Starting a new career midway through your life can be daunting and very risky, but several people have done just that and it has been very rewarding for them.
This practice is gaining popularity. People like Bryant Walker decided more than halfway through their life to use their life savings to purchase a commercial semi-truck and license and start their own company with a partner. At the moment, there is a lot of opportunity, the commercial trucking industry is facing a large shortage in drivers that is expected to grow larger. The shortage was 38,000 in 2014, but that increased by 10,000 only one year later. Between 2011 and 2017 it has increased by more than five-fold to about 100,000 less drivers. Contributing to this is a lack of qualification among applicants. Nearly a million new drivers need to be hired to make up for this within the next 8 years.
Though truck driving requires long periods away from home, relying on fast food, and keeping your eyes open, the benefits are worthy of consideration. The current shortage of workers will likely increase wages which ran at an average of over $40,000 per year or $20 per hour in 2014. Independent contractors are able to be their own bosses and decide when they work.
To reap the most benefits, it is important to develop specialized skills and special equipment. Talking to veteran truckers can help you understand what some of these might be.
If you are interested in pursuing this career, your first priority is to make yourself properly qualified. This means acquiring a commercial driving license (CDL). It is preferable to acquire this through a trucking school. Many companies have their own or reimburse you for the tuition you paid. There are three classes of CDLs:
Class A: Any combination of vehicles which has a gross combination weight rating or gross combination weight of 11,794 kilograms or more (26,001 pounds or more) whichever is greater, inclusive of a towed unit(s) with a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight of more than 4,536 kilograms (10,000 pounds) whichever is greater.
Class B: Any single vehicle which has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight of 11,794 or more kilograms (26,001 pounds or more), or any such vehicle towing a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight that does not exceed
4,536 kilograms (10,000 pounds).
Class C: Any single vehicle, or combination of vehicles, that does not meet the definition of Class A or Class B, but is either designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver, or is transporting material that has been designated as hazardous under 49 U.S.C. 5103 and is required to be placarded under subpart F of 49 CFR Part 172 or is transporting any quantity of a material listed as a select agent or toxin in 42 CFR Part 73.
Independent contractors or Owner Operators will need to consider whether they will be fully independent or lease to another company.
Major benefits of being an independent owner/operator are that you can:
- Select the loads and lanes that best suit you and your lifestyle
- Not have to deal with company politics, dispatcher favoritism, and policies with which you might not always agree
- Decide when you run and when you don’t
- Take responsibility for load selection and not face possible dispatcher retaliation for refusing a particular load that might not be to your liking
However, leasing your truck onto another carrier has some advantages as well:
- Access (in most cases) to company-provided fuel cards, advances, and money transfer systems
- Company-provided trailers
- Load and freight consistency (and more loaded miles)
- Access (in most cases) to fleet rates on the insurance you will need to operate your truck
- In many cases, company-paid or reimbursed tolls, plates, and permits
- Not having to worry about obtaining your own operating authority
Going independent is not easy and there are many details to account for including insurance. You will certainly need commercial trucking insurance, but it can be tough to navigate. First Choice Insurance will be pleased to provide you with options that are right for you.