Owner Operator Vs Company Driver – Which one is right for you?

So, you’re looking into trucking as a career, or maybe you’re in trucking but would like to change it up. Either way, dive into the pros and cons of becoming an owner operator or a company driver to learn what could be best for you.

The Differences

Both are essentially the same job when it comes to skill set, right? Not quite. While the basic requirements may be identical, there is a lot between the two positions that distinguish them from one another.

A company driver is straight forward in that the driver works/drives for the company and represents it. They drive and operate the company’s equipment while the only responsibilities the driver has is the get the load from point a to point b safely, legally, and timely.

An owner operator, in most cases, operates their own equipment and has a say in where, when and how they decide to run. That being said, they fall under a lot more responsibilities than a company driver. They are financially responsible for their own fuel, insurance, equipment upkeep and repairs. There are technically three types of owner-operators; Lease Operators (leasing the truck from the company), Lease Purchase (lease-to-own your truck while contracted to the company), and self employed independent contractors (you purchase everything outright and contract for individual loads). Every driver chooses differently based on their owns need, which we go into below.

Is one better than the other?

There is no real answer to this as it all depends on your priorities, experience, and goals. For example, an owner operator has more control over their schedule while a company driver is committed to whatever loads the company needs them to run. Do you need to be home more and have more control over your schedule? Do you need steady income and a more predictable schedule? These are all questions to ask when trying to pick one over the other.

Starting with Owner Operators, one hidden skill that needs to be fine-tuned is the organization of your finances. Most drivers out that that have found success running their own authority will tell you the key to bring you success is making sure you are on top of your budget and know your finances inside and out. Guessing, rounding and overestimating your revenue and expenses can be detrimental to even the most seasoned driver. An owner operator has to keep the cost of running their business top of mind while remaining revenue driven. It’s no secret that the cost of maintenance and repairs can eat up your profits so it’s critical to plan ahead and be strategic in what loads you decide to commit to. If you are experienced in running your own business and have a knack for finances, becoming an owner operator may be something that could come easily to you.

If you’re looking for more predictability and guaranteed income, company driving will be the better route. You may stay on the road longer being a company driver, but you will not have to worry about paying for your equipment or repairs that you may incur. If choosing this route, it’s important to know that you won’t have as much control over your schedule and the pay may be a bit lower depending on how the company chooses to pay you (by the mile or a daily flat rate). Typically, if you are a newer driver, it’s best to start out as a company driver. Some companies have lease options that could get your feet wet in the owner operator world without fully committing to your own authority.

In short…

Evaluate your current situation and determine what your priorities are. If you are getting into trucking or have been in trucking with the goal of becoming a business owner, owner operator may be the route. If you are new to the game and need to get some miles under your belt quickly, you’re bound to get the experience you need as a company driver. Which ever you choose, take the time to think about it and research each one and what to expect.

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