If you have been driving for any length of time this is a question that has most likely crossed your mind. Is it best to be a company driver or an owner operator? The obvious difference is what attracts the professional drivers from all walks of life. To be beholden to “The Man”, or run the roads as the man in charge of it all. I thought I would take a few minutes to weigh in on this topic to try and give some perspective.
Lets start with the Owner operator, or O/O. This title is typically reserved for an individual that owns and operates a commercial vehicle independently from corporate over site. Essentially a private contractor. In this situation the O/O is ultimately responsible for all aspects of his/hers trucking business.
- The formation of the business. The O/O must file all of the proper documentation to legally form the business. This would include items such as corporate filings, operating authority, business insurance, and financial requirements such as credit & banking accounts.
- The O/O is responsible for acquiring the commercial vehicle(s) needed to perform the day to day operations of the business.
- The O/O needs to look for, and maintain solid business relationships with customers to provide a steady financial stream for the business.
- The O/O is responsible for all payroll, income, and tax liabilities for both business & personal.
This is just a quick peek at some of the things that may be required of an Owner Operator. There are many more subcategories that accompany these points that would take up a lot of time. In fact there quite a few books published specifically on this subject that go into greater depth.
Now lets compare this to a Company Driver. The company driver may be an employee of a small business or a larger corporation. The responsibilities are relatively the same,
- Provide the employer with a valid commercial drivers license.
- Have the ability to perform the tasks needed by the company.
- Show up for work and perform the scheduled tasks.
- Try to maintain a safe working performance.
- Maintain a good standing drivers record and health card.
- Maintain a good standing CSA score. (A score that is given by the FMSCA as an indicator to employers and insurance companies related to safety and violations)
The requirements of the company driver also applies to the owner operator. As he/she is essentially is an employee unto themselves. Therefore the owner operator is responsible for both business performance and personal performance.
So let me to try to sum this up in my own opinion.
I feel that a driver that has less than 3 years of continuous service over the road should strongly consider the company driver position. The reasons are simple. You will have had the time to see what the professional driver does while in the field. It will give you a better understanding as to how the industry works. You may have the luxury of learning about the business while being paid at the same time. Additionally it may be possible to save the money needed to buy the vehicle that you’ll need for your own venture. Another point would be that you would be able to make valuable business contacts that you may not typically have access. Contacts that your employers have worked on for years to cultivate.
After you’ve put 3 or more years in and you’ve made some contacts you may consider the owner operator scenario. Armed with experience you may reduce the uncertainty of the industry. You’ll be in a much stronger position to tackle starting your own business.
I hope this post has helped you. The trucking industry is a tough one to navigate sometimes. However it is ever growing, and strong with lots of potential.
Best of Luck!