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How Do I Become an Owner-Operator Truck Driver?

By Jeremy Laukkonen
Updated Feb 17, 2024
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In order to become an owner-operator truck driver, you need a commercial driver's license (CDL), good business acumen, and either substantial savings or a strong credit history. If you are not already a commercial driver, the first step to become an owner-operator truck driver is to get licensed. After that, you may want to obtain some experience driving for another company. A lot of owner-operator work is over the road (OTR), so you might choose to work for a trucking company that offers that type of driving. The next step is to buy your own rig or lease one, at which point you can start hauling loads as an owner-operator.

To become an owner-operator truck driver, you first need to have a commercial driver's license. There are a lot of trucking schools that can teach you what you need to know, but you will typically have to pass written and practical exams provided by your local department of motor vehicles (DMV). A commercial endorsement is typically added to your regular license, at which point you can legally drive large vehicles for commercial operations.

An important step on the way to become an owner-operator truck driver is to obtain experience. The best way to do this can be to go to work for an existing company that drives the sort of freight you want to haul with your own truck. If you plan on making long OTR hauls, you should get experience with a long distance trucking company. The amount of experience you obtain in this way is up to you, but you should be very comfortable handling your rig and navigating the roads before you take the next step.

Purchasing your own rig is typically the next logical step to become an owner-operator truck driver. You may want to do a lot of research at this step, since these vehicles can be very expensive. The price of the rig typically needs to be weighed against factors such as fuel economy and maintenance costs, since you can be responsible for all of these expenses as an owner-operator. If you have saved up enough money you can buy a rig outright, but you can also obtain a bank loan or lease a rig.

Once you have your own rig, the last step is find cargo to haul. The two different options that are typically available consist of contracting with a specific carrier or going fully independent. Each of these options can provide benefits, so you will typically need to make your choice based on what exactly you are looking for. Working with a carrier can provide you with regularly guaranteed jobs, but going independent can provide you with a greater deal of freedom as to what you haul and when you do it.

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Discussion Comments
By Drentel — On Jul 22, 2014

I had three uncles who held truck driver jobs. I thought driving would be fun. Two of my uncles drove cross country, and that seemed exciting to me since I didn't get to travel much when I was a kid. When I got old enough, my mama let me ride with them sometimes. The first few trips were great, but after a while I realized that the job wasn't all fun.

That's when I decided that driving the big rigs was not something I wanted to do for a living.

By Feryll — On Jul 21, 2014

My brother-in-law has been an owner operator for several years and he works with other carriers as well as getting other jobs for himself. This is the perfect job for him because he like being on the road and he likes driving and seeing different places.

Of course, he says there are some bad things about owning his own trucks. For one thing, keeping them running and keeping tires on them can be costly. Also, when the price of fuel went up his profit margin took a big hit. Owner operator truck drivers can make more money, but getting started can be tough, and a lot of drivers would rather drive for a company and just collect a paycheck. This way there is less financial risk.

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