9 steps to start a trucking business with one truck

Launching your own trucking business is a big step forward in your career. Working as an owner-operator gives you more control and flexibility with the jobs you take on. You don’t need a huge fleet to launch your business - many successful owner-operators get their start with just one truck. Here are the steps you’ll need to take to start your trucking business with just one vehicle. 

1. Create a business plan. 

The first step to launching any business is creating a robust business plan. Your business plan will serve as the road map for your trucking business as it grows. Having a defined business plan is also essential if you want to apply for grants, loans, or other forms of funding. 

Your business plan should define the market or niche you plan to target and how you plan to find customers. It should also define the services you plan to offer and how you’re going to provide them. Financially, you should touch on the rates you plan to charge as well as your expenses. 

Even if you’re starting with just one truck, your business plan should also discuss the ways you plan to grow your operations in the future. Will you scale with future trucks and drivers, and if so, how will you fund that growth? The more detailed you can make your business plan, the more helpful it will be in the long run. 

2. Decide on your business entity type. 

The next step is to decide on your business entity type. This determines how you will register your business with the government as well as your tax structure. 

Most owner-operators that drive with just one truck choose to operate as a sole proprietorship in the early stages of their business. However, there are a variety of other business structures to choose from, especially if there are other people involved in your business behind the scenes. You can also opt to start as a sole proprietorship and change your business structure later as you grow. 

In the United States, you might choose to operate as an LLC, which protects you as an owner from legal liability, or an S Corp, which has both legal and tax benefits. In Canada, you might choose to operate as a general partnership with another owner, or as a corporation, which offers legal protection. 

3. Calculate startup costs. 

The next step in this process is to determine how much money you’ll need to get your business off the ground. Start by thinking about your truck - if you don’t already have one, how much will it cost to buy or lease one? You’ll also want to plan for variable costs like maintenance and fuel. 

Additionally, you’ll need to calculate all the costs of starting your business and finding customers. These include government registration, licensing, and insurance costs as well as the cost of marketing materials and relevant technology. If you’re using any professional services to get your business off the ground, include those costs too – and don’t forget to think about your own salary as well!

4. Obtain the necessary licenses and permits. 

Both the US and Canada have strict licensing requirements for truck drivers. You’ll need to make sure that your business is properly registered and licensed before you hit the road. 

In the United States, you’ll need to get a USDOT number and then apply for authority with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). You’ll need to make sure to apply for the right type of authority to support your operations. 

If you’re in Canada, you’ll need to get a trucking business number and an account number with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Some provinces also have their own requirements. 

5. Purchase or lease a truck. 

If you don’t already have a truck, you’ll need to obtain one. Since purchasing a truck is a huge upfront investment, many owner-operators opt to lease one or participate in a lease-purchase program instead. This is a more cost-effective way to start driving. 

When selecting a truck, be sure to choose a vehicle that has the right capabilities for your operations. For example, if you plan on transporting perishable goods, you might need a refrigerated vehicle. If you opt for a used truck, be sure to verify its condition before making a purchase, as repair costs for used vehicles can add up quickly if you’re not careful. 

6. Get insurance coverage. 

Comprehensive insurance coverage is a must-have for any trucking business. Insurance not only protects you, but it also protects your clients and other drivers on the road. It’s best to talk to a local insurance expert who has experience in the trucking industry to determine what makes the most sense for your business and where you’ll be operating.

In general, owner-operators should have automotive liability insurance, commercial liability insurance, and cargo insurance. Automotive liability insurance protects your vehicle, commercial liability insurance protects your business, and cargo insurance protects the cargo you transport. 

7. Get the right tech stack. 

The right technology will streamline your operations and make processing orders a breeze. Start with a trucking management software, or TMS. TMS programs are designed specifically for trucking businesses and have tools to help you send quotes, track and process shipments, send invoices, and more. 

Look for a TMS that integrates with your in-vehicle ELD programs, load boards, and any other software you might want to use. Many trucking companies opt to supplement their TMS systems with accounting software, marketing software, and a variety of other helpful tools. 

8. Develop a client base. 

Now that you’re ready to start operating, it’s time to look for clients. A great place to start is by browsing online load boards. Many shipping clients and freight brokers use load boards to post urgent shipments, so they’re an effective way to get started if you don’t have many industry connections. 

Networking with freight brokers is another effective way to build your client base, although it can take time. Freight brokers can help you find shipments that aren’t posted on load boards and build long-term relationships with clients. 

9. Hire and train drivers. 

If you’re not going to be driving your own truck, you’ll need to hire and train drivers to carry these loads for you. When you’re first starting out, it’s best to look for employees who already have extensive driving experience to help the operations run more smoothly. 

Starting your own trucking business can be incredibly rewarding. It gives you the opportunity to build your own client network and focus on the driving jobs you enjoy most. Are you ready to streamline your trucking business? Get started with Rose Rocket, the #1 rated TMS. 

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