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Switching From Company Driver to Owner-Operator


By: Steve Irick

You’ve been driving for several years and are thinking about buying a truck and running your own business as an independent owner/operator. Making better money at what you are already doing is an attractive idea, but before you release your brakes and get rolling, it’s important to seriously consider what you are getting into.

Maybe you’ve got an opportunity to buy a nice-looking rig, and a guy you know is offering you a job pulling freight for him, but how do you get your authority and make it a full-fledged business?

Authority is basically having license from the government to drive as a commercial enterprise and that’s what you need to become an independent owner/operator.

Before you start the paperwork, though, take the time to do a few preliminary steps. Getting your Authority is a complicated process requiring a substantial investment of time and money.  Most importantly, you’ll not only be operating your own rig, but running a business and that means paperwork, regulations and taxes.

There’s always a risk involved with setting up your own shop. According the U.S. Small Business Administration, less than half of all start-up companies make it through their first five years. This statistic holds especially true in the trucking industry. Every successful business has both a start up plan and an exit strategy, so discuss your intentions with a business law attorney and a CPA so you can set up your company properly.

Many drivers start out driving under someone else’s authority, which provides the opportunity to learn more about what it takes to operate independently before making a complete commitment. But however you do it; once you’re ready to apply for your Authority you should know there are three ways to accomplish the process.

– The Federal Motor Carriers Administration (FMCA) has an application site and instructions to get you going. However, without a complete understanding of the entire process; you can make mistakes that could set you back. Also, consider that after completion, you’ll still need a broker to find your loads.

-Many companies offer to help get your Authority, but remember, they’re in it for themselves too. You’ll pay for the service, but there is less hassle and headache. Usually, as part of the service they’ll help get you work. It’s a complete package, but there is the possibility you can wind up in a commitment you are not comfortable with.

-Probably the best way to get your authority is through the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA). OOIDA is an organization representing professional truckers. They have a network that can assist with more than just applying for your Authority and locating work. Basic information about how to get your authority is available for free, and for a small fee you can join the organization and have access to a wealth of other resources.




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