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What is an Independent Truck Driver?

By D. Jeffress
Updated Feb 20, 2024
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An independent truck driver is a self-employed contractor who offers shipping and delivery services. Most drivers own their own trucks, such as tractor-trailers, dump trucks, or cargo vans. An independent truck driver might specialize in transporting goods within a local, regional, or even national geographic area. Distribution companies and manufacturing firms that do not staff their own truck drivers often seek the services of independent drivers with strong resumes and records of exceptional service.

Most truck drivers who offer local delivery services work during normal business hours, though some operate primarily on weekends or early mornings. They pick up shipments at distribution plants and take careful inventories to make sure that all goods are accounted for and placed in the truck. Upon arrival at a destination, the truck driver will present the inventory sheet to the receiver to ensure the timeliness, quality, and accuracy of the shipment.

An independent truck driver who travels long distances might be away from home for considerable stretches of time. It is common for a driver to be on the road for weeks at a time. Some clients offer to compensate for motel rooms, gas, and related expenses, though the majority of independent truck drivers must absorb such costs themselves. Professionals are responsible for maintaining their vehicles and ensuring that shipments consistently arrive on time.

It is important for an independent truck driver to understand the principles of business management and advertising in order to ensure a steady work schedule. Professionals keep careful records of their dealings with suppliers and distributors so that they can ensure payment and defend against legal claims. Many drivers advertise their services by posting their resumes on Internet forums and taking out advertisements in newspapers and publications. Word-of-mouth can be very helpful in finding new clients, as businesses who have established good relationships with a driver can recommend him or her to other company officials.

A person who wants to become an independent truck driver must first determine the type of services he or she wants to provide. Those who plan on operating semi trucks or other large vehicles must obtain commercial driver's licenses by completing driver training at an accredited school and passing written and practical driving tests. After obtaining licenses, most independent drivers buy or lease their own trucks. Obtaining a truck can be an expensive investment, and it often takes many years of work to compensate for the purchase. A reliable driver, however, who gains years of experience and builds strong business relationships is usually able to establish a very profitable business.

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Discussion Comments
By anon926962 — On Jan 21, 2014

I live in Kenai, AK. I need/want to move to Alanson, MI. I am trying to find an independent contractor that would be interested in moving my household goods. It would be a full semi truck load. I was looking at 40' containers like they ship on the barge. I could ship the goods on the barge from Anchorage to Tacoma and then the container could be picked up at the barge. Can anyone give me more information?

By Valencia — On May 06, 2011

@angelBraids - I am going to guess that a lot of female truck drivers go the solo route. It sounds like the kind of job you could get into and use skills you got from running a house and organising a family.

I deal with insurance cover and we have several requests a week from independent contractor truck drivers. They really need a good policy, to make sure they don't go under if there's any kind of accident.

By angelBraids — On May 05, 2011

My neighbor got into truck driving when she was in her early 40s. She works as an owner operator now and loves the lifestyle. I imagine it is a pretty tough job for women, with this traditionally being a male dominated kind of work.

She always has plenty of great stories to tell though. I think she should write a book about it!

By Acracadabra — On May 04, 2011

If you are thinking of being an independent contractor versus an employee I recommend you check out some of the truck driver forums online.

They contain lots of great information about things like road tolls, as well as both good and bad independent truck driver jobs that are being advertised.

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