EconomicsNewsSmall Carrier Corner

Business 101 for small carriers

Being an owner-operator or small fleet owner requires more know-how than just driving a truck. It takes some business knowledge and, in some cases, a little help. ( Photo: Shutterstock )



I bought my first truck in 1986. I was 22 years old. I had no money, no credit and not a lick of business sense. I had no clue what I was doing. It was in my blood though. I’m a third generation owner-operator, my grandfather was an owner-operator when there were wooden benches for seats, and you measured a cross-country trip in weeks, not hours or days. My father was a struggling owner-operator all of his life, he would work a union job until he saved enough money to buy a truck, and then run that truck until he ran out of money and then repeat the entire process. I grew up thinking I never want to do that and yet… here I am three decades in the industry.

Not only have I logged over a million miles as an owner-operator, but I ran a profitable small fleet for 25 years. More importantly, I’ve helped thousands of people buy their first truck, become successful owner-operators, and even build thriving small fleets.

I’ve always been intrigued and curious about why some owner-operators can work incredibly hard and yet struggle, and many go out of business, and others create successful, stable, small companies. What differentiates the two? I’ve put a lot of time and effort into answering that question, and I have created a framework to help you ensure that you are a part of the latter group, the successful owner-operators, who buy homes, raise families, save for retirement and grow their business.

It all comes down to the basics, Business 101. Most people who buy a truck and want to become a business owner are ignorant of business concepts. Being ignorant is not an insult, being ignorant just means you don’t know something; there are lots of things I don’t know, but if you are going into business, it is not ok to be ignorant about business, it’s a recipe for disaster. You don’t need an MBA, but you do need to learn the basics of business, and I’ll be writing a series of articles to help you get up to speed and master the concepts that are important to creating success in the trucking industry.

Here’s an outline of the concepts I will cover:

  • Avoid the Big Mistakes
  • Have a Plan
  • Understand Supply and Demand
  • Understand Your Numbers and Key Performance Indicators
  • Identify and Provide Value to Your Customers
  • Sales and Marketing for the Small Carrier

If you master those areas of business, you will set yourself apart. There is an incredible opportunity in the trucking industry today, and you can grab some of it for yourself, it’s in your hands. You have to “Do the Hard Work.” You’ll hear that a lot from me; that phrase has a very different meaning than most people think. “Doing the Hard Work” is very different from “Working Hard.” I’ll explain that concept in more detail in the coming articles and also recommend a book to help you understand it well. I’m big on book recommendations so my first piece of advice is to get an account at, you have 60 hours a week to listen and learn. Stay tuned, I look forward to helping you, “Master the Journey!”

Kevin Rutherford is the founder and CEO of a company that provides accounting, tax, business and health advice to drivers and owner-operators. You can find out more about the company by visiting their website “” or call their TribeCare Team at 855-800-3835. You can also listen to Kevin and ask him anything on his radio show and podcast.


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