April 26, 2022
8 Resources to Help Get Your Trucking Business Off the Ground
New owner-operators have a lot on their plate. Securing a truck, a job and all the necessary compliance paperwork to get started can quickly get out of hand if you don’t stay organized.
Here at Motor Carrier HQ, we know all about what it’s like to build something from the ground up. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of our best resources to help other owner-operators prepare for the road ahead.
1. Start Here: Everything You Need to Know Before You Start Your Company
Being with an established trucking company has its perks, but so does operating independently by setting up your very own business. Organizing a business from scratch and taking on your own loads with your own equipment can seem like a daunting task at the start, so we’ve compiled a guide to walk you through each essential step of building your company.
Our guide includes keys to getting licensed and registered, the pros and cons of buying versus leasing trucks and equipment, methods of locating loads when you’re just starting out, and information on how to get your own operating authority.
Operating authority, also known as motor carrier authority or trucking authority, is a crucial piece of the puzzle for anyone who plans to get paid for moving freight. Issued through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), operating authority is the federal requirement signifying who is allowed to ship cargo and what category of cargo they are authorized to ship.
Depending on the nature of jobs you take on, you may require multiple operating authorities. This guide will address how to determine which authorities you need to acquire and what paperwork you will need to file accordingly. Following this guide will help ensure you don’t have any nasty surprises during your first days as an owner-operator and that all of your paperwork and physical equipment is ready to roll.
2. Make Sure You and Your Partner’s Goals Are Aligned with a Quick Questionnaire
A partnership can make or break a young business, which is why it pays to do a little critical research into a potential business partner before committing to anything long-term.
Going into business with a best friend or family member can be a joyful experience, but close relationships can often make it difficult to objectively determine whether or not they’ll make a lousy business partner. Our questionnaire worksheet is designed to gauge whether a partnership’s values and vision are aligned and if each party’s strengths are conducive to success. You can download this partnership questionnaire for free online and use it to objectively evaluate all future potential business partners.
3. Calculate Your Start-Up Costs
You probably don’t want to dive into owner-operatorship without first checking you have sufficient funds to get off the ground and that all your finances are in order.
Starting a business is an investment. Our start-up cost calculator outlines each of the major expenses you can expect to shoulder before you can get started moving freight. Down payments for equipment, insurance costs, and all kinds of registration fees can add up quickly, and, if you aren’t carefully tracking all of these expenses in one place, they can be easily overlooked.
4. Keep Track of Your Cost-Per-Mile
While we’re on the subject of useful calculators, we have another one you’ll want to check out regularly: the cost-per-mile calculator.
Cost-per-mile is the most telling metric you can track to measure the health and trajectory of your business. Our calculator lets you plug in your miles driven and the average cost of fuel, as well as several monthly and annual overhead items that can easily get lost in the mix but remain a critical part of the equation.
5. Buy the Right Truck by Utilizing This Spreadsheet
Keeping with the theme of helpful downloads available through Motor Carrier HQ’s resource library, we’ve drawn up a very handy downloadable spreadsheet to help you easily keep tabs on and compare available trucks before you buy.
Purchasing the right truck at the very beginning of your owner-operator journey carries a major impact on your young company’s bottom line. This decision includes more than simply comparing mileage and purchase prices. You’ll want to look at many different factors and lots of trucks before making a final decision. Keeping track of the pros and cons of each truck in an organized spreadsheet will help you be able to quickly identify the best possible option.
In addition to the blank spreadsheet download, here are some pro tips from the Motor HQ team to consider when purchasing a truck for your business:
- Be thorough. Look at and compare lots of trucks.
- Have a system in place to compare each truck.
- Be patient — don’t rush and buy the first truck you see.
- When you get serious about a truck, learn everything you can about its history. Know who owned it, what their maintenance program was, if it was governed, etc.
- Have an independent mechanic look it over and have a dyno done on it.
6. Keep Your Compliance Docs in One Place
If you’ve been in the trucking game for any amount of time, you’re likely aware of the many regulations and compliance rules governing the industry at the federal level. Shipping cargo involves a lot of moving parts, which means keeping large amounts of paperwork and other necessary qualifications on file where they can be easily accessed if needed. Stay organized with our DOT compliance checklist so your documentation is always up to date and your business prepared for any sudden audits.
7. Download a List of Brokers for New Authorities
We know one of the biggest challenges for any trucking company with a brand new motor carrier authority is finding loads. Most new trucking authorities use brokers to find their loads or to find backhauls, but not all brokers are willing to aid upstart trucking companies in securing loads right out of the gate.
Different brokers will have varying policies on who they can and can’t partner with. This is among the more challenging aspects of being a new player in the owner-operator business — so much so that we dedicated an entire episode of our Haulin Assets podcast to discussing the topic.
However, there are some brokers who look at young companies as valuable partnerships. These brokers (and their company policies) change frequently, but they can act as a nice starting point for those new to the industry. We’ve compiled a list of such brokers here as a freely-downloadable document.
8. Learn from the Pros and See the Process from Start to Finish in Our Podcast, “Haulin Assets”
Our “Haulin Assets” podcast features Chris Vernon, owner of Motor Carrier HQ, and looks back on his journey that began over 3 years ago of starting a one-man trucking company that has since grown into a profitable 5-truck business. Chris documented the entire process from start to finish in order to help others who may be thinking about becoming an owner-operator gain a better understanding of what exactly the process requires.
You can start listening to Chris’ journey here. Be sure to check out the financial episodes to get a glimpse of what a typical month’s expenses and total revenue could look like!