CRTS Insights

Ask Yourself These Questions Before Starting As an Owner-Operator

Posted by David Shepherd on Jan 11, 2021 11:42:18 AM

Owner Operator QuestionsIf you’re getting ready to become an owner-operator and move freight around the country, you might be surprised how much goes into it before you start your first run. There are plans and gamework that have to be laid out. You can’t simply buy a truck, buy a trailer, and go trucking. 


When it comes to understanding your trailer needs and building a successful life for yourself, it’s important to ask the right questions. Talk to a trusted dealer, connect with people who have been in the industry for years, and learn from the experts.


Before you jump into trucking for yourself, think through questions like these.

What Freight Will You Be Hauling?

It’s always better to go into the trucking business with freight to pull when you get started. Don’t expect to find a broker who can get you freight. The best idea is to develop some contacts and find out if there’s a viable, repeatable lane of traffic you can get into. 


For example, imagine you’re hauling furniture out of Hickory, North Carolina, and running it to the West Coast. When you get to the West Coast, you’ll need freight to pull back east — otherwise, you’re losing money and wasting time. 


Your freight could be limited by the trailer you have. Perhaps you line up a produce haul for the return trip. You can haul furniture on a dry van, but you can’t pull produce on one. You’ll need a reefer. However, you can haul furniture on a refrigerated trailer with the unit turned off. 


When you’re starting out, it is best to avoid high-claim, expensive commodities that can cause you a lot of trouble if you’re short. If you’re hauling something expensive like copper pipe or cigarettes, it is very important to have the proper cargo insurance coverage in place.

When Should You Buy a Trailer?

When you’re making your first purchase, it’s important to know about the state of the industry. CRTS can advise you on market trends we’re seeing. For example, right now dry vans are in very high demand. However buying cycles change and we have the experience to help you buy the trailer you need for the freight you will be hauling.

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There are creative options available. For example, you might want to lease on with a carrier who needs a driver to pull their 

trailer from Point A to Point B and back. This option lets you make more contacts while you’re waiting for your own trailer to come in, and you can start creating jobs for yourself while contracting for someone else. 


Related reading: What to Expect When Financing Your New or Used Trailer


How Will You Make Connections?

Develop some freight sources. You don’t need a contract — generally, you won’t get a contract until you show what you’re capable of — you just need good contacts in some lanes that you can run back and forth.


The more freight sources you have, the easier it will be to avoid long deadhead runs. For example, it’s easy to find loads to southern Florida, but it can be a challenge to find freight out of the area coming back north. Pulling a refrigerated trailer gives you more options in this situation. However, it is not always the answer for everyone. 

But with more freight sources to draw on, you have better chances of avoiding lost revenue.

What Will Your Maintenance Costs Look Like?

Reefer trailers generally have higher maintenance costs, but your actual maintenance costs will vary wildly based on what you’re hauling, how much you’re hauling, and where you’re hauling it. 

Before you start your own operation, understand the implications of owning and operating different types of trailers — and know what kinds of costs you should really expect. Think about these questions:


  • Where will you be running? If you’re in the mountains a lot, you can expect higher maintenance on the truck and trailer. 
  • Will your loads be heavy or light? Heavy loads increase fuel and maintenance costs.
  • If you have a refrigerated trailer, will you be running the reefer both ways? What kind of temperatures will you need to maintain? The refrigeration unit for produce loads can run on a start/stop cycle, which can save wear and tear and fuel. But sometimes the unit will need to run in continuous mode to maintain the customer’s requirements. Deep frozen will require more maintenance.

When Are You Pulling Freight?

Certain times of year, if you’re on your way to certain regions of the country, the first thing you need to do is look at the weather forecast. Will there be snow? Is a tropical storm hitting the coast? Are there forest fires along your route? Will you get stuck in holiday traffic?


Think about what time you’ll be driving through metropolitan areas, as well. In larger cities, the time of day can make a huge difference in driving time. 


Handpicked content: Get the Trailer You Need, Not the One a Dealer Wants to Sell


Get Started Easier and Faster

If you take the time to think through questions like these, you’ll have a much easier time getting started as an owner-operator, and you’ll start seeing more revenue more quickly. CRTS knows trucking. We’ve been on the road, and we have an extensive network of partners who are deep in the trucking industry. You can trust us to help you get started on a sure foundation.

Need help thinking about your trailer needs as an owner-operator? Let’s start a conversation.


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For 50 years, CRTS, Inc. has been a trusted partner to hundreds of transportation firms. We accomplished this by putting our customers first, providing unequaled service, and offering the best semi-trailer products available. 

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