I’ve been driving commercially for over ten years and have known trucking all my life as a second-generation truck driver. I’ve been a Company Driver, a Lease Purchase operator twice, and I’m a current Owner Operator of four years. One of the greatest things about driving is that every day is a new challenge in terms of both driving, and career choices. You may know where you’re going, but how you get there is up to you.
Company Driver – The Trucking Small Bet
The position of Company Driver provided the most structure and certainty. Simply get the load provided and go. At the end of the week, you knew how many miles you ran, and how much money you’d be taking home. There were infrequent breakdown or maintenance worries. And if you had to wait for a load, things would just fall into place with you and your dispatcher.
My advice to anyone looking to become a Company Driver is to do so with a company that offers things like newer equipment, accessorial pay, and weekly pay guarantees. Things such as these provide peace of mind in the realm of Company Driving.
Lease Purchase – Up the Ante
When I decided to take my career to the next level and enter a Lease Purchase Program, I received little guidance on what to expect. Things seemed easy at first. If you broke down, you had a maintenance escrow to fall back on. But, in the same regard, the missed loads and revenue was worrisome.
One of the biggest tricks I learned early on was relationship building within the industry. I found a shop close to my home and established good rapport with the shop and Mechanics. Firstly, they taught me things to look for in preventative maintenance to keep me moving. Then, if I did have a problem, I knew who to call and trust to get help. Was the help free? No, but it was worth it. Build relationships. Buy the whole shop lunch. Befriend that Mechanic. It can be as simple as getting to know what they like, and getting them a gift card to their favorite restaurant. Kindness and mutual understanding should always be customary but can also save you if you’re in an operational pinch. This practice is something I then carried over into becoming an Owner Operator.
Owner Operator – All In
Owner Operator and Lease Purchase programs are very similar. A Lease Purchase program is essentially the path you take to becoming an Owner Operator. In either role, the biggest obstacles you face are benefit and IRS tax compliance. Taking the next step in your career also means taking on more responsibility. If you don’t do your due diligence in finding the right tax service or accountant, you can quickly dig yourself into a seemingly unending hole.
As a Company Driver, you have a safety blanket that is automated tax withholdings and benefit deductions. This blanket ensures that you are always in compliance. But, as you further your entrepreneurial journey, that blanket shrinks to almost nothing. It can be intimidating initially, but having the right person providing guidance on which avenues to take can alleviate all the fear and stress. Don’t be afraid to seek and ask for help. Furthermore, after much research of my own, I found independent programs designed for Owner Operators to help create their own safety blanket. Much like that of Company Drivers.
The Trucking Trifecta Core Principles
No matter what you do in trucking, every day is a new journey. There will always be lessons to be learned and changes to adapt to. As an Owner Operator, you’ve reached the upper echelon of a career in trucking. But, at the end of the day, the keys to success for all three roles remain the same. Pursue a company that offers lucrative accessorial pay and pay guarantees. Build relationships with others in the industry. Whether it’s a maintenance tech or a dispatcher, build rapport and work in unison to foster career growth. And lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Seek not only knowledgeable individuals to help guide you, but also third-party programs designed to help new entrepreneurs. Follow these guiding principles and you will be another successful member of the trucking family.
“Failure is not an option.”