As a company driver, you know that you have the education and the skills to get the job done, but being an Owner Operator is a whole new ballgame. Before you set your sights on purchasing your own truck, you should undergo a personal assessment that honestly looks at and considers your personality, work ethics and habits. We use the word honest here because how you examine the following points will have a lot to do with your success or failure as an Owner Operator. Your answers should be firm, ‘yes’ or ‘no’ not ‘I could’ because if you don’t currently have the right attitude, ethics, and habits, human nature suggests that you won’t develop them under the pressures of being an Owner Operator.
What is your driving preference?
With this question, you must examine how hard you like to run. Do you prefer to maximize your available hours so you can run as many hours as possible, or are you a bit of a slacker, getting to your destination on time, but taking your time to get there?
If you are not currently running as hard as you can, maxing out at 11,000 to 12,000 miles per month, are you prepared to? Anything less than this and you may as well stay a company driver; you’ll make more money and have far fewer headaches to deal with.
What is your Hometime preference?
With this question, you need to examine your hometime habits. While hometime is essential for every driver and Owner Operator alike, there are differences in the ability to take hometime and the necessity to pay the bills. While Owner Operators do make more per mile, they also have the added business expenses to take care of. If you are the type of driver that prefers time off, regardless of what that time off might mean to your take-home pay, you may be better off staying on the company payroll.
Is Your Family Prepared for the Change?
If you’re a lone wolf and plan to stay that way, then you don’t have to consider your families investment into the Owner Operator lifestyle. However, if you do have a family, or are planning on having a family, there are definitely things to consider.
You need to think about what is important to you and to your family because you will need their support. Being a long haul truck driver is tough on everyone involved, being an Owner Operator adds a new degree of stress. In our first point, we discussed driving 11,000 to 12,000 miles per month because that is what Owner Operators need to do. If you are currently running less than 11,000 miles per month, you are going to have to step up your game, and that will mean more time away from home.
Not all families are the same, and neither are the relationships we have. Long periods of separation can be destructive on either side of the company driver/Owner Operator fence; spouses, children, and drivers are affected equally. As a company driver, you can afford to take some additional time in, so long as your financial commitments are met, a task that is more difficult for Owner Operators who have personal expenses and truck operational costs to meet.
Another thing to consider is how becoming an Owner Operator plays into separation and divorce where shared custody of children is set. Is your ex-spouse willing to work with you and the schedule demands that Owner Operators have or will this be the last nail in your coffin?
There are many more things to think about before signing a lease on your first truck, but we’ll get to those in a later post. For now, focus on just these three questions. If you find resistance to them, you may not be ready to take on the responsibilities of becoming an Owner Operator. If, after consideration, you find that you have favourable answers to these questions, then it may be time to start moving forward with your career in the trucking industry by owning your own truck.