Working as a CDL owner operator is the dream for many truck drivers – the independence, more significant profit margin, and freedom to hit the road are big draws.
Whether you’re a seasoned trucker or new to the industry, you might wonder what it takes to become a CDL owner-operator or whether it’s even worth trying.
In this article, we’ll be laying out the details, including:
- The difference between a company driver and a CDL owner operator
- What it takes to get set up as an owner-operator in 2022
- The pros and cons of working as an owner operator
- How to get the info you need to get started
What is a CDL owner-operator?
There are two main setups for working as a truck driver in the United States: working as a company driver and working as an owner-operator.
Company drivers typically drive a truck provided by the company they work for and deliver loads as assigned by that same company.
Driving for a company means you won’t be responsible for finding or booking your loads, managing books, or maintaining the vehicle you drive. In addition, the company will usually pay for all vehicle insurance, maintenance costs, and fuel.
However, you may have forced dispatch, less time off, and less freedom over your routes, loads, and work.
Unlike company drivers, owner-operators lease or own their vehicles.
Owner-operators can pick the loads they accept and haul, set up their truck to their standards and preferences, and work the hours they choose.
This freedom and the potential to earn considerably more money is one of the characteristics of the owner-operator setup that’s so attractive.
Owner-operators are responsible for their own vehicle, its fuel and maintenance costs, and the tasks associated with running their own business – such as book-keeping, route planning, invoicing, and more.
How to get started as a CDL owner operator
To get started as a CDL owner-operator, you’ll need to ensure you have the appropriate setup and have completed all the required paperwork.
Depending on whether you’re already working as a truck driver or have purchased your vehicle, you may be able to skip some of the following steps.
Before you start officially working as an owner-operator, you’ll need to:
- Make sure you have an active commercial driver’s license (CDL)
- Apply to register your new business and pay the registration fee
- Claim your IRS federal tax identification number on the IRS website
- Apply for your USDOT number with the FMCSA
- Apply for your MC (motor carrier) number (AKA your “trucking number”)
- Purchase a truck and truck insurance
- Fit your truck with an electronic logging device (ELD)
- Create a business plan
- Keep records of all the paperwork associated with this list
In addition to the practical requirements that you’ll need to succeed as an owner-operator, you’ll also benefit from having the following skills:
- Experience driving commercial vehicles
- A safe and clean driving record
- Sound knowledge of road regulations
- Navigation and map-reading skills
- Excellent time management
- Basic mechanical knowledge (for keeping your vehicle running smoothly on the road)
- The ability to concentrate for extended periods on a repetitive task
- The passion and drive to succeed in a booming industry
CDL owner operator pros and cons
Not sure whether working as a CDL owner operator is for you?
Take a look at the benefits and drawbacks to the owner-operator pathway below:
- Freedom: As an owner-operator, you’re in charge of your schedule. Choose the loads you want, and leave those you don’t.
- No limit to what you earn: Working as an owner-operator allows you to be in control of your salary and accept as much work as you feel able to.
- Keep more of what you earn: Unlike company drivers who are often paid per mile or per-load, as an owner-operator, you can keep the majority of the delivery rate – while also benefiting from business-related tax deductions.
- Cost: Getting set up as an owner-operator can be prohibitively expensive, requiring a large amount of money up-front and an excellent credit history.
- Responsibility: Working as an owner-operator requires you to keep your own books, maintain your vehicle, and be responsible for your reputation in the industry – if this isn’t appealing, then working as a company truck driver might suit you better!
Only you can figure out whether working as an owner-operator is the right logistics path for you or whether you might prefer to work as a company driver – or in another logistics role altogether!
Whatever you decide, there’s a career for you at Jansson.
Join the team at Jansson as an owner-operator today!
If you have your vehicle (or are planning to soon) and are looking to kickstart your owner-operator career, then Jansson is waiting to hear from you.
An independent agent of the Fortune 500 logistics company Landstar, Jansson has been in the business for over a decade.
Partnering with Landstar allows us to offer incredible benefits to our owner-operators. With 24/7 access to thousands of loads on Landstar’s load board and absolutely no forced dispatch, our owner-operators have the freedom to take to the road as much – or as little – as they choose.
Our experienced and dedicated team is on hand to help you make your owner-operator dreams a reality – from training and back office support to the expertise of our experienced team.
To find out more about how Jansson supports our CDL owner-operators or to put in an application, reach out to Jansson today!