Running a trucking business as a sole proprietor with no other employees can be a lucrative endeavor. Commercial truck drivers enjoy the freedom of life on the road, traveling and taking in all the sites this nation has to offer. You also reap the added benefit of not having to answer to a boss. Without the right knowledge, skills, equipment and experience, though, starting a one-person trucking company can become a highway straight to bankruptcy.
Obtain a Class A commercial driver's license (CDL) from your state of residence. Without one, you cannot legally drive a tractor/trailer. The best method to use to get a CDL is to attend a special truck driving school. It will help you pass the required tests and also obtain extra endorsements on the license, such as Tankers, Doubles and Triples, and HazMat, which allows you to haul hazardous materials.
Get experience. If you have never driven a commercial vehicle cross country, you will have trouble starting and maintaining a trucking business. Drive a big rig as a company driver for at least a year, and preferably several years. This will help you learn the numerous Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association's rules and regulations, such as maintaining a log book, pre-trip vehicle inspections, hours of service and more.
Purchase a truck. Semi trucks come with hefty price tags, so this is not a step to take lightly. Depending on the age and condition of the truck, you may be looking at a monthly payment of more than $3,000. Used trucks will be much less expensive, but will likely have clocked hundreds of thousands of miles. This means a used truck might cost more to maintain and repair.
Hire an accountant who specializes in the trucking industry. Aside from standard self-employment state and federal taxes, a trucking business--no matter how small--must also pay other taxes on a quarterly or monthly basis, such as fuel taxes and state highway taxes. Failure to pay the correct amounts to the correct offices can mean big problems later.
Find loads. Consider leasing on with a larger trucking company as an independent contractor. These companies will help you find loads, and as an owner/operator you always have the option to turn them down. If you own a trailer, you will have more options. Stay one step ahead, though, and make sure you have a load lined up near the location where you will drop the current load. As an owner/operator, you don't get paid to sit.
Keep a cushion of money saved up. Big trucks require oil changes every 15,000 miles. Most trucks have two fuel tanks, each capable of holding 75 to 150 gallons of diesel. A truck running several thousand miles each week will typically need to fuel up two to three times each week. Also, you will want to have cash available if a tire blows or a belt breaks. To keep the income flowing, those tires must be turning.