ARE YOU AN OWNER-DRIVER? THESE TIPS COULD SAVE YOU BIG DOLLARS!

Being an owner-driver can be incredibly liberating: the wind streaming through your hair as you roll from town to town, at the beck and call of no one.

From the beauty of our wide brown land as dawn breaks over the highway, to basking in the sunset on a curving coastal road, few jobs boast the country-wide freedom owner-driving offers.

But nothing this good comes without its challenges.

Independent contracting is the road less travelled, because despite the obvious advantages of being your own boss, you’re carrying a very heavy load on your shoulders. Yet for many of us, it’s still the dream.

So whether you’ve been driving for 20 years, have just bought your first truck, or the idea’s still the light at the end of the tunnel, here are some tips to become a better owner-driver.

You can go your own way!

Are you keen to go it alone and live off your own knowledge and skills? Or would you prefer to contract to a single company?

This is the choice between being able to pick your own cargo and destination, and getting consistent work and a fuel card.

With 70 per cent of our trucking industry comprised of single-truck owner operators, the road is wide open, so to speak.

As a prospective owner-driver, this first choice will tell you a lot about the kind of small business owner you’re going to be.

The numbers game

Do legal considerations, taxes and insurance policies excite you? Us neither. But if you’re going to be a successful owner-operator, you’ll need a solid understanding of finance, taxation, insurance and the state of the industry you’re getting into.

Once you’ve researched owner-driving to the point you couldn’t stand the sight of another truck (or blog), it’s time to draft a comprehensive business plan.

At its most basic, this should include information on both the local and national market, secured or potential clients, competition, and a financial forecast for your business.

A basic sample of a business plan can be found here.

The main game

When you’ve worked out what sort of owner-driver you’re going to be, equipment choices are among the most important decisions you’ll make.

It could be the biggest investment of your life, so take your time and shop around. You don’t have to possess the money for a truck up front, you can lease or finance one.

You’ll also need access to some cash for start-up and operational costs.. And although it’s tempting to invest for the future, make sure you stick to a tight budget and don’t ‘over-spec’ your truck

Businesses can fail because their owners don’t focus on slow, sustainable growth. As an owner-driver, your main focuses when buying a truck should include its age, fuel economy, body and chassis type and your required payload.

The blame game

As a rookie owner-operator, it’s important to prepare yourself for situations out there that may not be in your best interest. Pay close attention to not only your contracts, but also the contracts your employer has with their clients.

Check to see if you’re incorporated into your employer’s liability, and pay close attention to your employer’s OH&S guidelines – what type of test do they conduct? Are they providing legal working conditions?

Research the dispute provisions in your contracts so you’re always ready in case something happens.

It’s also important to stay abreast of any changes to government regulation and remuneration legislation that could affect you. If you’re unsure about anything, get an independent, professional opinion.

The end game

If you want more specific information on licensing and business plans, the Victorian Owner-Driver information booklet is the most comprehensive government source of information and we thoroughly recommend checking it out.

Owner Drivers Australia and Independent Contractors Australia are the two major Australian organisations that provide representation, information and assistance to owner-drivers.

If you’re sure you want to be an owner-driver, then we’re assuming you’ve already considered the highly competitive nature of the industry, the prolonged periods spent away from home and the effect the owner-driver lifestyle can have on your health.

But if you’ve weighed up the pros and cons and decided to give it a crack, hopefully this blog has given you some confidence to venture onto the road to freedom.

We’ll see you out there.

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