Becoming an Owner Driver

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Getting Started

For many truck drivers, there comes a time in their careers when they wish to become their own boss. To be in control of their own success, to freely pick their own work and to ultimately be the primary person benefiting from all their hard work and efforts.

Making the decision to become an owner driver is a difficult one and there are many things to consider before taking the plunge.

You need to understand that you will no longer be just a truck driver but a business owner and with that you will need to know about running a business.

Here are some additional jobs you will need to do when becoming an owner driver:


  • Expenses – keeping a good record of all your expenses and receipts
  • Accounts – ensure your accounts are in order and up to date
  • Invoices – creating invoices, making sure they include payment details and payment terms
  • Chase payments – keep an eye when payments are due and chase outstanding payments when overdue
  • Customer service – you will need to deal with customers and suppliers. The better service you provide the better chance of more haulage work.
You should consider setting up your business as a limited company from the very beginning as some companies prefer to deal with limited companies over sole traders.
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Apply For Your Operators Licence

Before you apply for your Operator’s Licence, also known as an O Licence, you will need to have £7000 in clear funds in the bank to operate one vehicle. These funds are the operational funds you would need to start off as an owner truck driver.


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You will also need to decide on the operation base of your company, this is basically where your truck will be parked when you are not driving it. This will need to be somewhere safe and secure.

Once you have chosen your base or operation you are required to put an advert in the local paper to register your intention to obtain an O Licence at that address. People will then have 21 days to object to your intention. Examples of acceptable adverts

When the 21 days have passed you can then send off copies of your advert, forms and money in order to get your licence. This is unfortunately a lengthy process and can take up to 9 weeks. But once you have your O Licence you will be good to go.

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Applying For A Goods Vehicle Operators Licence
Guidance On Applying For Your Operators Licence
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Choosing What Truck To Drive

Getting a truck and potentially a trailer is much less of an issue once you have your O Licence. You just need to decide how much you want to spend and whether to buy a truck outright or rent one.

The choice of truck and whether to buy or rent is entirely dependent on your own preferences and personal circumstances.

If you haven’t got the money straight away to buy your own truck you can rent one, which is what a number of owner truck drivers decide to do when starting out to keep the initial investment costs down.

Renting a truck – with renting a truck all the issues and problems with the truck are the responsibility of the rental company, so as long as the problem on the truck wasn’t caused by you they will get it sorted.

You can get a brand new truck and even though renting is more expensive in the long run some owner drivers prefer the added piece of mind it brings. If something serious was to go wrong with the truck the rental company would provide a replacement so less time would be spent off the road.

If you owned the truck yourself you would have to pay to rent a truck in the interim whilst your truck is being fixed and a large repair bill early on could quickly put the brakes on.

Buying a truck In the long term buying your truck is the right option but you cannot tell what might happen and buying a truck could double your initial outlay. It is important when buying a truck that you buy from a reputable dealer and that the truck has a full service history. When buying the newer you can afford the better. Your truck is your money making tool so reliability is imperative.

You can buy your truck on finance which means you wouldn’t have to pay a huge lump sum outright straight away. The benefits to doing this is that at the end of your finance agreement you will own the truck outright and with doing so you will be able to reduce your operating costs by the amount of your monthly finance payment. So if you know a reliable mechanic or you have the skill set yourself then buying a truck over renting could be the better option.

There are more and more owner drivers buying near new trucks from dealers because they are less expensive than brand new trucks and they come with some warranty and this gives piece of mind especially when starting out.

Used Trucks For Sale
Nearly New Trucks With Warranty From DAF
Guide To Buying A Used Truck
Maritime ‘Buy to Work’ Scheme
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Owner Driver Insurance

Once you have decided on the type of truck you want you will need to look into insurance. Now the insurances needed when becoming an owner driver can be a bit of a minefield. You will need to consider all types of coverage including goods in transit, employer and public liability, certificate of liability, the truck insurance and trailer insurance.

If you do not own the trailer itself you will still need to insure the one you are using. You may also want to consider legal cover as well just in case anything goes very wrong and you need a decent law firm.

Make sure when you choose an insurance company you let them know you will be using the truck for haulage work. Any company you will want to sub-contract haulage work from will want to see your insurance documents, stating that your vehicle can be used for haulage, before subbing out any work.

There are lots of options you can consider adding in addition to the required cover, such as:
  • Breakdown cover
  • European cover (not as covered as standard)
  • Windscreen cover
  • Courtesy truck hire
  • Driver’s belongings cover
  • Equipment cover (ropes, sheeting, load restraints, security ties etc..)
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Haulage Work For Owner Drivers

Before setting up as an owner driver and going through all these steps hopefully you would have some potential work lined up with an operator or at least the promise of some work once you’re established.

Haulage operators are generally quite patient as they know the process of becoming an owner driver can be a long one.

You can get a licence and then find work but it is recommended that you have some promise of work lined up first. Through the whole process of getting established be sure to keep any haulage operators, who have promised you work, informed of your progress and keep in touch until you get a firm starting date.

Be cautious if any companies promise you work all week and that you are to work for them solely. You may quickly find this is not the case and that the work is not filling up your week or earning you another money. We would recommend that you find multiple companies to sub-contract work from to maximize your potential for work.

The best way to find work and to grow your network of contacts early on is with a freight exchange like Returnloads.net. With a freight exchange you have access to thousands of different load types from different companies every day. You can quickly find haulage work and establish yourself as a reliable owner driver.

Keep Your Options Open

There are various different ways to run your business as an owner driver, you could work as a sub-contractor for one main haulage company, you could float between different hauliers utilising a freight exchange or you could try and find work directly with customers so there are no middlemen to take a cut and you earn more money.

Payment rates for owner drivers can differ, you may get paid per mile, or by the weight of the load, some owner drivers even get paid by the hour which means if they are stuck in traffic they still get paid for the work they are putting in.

There are different rates offered by different companies so be sure to look around to find the best deal for you.

Clothing

Always make sure you have a hi-visibility coat or vest and steel toe caps boots at all times. You do not want to be turned away from a delivery site because you haven’t worn the right clothing.
 
Don’t under estimate how hard it can be and just how much you have to put in to make it as a successful owner driver.
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Tips To Help You On Your Way

1)    Always get your delivery rate in writing from a company before you start the job.

2)    Before accepting a job confirm the price and the mileage so many owner drivers take on work without finding out exactly how much they will earn after costs.

3)    If a company asks you to put their company livery on your vehicle be aware that other transport companies may wish for owner drivers to have no livery on their vehicles.

4)    Always get proof of delivery (POD), make sure a POD sheet is signed and printed with the time and date the load was delivered. Most companies will not pay you unless you have a POD. (e sheet)

5)    Before sending off the original POD to your customer make sure you take a photocopy or a scan for your records. As we all know things can go missing in the post.

6)    Be professional and courtesy at all times, you are your company and in order to build a reputation you need to be professional at all times.

7)    Good customer service skills are paramount if you are going out on your own. Always be polite, professional and flexible. The level of service you provide will definitely go noticed and the better the service the more likelihood of work.

8)    Buy a finance software package, it will save you time in the long run. It will make things easier to keep track of your cash flow and any money you are owed.

Useful Links For Owner Drivers

Reviews of the best accounting software for small businesses Accounting Software Reviews

Find the best place to fill up with prices from petrol stations across the UK PetrolPrices.com

UK’s leading freight exchange for hauliers Returnloads.net

A professional trade association who looks after the interests of the road haulage industry Road Haulage Association

The largest truck driver forum in the UK TruckNet UK

For advice on working for yourself HMRC

Advantages and disadvantage of fuel cards Useful Fuel Card Information

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