13 expenses all owner operators should expect
Starting your own trucking business can be both exciting and liberating. You are now your own boss and don’t have anyone supervising you or dictating your schedule. Which means you get liberty for the overall branding and long term vision of the company. However, with these exciting elements also comes the reality of being responsible for business operations, which includes pouring over spreadsheets and breaking down your budget to see what expenses you will need to pay on a monthly and annual basis.
Tracking expenses isn’t the most exciting part of the job but in order to keep your business afloat, it’s crucial to keep an eye on your business costs. Once you start keeping tabs on all of your costs, it’ll be easier to see where you can reduce your spending so you can keep your profit margins as high as possible.
While tracking expenses seems like an intimidating feat, we’ve rounded up a list of common expenses to take note of along with some hidden costs to help you get started on your journey as an owner-operator.
One of the most significant expenses for owner operators is their truck payment. Whether you choose to finance or lease your truck, it's important to budget for these regular payments as they are a significant portion of your monthly expenses.
Fuel costs are unavoidable in the trucking industry. As an owner operator, you are responsible for bearing the expenses associated with keeping your truck fuelled up for each journey. Look for a vehicle with a good MPG (miles per gallon) and try to keep it well maintained. Monitoring fuel efficiency and exploring cost-effective fuel options can help minimize this expense.
Comprehensive insurance coverage is vital for protecting your trucking business from potential risks and liabilities. Allocating a portion of your budget for insurance premiums ensures that you're adequately protected against accidents, cargo damage, and other unforeseen circumstances.
Maintenance and repairs
Repairs for a truck can run you from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars depending on the issue. Whether you’re dealing with a flat tire or are long overdue for an oil change, figuring out how often that maintenance needs to be done will help you create an ongoing estimate for maintenance and repairs. Regular maintenance, inspections, and repairs should be factored into your financial plan, as they contribute to the longevity and reliability of your truck. For smaller repairs try to fix them yourself to save money. For more complicated jobs, shop around and ask for quotes to see if you can get a better deal.
Licenses and permits
As an owner operator, you need to obtain and renew licenses and permits required to operate your truck legally. These expenses may include commercial driver's licenses (CDLs), International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) permits, and state-specific permits. Budgeting for these costs is crucial to remain compliant and avoid penalties.
Tolls and weigh stations
Traveling across different states and routes often involves tolls and weigh station fees. These expenses can quickly add up, so it's important to account for them when planning your trips and budgeting your expenses. You can use sites like Bestpass.com to gauge how much you will pay in tolls for a single trip so you can budget accordingly.
Owner operators are responsible for paying various taxes, including income taxes, fuel taxes, and self-employment taxes. Working with a qualified accountant or tax professional can help you navigate tax obligations efficiently and ensure accurate filings. Paying your taxes on time and accurately can prevent you from accruing more unexpected fines.
Some deductible expenses can include licenses and permits, protective equipment, and DOT physical costs.
Running a trucking business requires administrative work, which often includes office expenses such as paperwork, record-keeping, and communication costs. These expenses may involve purchasing office supplies, maintaining software subscriptions, and managing phone and internet services. Keep track of certain items that need to be replaced and how frequently. It may save you money to buy certain items in bulk or through wholesale.
Lastly, find ways to reduce your office rent by opting for a modest space until you start to scale and grow your team.
Health and disability insurance
Investing in health and disability insurance is crucial for the well-being and financial security of owner operators as well as their employees. The life of a truck driver can really take a toll on the body and cause health issues like diabetes, obesity, or heart problems due to prolonged sitting, poor sleep, and bad eating habits. Depending on whether you want a more flexible health plan or not, this can be a costly, but necessary expense that will save you thousands of dollars upfront.
Planning for the future is essential, and setting aside funds for retirement is a wise move for owner operators. Allocating a portion of your earnings towards retirement savings ensures financial stability and peace of mind during your post-trucking years. Putting money back into the business is important but make sure to take care of yourself too. When you are no longer able to work, you will need to rely on your investments for a monthly allowance.
Load boards & broker fees
Access to some load boards can come at a price but these online boards can also provide steady business. Most offer different packages and you pay monthly for specific features.
Try to find a reputable broker with low fees to also help you reel in customers. Make sure their commission fee is reasonable and have your agreement in writing before partnering together.
Lodgings, meals and personal expenses
Long-haul trips often require overnight stays and dining on the road. Allocating funds for lodging, meals, and personal expenses is necessary to maintain a comfortable and sustainable lifestyle while away from home. Don’t forget to keep track of all of your receipts so you have them ready for tax season.
Tech for your business
Investing in technology can significantly enhance the efficiency and profitability of your trucking business. Using a Transportation Management System (TMS) software, such as Rose Rocket, can streamline operations, optimize routes, manage dispatch, and simplify administrative tasks, ultimately reducing costs and improving overall productivity,
The bottom line
There will be expenses in any operation, but as long as you keep track of your budget and are careful with your spending, you will be able to be a profitable company. And most expenses are an investment for your owner operator trucking business in the long run. Looking to streamline your trucking business? We can help – book a demo below and get started with Rose Rocket, the #1 rated TMS.