What Is an Owner-Operator Truck Driver?

If you are looking to start a truck driving career or you are already a company truck driver, you may have heard the terms “owner-operator truck driver” or “owner-operator.” 

You may have lots of questions including: What is an owner-operator truck driver? What is the difference between a company truck driver and an owner operator truck driver? What is the average salary for an owner-operator? How do you become an owner operator?  

These are all important questions. Let’s dig into the details of owner-operator truck driving. 

What does an owner-operator truck driver do?

An owner-operator truck driver is a driver who owns and runs their own truck driving business. The job responsibilities include owning or leasing a truck, finding freight to haul, and managing the business. 

What is the difference between an owner-operator truck driver and a company truck driver?

If you are a company truck driver and you are interested in becoming an owner-operator, it is important to understand what aspects of your job will change. If you are new to the logistics industry, it is helpful to understand the differences so you can find the best fit for employment. 

  Owner-Operator Truck Driver Company Truck Driver
Vehicle Ownership An operator-owner must purchase or lease their truck.  The company provides the truck to the driver. 
Freight An owner-operator can select their own freight by taking advantage of freight choice load boards through a lease with an established company or through the spot market if they have their own DOT operating authority.  Dispatch assigns loads for the driver to haul.
Responsibilities The owner operator is responsible primarily for owning and running a business. This includes finding loads, managing expenses, hiring employees like other truck drivers or office assistants, maintaining the truck, making strategic business decisions, and hauling freight.  The driver’s main responsibility is to pick up and deliver the loads assigned to them. 
Expenses An owner-operator is responsible for all the expenses related to owning and running a trucking company.   The company pays for fuel, truck maintenance, and insurance. The driver does not pay. 
Payment The owner-operator generates business revenue by arranging freight to haul and delivering the loads. The payment terms are established by written contract and may be completed as mileage, flat, or percentage rates.  The driver is paid by the mile with additional compensation for unloading and loading, performance, and more. 
Motivation An owner-operator is likely interested in the opportunity to own their own business, retain full control over their trucking, generate revenue, and have maximum flexibility.  The driver likely became a company truck driver for the freedom, stability, and satisfaction that comes with the job. 

How much do owner-operator truck drivers make on average?

The amount of money an owner-operator truck driver earns depends upon a few factors including the type of freight they haul. An owner-operator is in a unique position because they are responsible for deciding the amount of revenue the business will earn. 

According to ZipRecruiter, the nationwide average owner operator truck driver salary is $235,233, with the highest earners bringing in $397,500. 

A few key factors influence the amount an owner-operator makes. 

Load Selection 

The way in which an owner-operator selects loads impacts profits because many of the methods for selecting loads require commission on a percentage of the revenue from the load. If an owner-operator uses a broker or dispatcher, they may have to pay 5-25% of the revenue from the load for the services. If an owner-operator uses a public load board or leases on with a carrier, they likely do not have to pay a percentage of the load. 

Operating Expenses

Operating expenses have a significant impact on the amount of money an owner-operator brings home. There are many expenses associated with owning or leasing a semi-truck and running an independent business. The operating expenses include fuel, insurance, truck payments, maintenance, and more. 

Quality of the Freight

It may seem counterintuitive, but the biggest loads with the longest hauls do not necessarily result in the highest profits. There are high quality loads that pay well and require shorter hauls. 

How do you become an owner-operator truck driver?

If you do not have one already, you need a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to become an owner operator truck driver. Once you have a CDL, you need to form a business such as a sole proprietorship, a limited liability company (LLC), or a corporation. Next you need to file for your U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) number that identifies you as an interstate commerce carrier. You will also need a trucking authority, insurance, a vehicle, and a business plan. 

Join the QFS Transportation Team Today!

QFS Transportation is always searching for experienced drivers across the entire nation. If you are interested in hauling for QFS, fill out a driver or tractor application. As one of the largest and fastest-growing companies with over 60 terminals across the country, our dedicated team gives our Owner Operators what they need to succeed.