Is Being a Self-Employed Trucker (Owner-Operator) Worth It?

March 17, 2021


For many in the truck driving industry, the appeal of life on the road lies in its freedom.

You’re not bound to a worksite, office, or cash register all day. Instead, you’re seeing the world with a feeling of independence riding shotgun.

But some truckers go a step (or a mile) further. Some ditch their connection to a specific business and strike out completely on their own.

The owner-operator life is one many truckers choose. Is it for you? Could it be better than working with a company? Here we’ll explore the ups and downs of being a self-employed truck driver.

What is an Owner-Operator?

When we hear the term self-employed, we automatically think of freelancers. These are the people who work for themselves, make their own schedules, and run their own businesses.

This is essentially what it means to be an owner-operator. It’s someone who drives a truck with a business attached to their name.

These people don’t just make their living on the road. They do it as business owners, who are in control of everything from their equipment to the clients they work with.

Self-employed truck drivers register their own businesses and achieve operating authority from transportation authorities on their own.

How is that different from being a “regular” driver?

The main difference between an owner-operator and a “regular” driver is that the latter is employed by a company.

They have a boss, an employment contract, and as a result, have everything from their training and their equipment managed by the company.

It is important to draw the distinction between owner-operator and independent contractor. While all owner-operators are by definition independent contractors in that they’re self-employed, the reverse isn’t always true.

Independent contractors may lease their service to trucking companies if they choose, while still retaining many of the freedoms (and responsibilities) that come with working independently.

Benefits of Being an Owner-Operator

When exploring the pros and cons of being an owner-operator there are plenty to cover. Here we’ll discuss the top three, starting with the one that sticks out above all others.

Additional Freedom

Some people become a truck driver because life on the road is freeing. However, everyone’s definition of freedom is different.

For some, freedom at work means working without bosses micromanaging you. For others it means working without bosses at all – this is what owner-operators do.

While they still must answer to regulatory authorities and of course keep clients happy, they do so by making their own decisions.

More Control in Client Selection

Speaking of clients, the ones you have can determine how profitable and how worthwhile your work schedule is.

Everyone has clients they like, and clients they sometimes struggle with. In the truck driving industry, some clients are picky about how freight is packed. They may be stringent about delivery times, or located in areas that are hard to drive to.

Owner-operators make their own calls, so they can choose which clients they do and don’t work with. It allows them to control the stress they take on in exchange for the money they make.

More Control in Equipment Selection

A worker can have morale, ambition, talent, and all the other qualities that make a good workplace attitude. But without the right equipment, they can’t get the job done.

Self-employed truckers who run their own business choose the type of trucks they drive. For those with lots of experience in the industry, they may have a preference.

Trying to drive equipment that doesn’t meet their standards can tank their efficiency and their morale. But picking the perfect truck can make any journey a little easier.

Drawbacks of Being an Owner-Operator

If you want to become a truck driver and make a living on the road, the driving part is already a big task. Adding in the complexities of business ownership, especially for a newcomer, can be a lot to handle.

Additional Responsibilities Can Add Up

For a trucker who is going into business for themselves, there’s a lot to consider. Start with the costs. Got your own truck? Is it livable for routes that take you far away from home?

Now add in the cost of road expenses like fuel, food, and personal items. Don’t forget insurance, which can cost you up to $1,300 a month, and taxes. You’re also responsible for complying with the myriad of regulations the truck driving industry has – many of which are updated regularly. Plan to factor in an additional $400 a month for fees and other necessary expenses.

The condition of your rig, the state of your mile log, and many other critical areas of focus are yours alone to manage when you’re an owner-operator.

More Work to Get Business and Keep It

When discussing the pros and cons of being an owner-operator, it’s easy to focus solely on the business management side of a driver’s responsibilities. But what about logistics?

Finding clients and planning routes isn’t easy. Even if you work with freight brokers, it’s still another task that takes a lot of time and a lot of experience to get good at – and your business’s wellbeing depends on it.

You can’t even control when exactly you’ll get paid in many cases, unless you work with a freight bill factoring company, which is another connection you’ll have to manage alone.

Difficulties Maintaining a Healthy Work/Life Balance

The desire to be the boss will stick truckers with a ton of tasks that the logistics companies, billing department, and back-office managers usually take care of. As you can imagine, wearing that many hats is tiresome.

The very freedom drivers seek on the road could be taken from them should they choose to pursue self-employment when the conditions aren’t right.

It’s been proven that work-life balance helps us stay healthy, avoid burnout, and be more passionate about the job. If you’re missing out on this for the sake of being your own boss, is it really worth it?

The Verdict: Hermes Provides the Perfect Balance

We won’t tell you that self-employed truck drivers can’t succeed. Many do, but they usually have decades of experience and plenty of industry connections under their belt.

When you work with Hermes, you get the same. Our experienced team of professionals keep the company running like the high-end Volvos which we provide to each of our drivers.

You get the latest and safest equipment, the backing of a talented maintenance team, dedicated dispatchers who are never assigned to more than six drivers at a time, plus ongoing training and support to make sure you love your life on the road.

Are you ready to become a truck driver? Are you already a driver who is looking for a company that cares? We provide competitive pay, safety and referral bonuses, paid holidays and vacations, plus many more great perks. Hermes wants to hear from you – click here to apply.

Drive for us

Join a team that is part of something bigger than ourselves. Together, we’re not just shipping freight, we’re moving the economy forward