciated. Once again thanks a lot. Young

  68. truckied on

    Hi Young,

    It is theoretically possible to do that, but if you manage to find something like that, I think you’d end up spending too much money for it. Better to build up a business yourself.

    Come back and let us know how it goes.

    Drive Safely!

    td

  69. Young Chon on

    Thanks TD,

    I agree and understand your advice now but still where should I find a sale of a truck by oo driver not a truck by dealers since not many of them shown on internet even I tried so hard to search at truckpapers, ebbey etc etc?
    Thanks for your kind advice again. Young

  70. truckied on

    Hi Young,

    There are always trucks for sale at dealers, on auction sites, classified ad sites, papers etc. What you’re looking for is simply not commonly available. Most o/o’s end up trading trucks in to upgrade them, or simply sell them because they can’t make a go of it financially.

    Probably your best hope would be to place an ad in one of the truck-oriented papers.

    Come back and let us know how it goes.

    Drive Safely!

    td

  71. mike withers on

    great post tell it like it is o/o for five years wish I would have read this first yes I have made it so for thank god for canned beans viannie sausage

  72. Jim Anderson on

    Read the whole thing. I have never driven a tractor trailer but have 40 years driving experience. I want to purchase a new glider and put a rebuilt motor/ trans in the truck. No emissions stuff. I live in Canada and would work only in Canada. Basically I plan to work only when there is no snow on the ground, say 8 months a year, say 5 days a week 10 hours a day. Where I live they haul freight from here to a depo 300 miles away and back per day. I would purchase the truck for cash, no loan. I welcome your comments on my idea and I have seen where I could take a driver training course for $6500. This seems like a lot of money, do you think this is worth it? I have a lot of mechanical experience, could do most of my own regular maintenance.

  73. truckied on

    Hi Jim,

    You *really* want to go and drive for someone else for a while before buying/building a truck. Really. Scout around and find a company that has a deal on training, and take them up on it.

    Trucking is not for everyone, and even more so being an owner/operator. Do yourself a favor and go get some experience first.

    Buying a truck for cash is a good plan. Doing your own work is also useful.

    While there may be a local outfit that runs short haul freight, you need to make sure you could even get on with them. Many places (due to insurance requirements) require a minimum of one to two years of experience before they’ll even talk to you.

    Come back and let us know how it goes.

    Drive Safely!

    td

  74. Jim Anderson on

    I went around to the driving school and had a long chat with one of the instructors. He was full of shyte mostly. I looked at a new truck or two. I heard words like cut-trout, aggressive, force you to do this, barely make a living etc. The truck salesman claimed no issues with his emissions equipment.

    I have two trades. I go work in the oilfields out west and make good money. In 3 1/2 months this year I grossed $75,000. They put me up in a camp all paid. I have concluded that I should stay with this. I have been doing it for say 25 years and am good at it. I wanted a change due to the people that are getting into these jobs. Not good workers, no skill, buy their trade tickets, the list goes on. But I’m the best worker they have or one of the best so that makes me golden in a way.

    Thank you for your great web site. Helped me a lot.


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