Being an owner-driver is a dream for many truck, lorry, and HGV drivers. Becoming an owner means working for yourself. You own the vehicle, you source your own work, and you have total control over your timetable and where you go. This kind of unbridled freedom is appealing, but it does come with risk. Here are some tips to help you get started.
Assess your capabilities
The chances are that you’re already a highly skilled driver, but being an owner-driver requires much more than that. Since you’ll be running your own business, you’ll also need skills including accountancy, time management, the ability to source loads, deal with complaints and navigate the fraught world of customer service. Ask yourself honestly what your strengths and weaknesses are. If you know that you’ll struggle with the accountancy side of the business, hire an accountant to take care of that for you. The same applies to areas like customer services. Treat this as more than a delivery job. It’s your business, so don’t be afraid to hire staff.
Register your business and open an account
Probably the first step that most owner-drivers take is to register their business through official channels. This is a legal obligation and also has tax ramifications, so it’s important not to skip this step. You’ll be registering as a sole trader, and from there, you should open a business account with the bank. Trading out of a personal current or savings account is illegal and can land you in trouble. Register the business, open a business account and then rest assured that you’re following the law.
Think about sourcing loads
This will be the most difficult part of the job. Drivers working for big companies have their loads sourced for them on a daily basis, but owner-drivers are on their own. Fortunately, it’s now easier than ever to find freight jobs using specialized load boards. Services like Hot Shot Trucking collect load jobs from across the country, and drivers can take their pick. This means that owner-drivers need never be without a load, and having so many jobs in one place simplifies the selection process. Be sure to only choose loads that you’re capable of fulfilling. It can be tempting to take on too much work when you begin, but start small and work your way up.
Keep track of tax and insurance
Again, when you work for a haulage company, this is all taken care of for you. Things like VAT, insurance, and income tax can be difficult to juggle when you’re working for yourself. To make matters even more complex, certain expenses (truck repairs, for example) can be tax deductible, so it pays to do your research. Owner-drivers need a different kind of insurance from those working for a company and you’ll need to be careful about VAT on the loads you deliver. All of this information is freely available on the internet, but many small business owners choose to bring in professionals to ensure that everything is in order. This is for peace of mind.