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Owner-Operator Path: Why Some Choose It Over Being a Company Driver

Once a driver has been on-the-road for a few years delivering freight for a company, they may begin to wonder whether they should continue as a company driver or investigate becoming an owner-operator. It is a question many company drivers ask themselves at one point. Pretty much every owner-operator was a company driver at one point, after all. Both career choices have their pros and cons. You must consider which factors are the most important to you to make your decision. So, if you are curious about the owner-operator path, keep reading. We will offer you a breakdown of the pros and cons of being an owner-operator vs a company driver.

COMPANY DRIVER

Pros of being a company driver

Less responsibilities. Once your haul is done, you get to go home. Unlike owner-operators, you don’t need to worry about budgets, expenses, and truck maintenance.

Lower cost to you. Aside from costs associated with obtaining your Class 1 or AZ licence, it does not cost additional money to be a company driver. You do not need any of your own equipment or truck.

Insurance and benefits. Since company drivers are classified as employees, you will be entitled to EI, some insurance and other benefits.

Easy to change jobs. If you do not like the carrier you are working with, you can quit and find another. There is still a driver shortage, so drivers are in high demand across the country. Or if you decide the industry is not right for you, there is little risk in you choosing to go into another industry. Owner-operators, comparatively, have much more at stake.

Cons of being a company driver

Less chance to earn more money. This is the biggest con for many owner-operators who made the switch from company drivers.  You get paid less by the mile/hour than an owner-operator.

Truck sharing or slip seating. Company drivers must drive whatever trucks the carrier provides for them. Such trucks are not usually designed for comfort, but more so to be able to take wear-and-tear easily. Most of the time, they must share these trucks with other drivers who may not put the same quality of care as they would into maintaining the truck for use.

May not be able to choose your routes. Owner-operators have the chance to choose the route they take to deliver freight. Certain carriers may allow their carriers to do so as well, but most will prefer their drivers take a particular route.

Less freedom and flexibility. As a company driver, you must take what loads and shifts the company gives you. This includes fewer desirable loads owner-operators may be free to turn down. Additionally, you may spend less time at home. Especially if you are newer to the role, the carrier may give you all overnight, far-from-home shifts. Carriers try to have company drivers out on the road as much as possible. This is because of the way company drivers are compensated (normally salary or hourly based) vs owner-operators.

OWNER-OPERATOR

Pros of going down the owner-operator path

Freedom of owning your own business. You own your truck and your own equipment. Also, you get to drive without the company dispatcher breathing down your neck.

You do not have to share your truck with anyone else. This means all the settings in your truck will always be to your own liking. Your pre-trip inspection will also be shorter because no one else has messed with your truck but you. Many company drivers will have to slip seat and find the previous driver did not report a problem with the truck. This leaves the driver waiting around, unpaid, for the truck to get fixed. As an owner-operator, you know exactly what is going on with your truck.

Per mile pay is higher. Generally, once you have worked at it for a few years, you can receive a higher yearly income than a company driver. That is even with all your expenses such as truck payments and insurance.

Greater flexibility to take time off. You are your own boss. If you need to take time off for something at home, you can when you need. It is much easier than trying to get time off as a company driver.

Cons of going down the owner-operator path

More expenses. First, you must purchase your truck. You can get away with having less money saved up if you go the leasing route. This is because many leases require very little money down. But if you do that, you do need to concern yourself with monthly payments. You must also pay for your other equipment costs, and upkeep and maintenance.

Greater responsibilities. As a company driver, at the end of your job, you hand the keys to someone else and go home. You don’t have to think about anything else. But as an owner-operator, you do. You might have to take your truck in for maintenance or plan your next route. Some do not mind this, though and see it as the cost of having more freedom overall.

Harder to change jobs. Once you buy your own truck and become an owner-operator, it’s much harder and more expensive to quit than if you were a company driver. This is why it is good to have at least two or three years of company driving experience before jumping onto the owner-operator path (most companies hiring owner-operators require such experience, anyways).

Which path is right for you?

Read over the lists and decide what factors are most important to you. Ask yourself what you want out of your trucking career.
Most carrier companies have their own preferences regarding company drivers and owner-operators. Some prefer company drivers because they like to be in control of their trucks. However, there are plenty out there who prefer owner-operators because they enjoy the benefits of working with independent contractors who are passionate about their business and their personal trucks. A common truck leasing and/or hiring criteria for owner-operators is that they must already have at least two years OTR experience. A lot of carriers like this because they see it as a sign an owner-operator will be reliable.

If you decide the owner-operator path is what is right for you, PowerLease is here with more information about how to get into your first truck!

Interested in Becoming an Owner-operator?

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