Do you want to know why I decided to start a trucking business?
Do you want to know what the best thing about being a trucker is?
There’s always work!
You just need to keep an eye out for people and businesses who might be in need of your services.
The time of year doesn’t matter. People need to ship goods, and we’re the ones to take them. And it’s not just goods. Raw materials, equipment, merchandise… anything that needs to get somewhere almost always involves a truck. Hell, even exports that are shipped somewhere on barges need trucks to get the goods to the water.
12 Steps to Starting A Trucking Business
Driving a truck may not be the world’s most glamorous job, but it’s easy work and gives me a ton of freedom. And the best thing about it is that I work for myself. My truck is my company. I have low costs and work when I want and take the routes I want.
I love having my own trucking company, but it can get really competitive. It takes a lot of work to do it right. Being a good trucker isn’t enough, you also have to be a good businessman.
Fortunately, I already did the work.
So if you’re looking to start a trucking company, you came to the right place.
I’m gonna teach you everything you need to know about how to start a trucking company in one short post.
You might wonder “what do I need to start a trucking company.”
Or have questions like “how can I start a trucking company.”
By the time you finish reading this post, you’ll be ready to take action and get started on owning your own trucking company.
Step 1: Learn How a Trucking Business Works
Running a trucking company is a lot more than just picking up and delivering stuff.
You have to consider marketing and logistics. Tracking every single moving piece. And knowing exactly how long it takes you (or your drivers) to get from point A to point B. And how much it costs.
Basically, you gotta have a plan. And the best way to build a plan is to go work for someone else for a little while.
Look, I’m not saying go be someone’s employee for the rest of your life. That kinda defeats the purpose. What I’m saying is before you go invest in your own equipment, get a feel for what it’s like driving a truck to make sure this is something you wanna do.
This’ll help you understand the business and decide on what style of company you want to have. If you’re working as a one man trucking company, that’s fine. But maybe you want to have employees. Are they subcontractors? Or are they actual employees?
With subcontractors, your drivers aren’t actually employed by your company. There are pros and cons to this. It definitely lowers your operating costs and expenses, but also eats into your profits.
If your drivers are all employees, then you own the equipment, you pay for the insurance and the fuel, and pay the drivers an agreed upon salary. But everything that comes in goes straight to you. You can definitely make more money like this, but it costs a lot more to start up your company with this model.
If you’ve ever driven a truck, then you know there are very specific rules, regulations, and permits you need before you can move forward with your own trucking company.
Obviously, every driver needs a CDL, but there’s more.
For example, you need to make sure every vehicle has a Federal DOT Number and Motor Carrier Authority Number. You can apply for these certifications online at the Federal Motor Carrier Authority’s website.
You also need to make sure your tax forms are ready to go. As a truck company, you need to use Heavy Use Tax Form to comply with tax regulations related to the heavy use of U.S roads with IRS Form 2290.
There are other specific tax forms you’ll need to utilize, so talk to an accountant to make sure you’re doing everything by the book.
Every state has different rules for commercial transportation, so visit your state commercial transportation site to make sure you’re complying with all the rules and permitting regulations. You can find your state’s portal here. You can go to the Transportation and Logistics guide for more info on trucking regulations.
And what about insurance?
Because you’ll be transporting so much merchandise for other companies, the trucking industry has really strict insurance requirements on businesses. Because of this, your insurance costs will be higher than most businesses.
But even once you know all the legalities of everything, you’ll still want to pick up tips from someone who has been doing this for years, and the best way to do that is to go work for them.
If you don’t understand how the trucking industry works, you’re not helping your chances of success. So dig in with more than research, and start your company off right by really digging into how the trucking industry works.
Step 2: Create a Plan
Trucking companies are a little different than other companies. It’s not like your traditional store where people walk in, shop around, deal with a smiling employee, buy something and leave.
But one thing we have in common with every other business is you have to have a plan for your business. Wanting to be in the trucking industry takes a lot of planning. You need to have an idea of the structuring and sales projections of your business. You can’t do this without a plan.
That’s what this article is for.
Below, you’ll find a layout of what needs to go into your plan. These are things like your earnings potential, location, service offerings, marketing plan, staffing plan, and more.
You need to really understand your target market and do an analysis of how to reach them. On top of that, understanding your market can tell you what equipment you might need. If you’re focusing on trucking restaurant goods, you’ll need refrigerated trucks. And when it comes to finding those customers, where would you look?
This all needs to be figured out in detail before you do anything.
Really analyze yourself before you start your company. What’s your competitive advantage? Why should a client pick you over another trucking company?
Are you faster? Cheaper? More reliable?
What’s your pricing structure look like? Flat rate? Per mile?
You should create a business plan for your company before taking any action. Plus, if you’re financing your equipment or taking investors, they’re gonna want to see a business plan to make sure you know what you’re doing before anyone gives you a cent.
Do yourself and your new business a favor and take the time to think things out and create a plan before taking any action.
Step 3: Discover Earning Potential
One of the first questions everyone has for me is “how much money do trucker companies make?”
It’s a good gig.
The average starting salary for a truck driver is about $30,000 a year. But you set your own schedule and work as much or as little as you want, so you can make way more than that if you’re a hard worker and take in more jobs.
The trucking industry (and the warehouses that use trucking) employ 3.5 million truck drivers. And about 1 out of every 9 of those truckers have their own trucks.
The U.S. economy depends on the trucking industry to deliver $671 billion in goods every year, or about 70 percent of all freight transported annually in the U.S. And that’s not counting shipping to/from Mexico and Canada. Economy depends on the trucking industry to deliver $671 billion in goods every year, or about 70 percent of all freight transported annually in the U.S. And that’s not counting shipping to/from Mexico and Canada.
So if you’re thinking “Is now a good time to open a trucking company?”, the answer is hell yes.
To really figure out your earning potential, you gotta figure out how much you can charge.
What I think you should do for your company’s pricing is to base it on miles per thousands of tons of cargo transported. Charge competitive rates since you have minimal overhead. This lets you compete on price to win over customers.
Your prices should be affordable and negotiable. That way businesses and individuals can use your service, and you can have different price ranges for different category of clients.
Your bid has to be low enough to be competitive, but still high enough for you to make a profit. And to do that, you have to know your expenses, like maintenance, repairs, truck and trailer payments, fuel, and the cost of your work. Don’t forget to add your time and hassle in. Pulling a load through a city is a lot harder than down rural highways, and should cost more.
To really earn the most profit you can, limit your empty miles and always have a load to transport. Find another load to bring back towards your home so the return trip is paying you instead of driving back empty handed, which eats away at the profit from your trip. The cost of deadhead miles can really destroy your profit margin, so avoid it whenever possible.
Step 4: Set a Budget
Setting a budget helps you know how low you can make your bids and how much profit comes in from each transport.
You gotta know every expense.
So just how much does it cost to open a trucking company?
- Truck Down Payment: $7,000
- Legal: $500
- Stationary: $300
- Licenses and Permits: $1,000
- Fuel: $11,000
- Insurance: $6,000
- Total: $32,000
Now, that may seem like a lot of money. Okay, that is a lot of money.
But the good news is that you don’t have to have all that to get started. There are tons of financing options available to you as a trucker. You can finance your truck, which is your largest startup expense. Or you can lease it (but then you don’t own it). You can finance operations and even fuel costs.
Some top lenders for you to explore loans include:
When financing just make sure you’re taking into account your interest rates and payments.
Costs to consider:
- Truck payments
- Trailer payments
- Repairs and maintenance
- Washes and cleaning costs
- Cost of living on the road
- Lodging (if necessary)
- Household bills should also be factored into your budget, as they will come out of your profits
To keep costs down, keep your truck running as efficiently as possible and avoid unneeded expenses. Also, use fuel apps, such as GasBuddy, to find the lowest fuel prices along your route.
Step 5: Decide Which Products/Service to Offer
No matter what, you have to focus on meeting deadlines. No excuses.
When it comes to choosing what services you want to offer, that depends on your and your truck(s).
Different trucking companies might focus on different areas.
- Selling moving supplies
- Moving good and equipment locally, including office and residential moves with smaller trucks and vans
- Local and long distance movement
- Heavy duty equipment movement
- Construction equipment, like excavators and bulldozers
- Agricultural equipment movement
- Oil and gas product movement
- Food service trucking
Different industries have different needs. So if your focus is on servicing the restaurant and hospitality industry, you may need to invest more money into refrigerated trucks. But then you can also charge more for your services into refrigerated trucks.
Figure out if you want to compete on price, service and reliability, speed, or something else. But you can’t do it all. If you’re the most reliable guy in the biz, then you can’t be the cheapest.
If you’re the cheapest, there’s probably a reason – so be careful not to underprice yourself when you’re bidding.
Step 6: Decide on a Location
You’re gonna need an office for your business. Or at least somewhere to park your truck(s).
This is gonna depend on if you’re working solo as an owner-operator or if you have drivers working for you. If you’re by yourself, you can rent a space to park your truck. If you’ve got a lot of trucks, ranging from tractor trailers to moving trucks and vans, you’ll want to lease commercial space (to keep costs low) with lots of parking for your vehicles. Look for access to water for being able to keep the trucks clean, and space to perform maintenance and repairs.
When picking a location, look for something easy to get to for your trucks, so you don’t have to fight through traffic to get your vehicles stored away. And check with your city to see if there are any regulations saying where you can and can’t keep your trucks.
Look for a place that fits your budget but still has everything you need. Remember, you’re not gonna have customers at your office most of the time (if ever), so don’t worry too much about a nice, expensive place for them.
Step 7: Find Suppliers
You’re gonna need to find and buy the right equipment to get started. If you’re choosing to operate a private fleet with your own drivers, you’ll need to purchase commercial vehicle(s).
How many vehicles you have should depend on how much money you have to start your business. If you’ve only got a little money, start with one truck. Or start with multiple smaller trucks and do local business, delivering anything and everything you can until you can scale up and buy bigger and better trucks.
For commercial trucks, remember that different types of cargo require different equipment. For example, if you’ll be transporting food, you’d need a refrigerated truck. If your cargo is oversized, you’ll need a flatbed truck.
You can find suppliers at:
Shop around and look for trucks and equipment with a blend of quality and pricing to meet your budget so your company is ready to roll.
Step 8: Promote Your Truck Company
Before you promote your company, you need to figure out who you want to promote it to. Some options include:
- Merchants (importers, exporters, traders, suppliers, wholesalers, and dealers)
- Construction companies
- Corporate organizations
- Small business owners
- The timber industry
- Oil and gas sector
Once you know who you want to talk to, figure out how to talk to them.
The best thing you can do is go talk to company heads in person. Show them how much you want their business by investing your time in them. This doesn’t cost a thing other than a time investment, but it shows businesses you’re serious about handling their transports.
Be fairly affordable and easy to reach.
Be fast and efficient.
Regardless, your marketing starts with your website. So make sure it’s a nice site and easy to navigate. And then make sure everything you put out there matches your site, so your brand is the same across all platforms. And make sure you’re paying attention to everything online.
Yelp, Google, and any other sites where your company is listed should get plenty of attention from you. Companies check rating when picking vendors, so keep yours up and use that as a sales tool.
A company may take a chance on a new trucking company with a perfect rating on Yelp and Google if their current vendor just isn’t getting it done, but if your scores suck, you’ll have a hard time convincing your prospects.
Step 9: Create a Staffing Plan
Are you doing everything yourself and operating as an owner-operator? If so, you’re all set.
But if you want to grow your business and have drivers working for you, then you’ll need to recruit them. Where are you bringing them in from?
Check out CDL certification schools for fresh faces you can bring on.
Figure out how many drivers you want to bring on and make sure that number fits your budget.
Other than that, if you need office help like a secretary or office manager, you need a plan on where to hire that person (or people) and how to schedule your office staff. For example, if you’re only open M-F during normal business hours, you probably only need one secretary or office manager. But if you’re working across multiple time zones, maybe you want to be open during odd hours, and that could require another pair of hands so you’re not stuck paying overtime.
Have a plan for staffing in place to help you grow.
Step 10: Decide on a Style/Design
Your brand says a lot about you. But some effort into deciding what your style is. It starts with what type of service you are. For example, if you’re going to focus on hauling construction equipment, your style might focus more on strength and being “manly”.
If you get stuck, check out 99designs.com, you pay one cost and the designers compete for the money. You get a ton of options for a pretty small cost. Just make sure the style is the same across everything – biz cards, website, truck signs, etc.
If you’re struggling with what to name your trucking business, here are a few ideas:
Landstar Evans Logistics
Old Dominion Freight Line Inc. Keen Trucking Inc.
ABF Freight System Tony’s Transportation Company
Eastern Express Inc AmeriCold Logistics LLC
Smith Transport Inc. Sheldon Truck Lines
Omaha Truck Center Central States Trucking
Heartland Express Barnett International Group, LLC
Prime Inc. USA Best Trucking Service
Step 11: Create an Accounting Plan
You can’t operate any business, especially a successful one without an accounting plan.
You need to track all your costs and all your income for a lot of reasons.
When tax season comes around, you can write off all your fuel costs and repair costs, so you want to track those properly. But other than just taxes, having an accounting plan lets you know how your profit margins look, which means you need an accounting plan to track your budget. Some good options include:
Step 12: Get Into the Truck Owners Community
One of the best things you can do for your trucking business is to get involved in the trucking community. Check out associations like:
You get to meet some really good people in the trucking business and you stay ahead of the newest strategies to keep your costs down and make more money.
You can also join some communities on Facebook and look for local meetups.
The fact is, you never know where a new client can come from, so get involved in the trucking community to give your business a leg up in the industry.
The Bottom Line
Opening or starting a trucking company, let alone running it, is a TON of work.
But if you do it right, it’s a pretty great gig.
I’m my own boss. I work when I want to. And you know what? I can say that I directly help the economy because I’m the one who gets things where they need to go. Call me crazy, but that feels good knowing I’m doing something worthwhile.
Hopefully, you put this guide to use.
If this was helpful for you and you want to learn more about starting a trucking company, StartupJungle.com has a 21-point checklist for starting your new business. Remember to download your copy if you’re serious about getting started.