2019 came in with a threat and ended with a few ugly scars. No one knows that better than truckers. 2018's optimism met oversupply and then more than 600 freight carriers folded. Driving for just one company could leave scary weeks of no or low income. A shipping pattern shift or freight price increase could dry up listings indefinitely. At worst, companies could cease operations, stranding drivers and trucks on the road. Independence and owner-operator contracts are the answer.
Why place all your eggs in one basket? As an entrepreneur, you can choose to haul for any company. Want to learn more? Keep reading.
Your Truck, Your Rules
Owning your own truck gives you access to profits and independence. You can take any load you want, without depending on a single company for income. You determine your schedule, the route and the cost per mile.
You need authorization from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to book and carry your own loads. You will also need your own insurance. Once you make the transition to a truck owner and you meet all the regulatory requirements, you need to find owner operator contracts.
Common carriers are available for hire by the general public. Your FMCSA authorization (Property or Household Goods) determines the type of insurance you must carry.
Types of Truck Freight
More than 70% of the nation's total freight tonnage moves by truck. Different types of cargo require different equipment. For example, livestock haulers rarely use the same type of trailer as petroleum tankers. On the other hand, dry van drivers can have almost any cargo.
Flatbed trailers carry large or bulky loads and refrigerated trucks carry perishables. There are trailers built for almost any load.
How To Find Owner Operator Contracts
As an owner-operator, you need to drive to get paid. That means finding contracts and loads. You have several options.
Freight Brokers Connect Shippers to Truckers
Freight brokers help shippers find truckers to take their loads. They do the legwork and negotiate rates for the shipper. Watch out, it can cost you. Although freight brokers offer good loads, they may have fees hidden in with their service.
Independent Truck Dispatcher Services
A dispatcher with industry experience and contacts or an independent truck dispatcher service connects you to brokers and shippers. Many trucking dispatchers also provide the back office administrative services that owner-operators sometimes neglect.
They provide accounting, billing, and collections as well as looking for loads for a fee.
There are dozens of load boards to connect shippers directly to owner-operators. The boards make it very convenient to find hauling contracts by gathering many requests for shipment all in one place. Most listings include shipment details.
Load boards can be free or pay to list. Reading and responding to load listings can also be free or pay for access. Good trucking load boards offer free trials so that you can find the right types of loads without wasting time.
It takes a little research to begin. To start prospecting, find out what shippers are in your area. Determine where and what they ship.
Then you cold-call the person in charge of shipping. Knock on their doors, telephone, and email. Meet with them to introduce yourself and discover their needs in person. Ask questions and be prepared to follow up with them.
Prospecting is somewhat a numbers game. More attempts are more chances to gain loads.
Get involved with industry associations like the American Trucking Associations or the National Association of Small Trucking Companies. Go to events that your shippers attend. Use the power of the internet to hunt down industry trends.
Find out what associations focus on the type of freight you’re interested in hauling. Get to know your competitors and possible collaborators. Some membership associations can provide collective benefits like insurance and emergency funds.
Become Your Own Broker
This is the least attractive way to find loads. It's complex and requires lots of lead time. The investment is can be hefty too. You need training and some specialized contacts.
Become a Government Contractor
Government entities outsource transportation contracts all the time. If you are a woman, U.S. Veteran, Native American or other protected or underrepresented class, you have a good reason to register as a contractor. Certain classes may have preferential bid requirements.
The federal, state and local governments have trucking contracts to fill. On top of that, they pay a market rate and pay their bills on time. To become a government contractor requires a few extra steps.
Expect registration and certain proof of ownership if you are a member of a protected class. You can also partner or subcontract for a company already under a government contract.
Find and Manage Owner-Operator Contracts with Ease
As an entrepreneur, finding time to market yourself, manage contracts and drive is vital to your business. It's a competitive market.
You need to make sure your equipment is in top condition. Then you need to monitor load boards, contact brokers, and manage all your back-office functions like invoicing and collections. On top of that, you need to plan your routes and use time efficiently.
Without a small army of helpers, it can seem nearly impossible to add networking and cold-calling to the list. Consider using software to help. Software automation can streamline your back office work to leave you more time to drive and less time pushing paper.
ComFreight offers tech-based logistics solutions for owner-operators and brokers. Access via mobile apps to post trucks, search for loads and book contracts. Get paid within a day with the integrated payment system. Best of all, explore industry trends to price your bids right.
We can help you find more owner-operator contracts and grow your business. Start your free trial today.