Should You Become an Independent Contractor – Owner Operator or Not?
The dream of many truckers is to one day own their own truck. Maybe that’s your dream too?
But before your dream becomes your nightmare there are a few things you really need to know before you make that decision.
The first is that not all owner-operators are the same – not by a country mile and then some. The term “Owner Operator” is used very loosely and in a variety of ways and means different things depending on all kinds of factors. Trucking companies know this and they know the psychological triggers of drivers who desperately want to be owner operators too.
That leads many down the WRONG path and into no-win situations where they make far less than company drivers while doing more work!
Some trucking companies have fair programs – but most do not. Most Independent Contractor programs give the illusion of ownership but not the reality of it.
Here are a few key things to consider;
1. Can you choose your own loads from a load board or are they assigned to you?
2. Do you handle your own loads or do you have a dispatcher/driver manager of some kind – regardless of the cute title bestowed upon said person by the carrier?
3. Is the title of the truck that you “Own” solely in the name of the motor carrier or does it have your name on the title?
4. Can you leave that trucking company and take the truck to another carrier – or must you remain only with that carrier until “Your Truck” is paid for?
5.Are you paid a percentage of the load revenue – or are you paid by the mile?
6. Do you have access to the actual load data (the amount the carrier billed the shipper/customer) or not?
7. Is your truck governed and controlled like a company truck?
8. Is your truck payment more than $2000 per month?
I could go on and on – but this is enough to get a good idea of what your status really is. Probably you are a glorified company driver in an owner operator costume that the motor carrier loaned you for crazy money.
Most IC’s are NOT true owner operators – and most are not even close. All they have is a title, and that title comes at a huge price and a crapload of liability along with it. Liability the carrier shifted from themselves to their unfortunate IC’s.
Know the Truth about Your Owner Operator Program
If you want to live in denial – then stop reading my words, and leave the site and never come back – and never go to any of my other sites, courses, books, videos, etc. either – that is if you do not want to hear the truth.
On the other hand – if you DO want to know the truth – as hard and cold and unpleasant at times as it may be – then stick around and stick with me and I will do my best to help you get a real clear picture of trucking as it really is.
That way you can make better and more well informed decisions of your own.
What decisions you make will be your own – but the idea is that the better you really understand what you are getting yourself into – the more prepared you will be to make better decisions and hopefully achieve the success you are after instead of just getting a very expensive (and painful) lesson in what not to do by having to find out the hard way.
Let’s look at some cold reality.
Most IC’s pay roughly FOUR TIMES as much per month for their trucks as they would if they went and got a decent truck loan from even a decent commercial equipment lender. Let me put that into perspective – let’s say you are in an IC program and paying $1000 per WEEK for “YOUR” truck payment to the carrier (or their shill company).
If you went out and actually got a real loan and then went and purchased the truck from the seller – it would be about $1000 PER MONTH.
$1000 per month VS $4000 per month.
See the difference there? it is HUGE!
Here is an example using a typical online payment calculator;
Payment Calculator Results
Loan Amount $40000
Financing Period 60 (Months)
The total length of your loan term in months. Example: 5 years is 60 months.
Approximate monthly payment: $ 849
Compare that same truck (in this case a 2015 Freightliner Cascadia) which was available by the same company as an IC lease purchase truck – for $1100 PER WEEK!
That is F…ing I N S A N E!
By the way, I did look at it, and I did really think about it – for about a minute or two before I came back to my senses. Those numbers are real numbers on the SAME year and make of truck with the SAME company!
Believe it or not, the company is overall a good company – though I would not touch that program with a 50-foot stick – or a 53-foot trailer either.
That of course is my opinion, and no way in hell am I ever going to sign up for such a program with any motor carrier. Yet other people do, and they do it by the thousands each and every year. That is one expensive way to get to call yourself an owner operator! Enjoy that title, because you are certainly paying a premium price for it.
So why do people do this? Because of emotional decision making mainly and desperation.
Many people going into such programs are unable (or at least they think they are unable) to get their own financing due to a variety of reasons. It may be bad credit, not enough good credit, no down payment, or not enough of a down payment.
Some just do not realize there are other options or know how to get them.
Many drivers are SOLD the idea of an IC program being a great opportunity for them as they go through orientation at a company they may have originally started the hiring process for a company driving job at. Somewhere in the process of orientation – the carriers IC people come in to make them a great offer to switch to Owner Operator immediately instead of finishing the hiring process as company drivers.
So be very wary of any such offer they may make you.
Is There Anyway to Win With an Independent Contractor Owner Operator Program?
Yes – you can win with some, including the one mentioned, but it will cost you big time.
The first way is that you are going to have to RUN and you must keep that revenue coming in (and many carriers are counting on that motivation!) whether you like it or not. That means you will feel under the gun, under pressure, and compelled to take whatever loads you can get and get them fast so you don’t lose your truck. Otherwise, you will begin falling behind on your payments fast.
So if you can live in the truck, seldom go home and run run run and run some more it might work. Maybe. Even then you are better if you have little to no other bills (no house payment/rent, car payments, credit card bills, utility bills, etc.). If you have no such responsibilities then you can generate enough revenue to build up your reserve funds first, then start saving up more to pay off the truck sooner than its term.
If you can do all that – then why not just work harder and smarter as a company driver first and save up your money and if necessary build-up commercial/business credit and buy your own truck through your own lender when you are really ready?
Or just keep saving and pay cash – which would be even better.
My best advice for you is to skip that Independent Contractor Owner Operator Program for now – and start out as a company driver, see how the company is, how they treat you, what the freight, the pay, and the hometime is like. Then educate yourself about becoming an owner operator first before you leap.
Even then, you need to carefully weigh all the things I told you about (and many more too!) before you sign up for a program that will make you the biggest loser in every imaginable way – except I guess, you will get that magic title – Owner Operator.