Monday, March 19, 2018

Shopping For A New Career

Truck shopping at the MATS.
Here's a piece I submitted last month for an online site.  Thought you all might be interested in the information.  I've split it into two parts for two reasons - one, I get an extra blog post out of it, and two, your eyes won't bleed from all the reading.  Enjoy!

10 Things To Know Before Starting A Trucking Company - A Primer
By Salena Lettera

Merriam-Webster defines PRIMER (in this usage, pronounced “primmer”) as a “small book for teaching children to read, a small introductory book on a subject, or a short informative piece of writing”.  This article falls under the last part of the definition - a short informative piece of writing to outline the most basic things to know before starting a trucking company.

When most people in our industry say they’re going to “start a trucking company”, they usually mean they want to become an owner-operator.  An owner-operator is just what it sounds like, a person who owns and operates the truck in their company.  It’s typically a one-man operation and that person is considered a self-employed trucking company owner.

As owner-operators driving a custom rig, my husband and I have often been on the receiving end of people asking us how they can get started in trucking and do what we do.  It’s not hard, but it’s not easy either.  There’s a lot of research involved and even more questions to ask – of others and yourself.

Since these questions usually come from company drivers wishing to strike out on their own, either by becoming an owner-operator or starting a company themselves to employ other drivers, they typically need to answer the same questions and be given the same general business start-up advice.  For the purpose of this piece, I’m going to assume the reader already possesses a commercial driver’s license (CDL).  If you do not have a CDL, you need to research the steps to do that.  Start here at the FMCSA’s page answering the question “How do I get a Commercial Driver’s License?”

As with any business, every topic you research will branch off in many directions, with more research needed to gather information and more questions rising up that will need answering.  Just keep going.  The more you know, the more prepared you will be.   The following is a brief list of questions to get answers to before thinking about starting a trucking business.

1.  First of all, what kind of freight do you want to haul?
Some drivers haul anything and everything that works with their trailer type, while others specialize and do the same freight on a regular run.  You will want to have an idea of what kind of freight you’ll be hauling before you go out and purchase equipment.  There are many trailer types to choose from – van, refrigerated, flatbed, RGN (removable gooseneck), step-deck, tanker, etc. – and which one you’ll use will be determined by the type of freight you expect to haul.  There are also many tractor types available, too, so you’ll want to narrow it down to the one that meets the specifications of your operation.

2.   Once you’ve determined the kind of freight you’ll be hauling, you will need to buy the equipment necessary to move that freight.
While in the process of determining your equipment needs, you’ll want to figure out where you’re going to operate because some trucks are better suited for long haul operations than others and because these trucks and trailers are not cheap, you’ll want to get something that will work initially, then take you into the future if you plan to branch out.  Equipment usually means a tractor and trailer.  Tractors can range from $30,000 for a used tractor to $250,000 for a custom sleeper truck.  Trailers can range from $10,000 to $120,000 depending on what kind of freight you’ll be hauling.

This is where you’ll be doing a bulk of your research. Go online, find some trucking forums, ask questions.  Go to truck stops if you can and talk to drivers you see hauling the kind of freight you’re interested in.  Stop by truck and trailer dealerships and find out what they’re offering and pick up spec sheets to become more knowledgeable.  And if you can, hit one of the major truck shows – the 
MATS or GATS are great places to start – where you’ll find the best gathering of all things related to the industry.  Trust me, you’ll leave with a goodie bag full of information!

3.   What business structure will you have?
The best business structure choice will depend on your personal situation.  Read through the definitions of the available legal business structures, then decide which one is best suited for your business needs.  The simplest, with the least amount of paperwork, is the sole proprietorship, but you will need to do your homework before deciding which works best. has a great article titled Determining The Best Legal Structure For Your Business to get you started.

4.   How will you handle maintenance and repairs?
Repairs can be one of the biggest money drains on your business.  It’s not difficult to blow through savings if you’re hit with a big repair.  Although your trailer may need an occasional repair, the big money repairs are usually done on the tractor.  Good maintenance is a must when you’re running the show and maintaining your equipment should be a priority.  It will cost you money, sure, but in the long run if you keep up with regular maintenance and take care of small issues before they become big, breakdowns and repairs come less frequently.  Truck stops across the nation offer shops to help you keep up along the way, but if you have a local shop you come to trust, even better.  If you’re mechanically inclined you can save a lot of money by doing your own maintenance and repair work.

See Part Two HERE.  

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2017: Just The Facts
2016: Blue And Crabby
2015: Drive Less, Make More
2014: While You Were Sleeping
2013: Between Brattleboro And Bennington
2012: Man At Work
2011: Under A Rock
2010: Practicing For Retirement
2009: Truckers Are So Sensitive
2008: Light Sweet Crude
2007: A Antiquing Conundrum
2006: How Can You Not Love This Face?
2005: Sorry, no post on this day. The blog didn’t start until May 2005!

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