• ITVI.USA
    11,011.270
    -13.690
    -0.1%
  • OTRI.USA
    5.290
    0.000
    0%
  • OTVI.USA
    10,996.280
    -11.930
    -0.1%
  • TLT.USA
    2.570
    0.040
    1.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    2.020
    0.120
    6.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    1.590
    0.110
    7.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.380
    -0.030
    -2.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    1.930
    0.070
    3.8%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    1.140
    0.040
    3.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    2.390
    0.030
    1.3%
  • WAIT.USA
    120.000
    -19.000
    -13.7%
  • ITVI.USA
    11,011.270
    -13.690
    -0.1%
  • OTRI.USA
    5.290
    0.000
    0%
  • OTVI.USA
    10,996.280
    -11.930
    -0.1%
  • TLT.USA
    2.570
    0.040
    1.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    2.020
    0.120
    6.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    1.590
    0.110
    7.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.380
    -0.030
    -2.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    1.930
    0.070
    3.8%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    1.140
    0.040
    3.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    2.390
    0.030
    1.3%
  • WAIT.USA
    120.000
    -19.000
    -13.7%
AskWavesBusinessDriver issuesNewsStartupsTrucking

Seven options for starting your own trucking business

The trucking industry is vital to the American economy. Whether you have been in the business for years or are looking to get into it, owning a transport company is a tantalizing prospect. With trucks delivering 70% of all cargo in the U.S., there’s a significant potential for profit in becoming a business owner.

There are more than 800,000 professional truckers in America, shipping $700 billion in goods. The rise of e-commerce means more companies will be looking to deliver their products, so the demand for trucking will likely continue to grow. It may be an excellent time to get into the industry.

There are several choices you can make when considering how to start a trucking business. Here are seven of them.

Glider trucks save costs for owner operators. (Photo credit: Fitzgerald)

1. Sole proprietorship

There are a few different ways you can structure your company. The least complicated is a sole proprietorship. In this option, a single person owns and operates the entire company, as well as accepts all its legal responsibilities.

Instead of filing the company’s taxes as a business, the proprietor includes them in his/her own tax return. Sole proprietorships are relatively straightforward, so you can set them up and register them without much complication.

The disadvantages of a sole proprietorship lie in liabilities. If you are the sole proprietor, you have to accept any liability personally. If a person or company takes legal action against your company, defending yourself will come out of your own pocket.

2. Partnership

If you are starting your business with one or more other people, you can register it as a partnership. Partnerships can be either general or limited; both having advantages and disadvantages.

A general partnership is essentially a sole proprietorship shared between two or more people. The business acts as an extension of its owners, so the owners accept all the liability. Sharing liability between more people may help soften the blow of any legal action taken, making a general partnership slightly safer than a sole proprietorship.

A limited partnership involves more legal paperwork but offers more protection. Partners are either general or limited, and limited liability does not include personal assets.

(Photo credit: FreightWaves/Jim Allen)

3. LLC

A limited liability company (LLC) offers more legal protection than a sole proprietorship or partnership. LLCs are usually a separate entity from the owners. If someone takes legal action against your trucking LLC, the outcome will affect your company’s assets, but not yours. 

Filing as an LLC requires more steps and documentation that vary depending on your state. Often you’ll have to pay a fee to submit these documents. While it takes more work and money to get started, an LLC offers improved protection, which you may want in case of an accident. 

Trucking can be a hazardous profession, so you may want more legal protection.

4. Corporation

Like an LLC, a corporation requires documentation outlining different people’s roles within the company. Corporations consist of stockholders who own the company, directors who manage it and officers who run its everyday operations. 

To file as a corporation, your company usually needs to submit bylaws and articles of incorporation, though the specific requirements vary from state to state. Different taxes apply to corporations than other types of companies.

Corporations are the most complicated kind of organization in terms of legal work but offer the highest amount of protection. If you have multiple owners or plan to see substantial growth, a corporation might be your best option.

(Photo credit: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

5. ESOPs

When thinking about how to structure your company, you might want to consider an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) to give you fluidity and security. An ESOP provides your employees with a stake in the company. As shareholders, your workers will be more likely to put the business’s best interests first.

With an ESOP, employees will likely stay with your company longer and ensure its success. Trucking can sometimes have a high burnout rate, but having a share in the company will entice drivers to stay with you. 

Employee retention isn’t the only advantage of an ESOP. Since your truckers will benefit from the company performing well, they will likely work harder, ensuring they deliver your clients’ products faster and more carefully. If you ever decide to sell the company, an ESOP will allow you to transfer ownership to employees easily.

6. Leasing equipment

After you’ve organized your business, you’ll have to decide how you want to obtain your trucks. You can either lease or buy your vehicles. By leasing, you can start using your equipment without paying the full price for it.

While you make monthly payments, the leasing company will cover any maintenance or repair costs for the trucks. Not having to cover insurance costs will save you money upfront. 

The most significant disadvantage of leasing is that you don’t own your trucks, so the leasing company can enforce its own rules over their use. They can also refuse to lease to you again once your leasing period is up.

Fluctuating pay can increase driver turnover. (Photo credit: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

7. Buying equipment

Buying your trucks outright will be more expensive upfront, but does offer some advantages. Since you’ll own them, you can make any modifications you want. You can also leverage them by selling or renting them out, should you need the money.

If you buy instead of lease, your equipment will be harder to upgrade if it becomes obsolete. You’ll also have to pay for repairs yourself. 

To determine what’s best for your trucking business, look at your assets to see what you can afford. You should also consult local business owners and legal advisors about the best course of action for your location and situation.

Get trucking

Once you understand all the options for starting a trucking company, your path should look much clearer. Get ready to pave your road to success.

(Photo credit: Shutterstock)


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Kayla Matthews

Kayla Matthews is a technology journalist and writer interested in manufacturing and the supply chain. Her work has been published on Thomas Insights, Industrial Machinery Digest, American Machinist and Manufacturing.net.

40 Comments

    1. Totally agree… It’s the worst time of the century to start a trucking business and here she is telling someone neive to start trucking ..wow i’m just amazed …….

  1. This article really gives truckers no insight into starting a trucking business or becoming an owner operator.
    It should be titled the 7 ways to start any business.
    If you want to become an owner operator the 1st thing to do is figure out what kind of trucking you want to do and acquire a truck.
    THE BEST ROAD TO TAKE ON THIS IF YOU ARE NOT MECHANICALLY INCLINED IS TO BUY A NEW TRUCK.
    The easiest way is to head to a truck dealership. Volvo, Freightliner, Peterbilt. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD ANYONE EVER BUY A TRUCK NEW OR USED FROM A 3RD PARTY DEALER. ALWAYS GO DIRECTLY THE THE MANUFACTURER DEALERSHIP.
    YOU CAN USUALLY BUY A NEW TRUCK WITH NO MONEY DOWN. YOUR CREDIT AND YEARS DRIVING WILL DICTATE THE TERMS.

    After you have a truck the key factor is FREIGHT.
    You have to be able to acquire loads other than thru a broker. You can accomplish this is a few ways.
    1st: Leasing on to a company – Essentially what you’re doing is partnering up with a trucking company. You’ll operate your own truck under their DOT and MC #. They may or may not provide you with plates and or IFTA.
    They WILL dispatch your truck and provide you with loads, usually for a percentage of the pay.
    For example if they dispatch you on a load from Ohio to Atlanta paying $1000 their cut may be 20% of the load. So you can expect to be paid $800 for that load.

    There are companies who pay by the mile.
    Essentially everything I’ve stated above will be the same except they’ll pay the owner a set rate per mile.

    A third option is leasing a truck from the company you work for.
    this basically makes you an owner op while paying for your truck from your weekly settlements to the company you work for.
    BAD IDEAD!! NO one ever finishes. So after you quit you’ve just spent 6 months making weekly payments of between $500 and $750 on a vehicle that you don’t have. Basically you’re paying the truck note for the company. All the maintenance and repairs are your responsibility and when you leave the truck stays put. It’s the biggest ripoff ever.
    This is all assuming you have acquired a truck.

    Another road to becoming an owner Operator is getting your own authority.
    There are many companies out there, such as OOIDA which can help you acquire your own authority.
    This will take anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks depending. This should only be undertaken by those who have experience being an owner operator and have their own customer base. Otherwise you’ll spend your time running from brokers who’ll be taking a large chunks of your revenue for doing nothing.

    before starting your company make sure you’ve built up a network of suppliers whom are pleased with your work. Ask them how you could get loads from them direct, if you were to go into business for yourself. Many times you’ll be surprised that companies would rather deal directly with the truck driver than go thru a bothersome broker.

    I’ve only been in trucking for 10 years. Been an owner operator for 9 , So I’ve made all the mistakes. I have 3 trucks currently. It’s been a hard sometimes sleepless road. The owner will work harder than any driver or employee so the hours will be long.
    Best advise I can give is: we only have 7 days in a week with which to get as many loads as possible. So you have to do whatever you can to deliver and get loaded as quickly as you can, in order to get as many loads as you can. Sometimes that means 18 or 20 hour days.

    Alec@caatrucking.com

  2. GREAT ARTICLE !

    Number 5 on the list is the WINNER ! Thanks for pointing that one out to truck driver EMPLOYEES !

    That being said , I wouldn’t suggest jumping on such an occasion blindly if it’s offered to you . Consult a professional financial advisor , perform due diligence , and remember timing is everything . Have those books scrutinized meticulously and leave no stone unturned !

    You wouldn’t want to jump on such an occasion if you’re employees and in the midst of a cyclical peak in the industry . You’d rather want to take a very close look at such an opportunity at a cyclical trough . Remember , if something appears to be to good to be true , very often it is . You want the business when it’s undervalued versus overvalued .

    In my humble opinion ………..

    1. Leave NO STONE UNTURNED in your due diligence !

      Example : You need to scrutinize the clients as well , their industry and laws that affect them . You don’t want to foolishly buy in a transportation company that depends on a major client(shipper) that may go belly up shortly afterwards .

      Ie : It just don’t make any sense’: A trucking business feels the sting of Northern Pulp closure

      Google it and be vigilant !

      Owning a trucking transportation co isn’t only about transportation . The health of the clients(businesses) you serve and their sector / industry is an important element as well . Positioning oneself to cater to necessities should not be omitted . Ie: Coronavirus and recession or not , people still need to eat , take medicine , and wipe their butts etc . These shippers,manufacturers, producers , and distributors of non durable household goods and personal products in the consumer staples sector are less sensitive to economic cycles .

      In my humble opinion ………

  3. please if you never worked in this industry as a employee , do not think you can start a business and be successful and if you have make sure you have wore numerous hats in the transportation Buisness as a employee to be successful.
    Exp
    Broker , dispatcher , driver, billing, sales , diesel Micanic , overseen Safty and Dot compliant, driver recruitment, claims ……. just to name a few
    If you have not at least wore 3 hats of the above,don’t waist your time and money. It’s not easy money like many try to make others think.

    1. Very good comment.
      Just because someone was a company driver doesn’t mean they know all about starting a profitable business.
      Become an office or shop employee next, learn about that part of the business.

      Relying on another company give you work (leased on) will rob you of tons of money.
      You basically become a driver employee with truck payments.

  4. This story was told to me by a old school driver with a life time of experience. Seems there were two guys that started a trucking company together. One had the experience and the other had the money. After a short time of operation the guy with the money had the experience and the guy with the experience had the money.
    Smart guys that have been in the trucking business for years are going belly up. Now is the time stop, look, and listen. Those that move too quick may get hit by a train………. Just say’in……………

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