5 Tips for New Semi-Truck Drivers

While being the owner-operator for a semi-truck can be hard work, it can be equally as fulfilling. If you’re new to the industry, you may be asking yourself a lot of questions about what success looks like as an owner-operator. First thing’s first, now is an amazing time to be getting into the booming transportation industry. New retail surges and the growth of online commerce has led to a higher demand than ever, resulting in a national driver shortage. This demand creates better opportunities for drivers, so you’ve made a smart decision by joining now.

Once you get into the business, there are many things that you can be doing to ensure that you flourish in this new role. Here are our best tips to help you achieve the most out of being an owner-operator.

#1: Choose the Right Truck 

When it comes to purchasing your first semi-truck, the wide variety of options can definitely be overwhelming. You can go with a new or used semi, and both have their advantages and disadvantages. While a used truck may appear appealing originally due to its comparatively lower price, older trucks are also a liability for repairs. They have older parts and more miles on the engine, so you might spend more on maintenance than a newer truck. Additionally, with the newly enforced ELD Mandate, you may have to do some work to get the logging device that’s installed in the truck up to par.

While newer trucks have a slightly lower liability associated with them, it is easier said than done when it comes to purchasing. You will have to invest more money upfront due to the overall higher cost. If you don’t have a sizeable amount saved up in the bank, a new truck might not be as realistic of an option for you.

#2: Plan for Repairs 

Planning for repairs is crucial, and it is a big part of every trucker’s life. If you own your truck, you are often responsible for these costs, so it is important to put money aside consistently to manage these costs effectively. Do thorough research and try to best determine your annual maintenance cost, and then put additional funds aside in case of a breakdown or other unexpected damage.

While each semi-truck is unique in terms of exactly how much care it’ll need, consider the mileage, age, collision and damage history of yours to formulate your savings. Additionally, if you sprung for a new truck that came with a warranty, don’t expect that it won’t necessarily need repairs. Even the newest trucks can have issues that won’t be covered by a warranty. Be sure to take good care of your truck; it’s a major money-making tool. Good care can minimize the overall money that you’d dump into repairs that were warranted by poor maintenance.

#3: Put in the Effort

We all want to have a profitable career. The average successful owner-operator makes anywhere from $1.00-$3.00 per mile, but what exactly does it take to make money as an owner-operator? Well, it mostly just takes pure effort. You have to put in the work to reap the benefits, as most carriers or clients won’t offer a salary payment system. Most drivers are paid by the mile or sometimes by the hour. This makes it so that your pay directly correlates to the type of work that you put in. Don’t expect a big salary in this position if you’re not willing to take on ambitious hauls. If you’re looking to make the big bucks, open yourself up to longer and bigger hauls.

Additionally, taking fewer days off in between hauls will not only boost your profits, but it can make you a more attractive option to potential carriers who are trying to get their cargo moved as quickly as possible.

#4: Seek out Successful Carriers

If you’re in this for the long haul, pun intended, job security is key. Look for an employer that is doing well themselves, as that gives more potential to your future with them. With the national driver shortage, many carriers are struggling, but as a driver, finding ones that still manage to be profitable will open up many more possibilities. Finding employment with a booming carrier translates into more hours and increased job security. Massive corporations such as Amazon, Walmart, and Uber have all been flourishing in this new modern age of trucking and have continuously been hiring while the driver pool of others has been dwindling.

#5: Define Your Goals and Habits

This is a big one. Before you get lost in this complex industry, it is important to figure out which route you’d like to pursue. Decide if you’d like to be signed onto a carrier, or possibly drive independently for a company such as Uber Freight. While there are pros and cons to each, the best choice will depend on what lifestyle you crave. While working independently provides freedom and flexibility, it’s not as consistent or dependable. Consider your unique needs and adjust accordingly.

Getting involved in the trucking industry can be confusing and complicated, but luckily, Mission Financial is always here to help you out. Check out our comprehensive blog for industry news and more tips like these!


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