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July 17, 2019

How Much Does It Cost to Start a Trucking Company?

Man working with a calculator.
“How much does it cost to start a trucking company?” is one of the first things you need to ask yourself if you are thinking about making the move from company driver to owner operator. We are going to help you answer that question by giving you the actual numbers from the trucking company we started.

We give a full explanation in our podcast, Haulin Assets. if you’re not listening to it, you need to start. You’ll get a front-row seat into the entire process of starting a trucking company and running it for the first year. The podcast will show you the system we used so you can learn and follow that same system and start your own company.

Now, let’s answer the question.

Does It Cost the Same for Everyone?

The simple answer is no. There are many factors that will affect how much it will cost you to get going. Here are some of the biggest reasons the costs are different from person to person.

  • How long you have been driving a truck
  • How much equipment you already have
  • What state you are in
  • How old you are

What Are the Costs?

Here is a comprehensive list of everything you will need to get your trucking company up and going along with a little explanation about each. Don’t worry, in the next section we’ll show the penny costs.

The Truck

Every trucking company needs to have trucks. The down payment is what we are including in the startup costs and that will vary. Most people will have to put down between 10-20% to buy a truck.

There are a lot of people who start out being a leased owner operator, so they already have a truck when they start their own trucking company and go the independent route. In that situation, they save the down payment since they already have a truck.

The Trailer

Much like the truck, the trailer down payment varies, usually between 10-20%.

Your First Tank of Fuel

You need a full tank before you head out on your first load. Or do you? Listen to the podcast for a couple ways you can get some help with this, so you don’t have to include it as a startup cost if you are super tight on cash.

Professional Services

Most of these costs include some of the legal and compliance costs you will pay to get started.  Here are some of the most common.

IRP Fees (Plates for Your Truck)

This one really varies from state to state. No matter where you are, you will have to get commercial truck or apportioned plates. Registration fees for commercial trucks are much higher than they are for your personal auto.

Insurance Down Payment

This is another big one. Plan on at least $3,000. Start talking to insurance agents as soon as you have applied for your MC and USDOT Numbers.

Workers’ Compensation or Occupational Accident Insurance

Most owner operators will get occupational accident insurance instead of workers’ compensation insurance because it is cheaper. If you go that route, you’ll probably also have to complete a workers’ compensation insurance waiver. There are a few states that don’t allow occupational accident insurance. Either way, you usually only have to pay the first month’s premium to get started.

Cell Phone

If you already have an adequate cell phone and plan, you won’t have to pay anything here. Lucky you!

Tablet

Most Electronic Logging Device (ELD) systems that smaller trucking companies use require a cell phone or a tablet. If you don’t want to use your cell phone to manage your logs, you’ll have to get a tablet.

Miscellaneous Tools and Equipment

This category includes everything from a broom to your tire gauge. Every good owner operator carries a good set of tools so they can save money by doing minor repairs themselves instead of paying a shop. Don’t forget a reflective vest for those shippers that require one before they will allow you on their property.

Graphics for Your Truck

This company is your baby and you should have chosen a name you’re proud of. You should display it loud and proud on the side of your truck. Plus, I am a firm believer that the more professional your truck looks, the less likely you are to get pulled into a port for a level 1 inspection.

Pre-pass

This is a great service that I think pays for itself in time and fuel savings. I think you’re crazy not to get it.

ELD

Unless your truck engine is older than 2000, you have to get an ELD. There are a lot of good, fairly inexpensive solutions out there.

GPS

You may want to consider buying a GPS that is made for commercial trucks. They route you away from restricted areas and have all the truck stops, parking areas, and trucker-friendly locations programmed into them. There are apps for that, too.

How Much Are the Costs?

Here we are going to show two scenarios: a best-case scenario and what I actually paid. Take a look at the image below. The column on the left shows the best case and the column on the right shows what I actually paid when I started Haulin Assets. I think what I paid is on the high end, and I go into more details about why that is on the podcast. Take a listen.

Graph comparing the best-case scenario startup costs vs. the actual cost to start a trucking company.

What About Your Costs?

We have created a startup cost calculator that you can use for free to calculate your costs. Once you start talking to truck dealerships, insurance agents, one of our coaches, etc., you’ll start to get a clearer picture of what each of the individual costs will be.

You can plug those numbers into the calculator to get a general idea of what the total amount will be. If you aren’t sure what one of the individual costs should be, you can use our suggestion that is the default in the calculator, or you can estimate it yourself.

How Do I Pay for It All?

Our next podcast episode will cover just this topic. We’ll launch the episode next week along with another page on our website that will give more details, so check back in a bit for some answers to that question.

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