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Becoming an Owner Operator

Written by Nick Webster

Published on June 1, 2023, 11 a.m.


Here are some critical steps to consider taking when becoming an owner-operator:

Research the costs associated with vehicle ownership and operation, such as insurance, registration, fuel, and maintenance.

Determine the necessary license requirements in your state to become an owner-operator.

Get the proper licensing needed to operate a commercial motor vehicle.

Purchase a qualifying truck that meets all safety standards established by federal regulations.

Obtain cargo and liability insurance coverage for your business operations.

Establish relationships with shippers and brokers to secure freight loads.

Select a business structure (e.g., sole proprietorship, LLC) that suits your needs best for tax filings and other legal matters.

Create an effective budgeting system to keep track of expenses.


If you're considering becoming an owner-operator in the trucking industry, there are many important factors to consider before making a final decision. How to become an owner-operator: It's common for truckers to dream about owning their own rig and operating as an independent service provider. Still, the question remains: what steps must you take to become an owner-operator?

In this guide, we'll outline the essential prerequisites for pursuing a career as an owner-operator in the trucking industry. Additionally, we'll touch on some of the obstacles that you can avoid by becoming an owner-operator, as well as address common concerns that new entrants to this field may have. By following these guidelines, you can take advantage of the many benefits of operating your own business and enjoy a successful career as an owner-operator.

What Are Owner Operators?

To better understand the process of becoming an owner-operator truck driver, it's important first to define this role and how it fits into the trucking

industry. Learn how to become an owner-operator with little to no money. Essentially, as an owner-operator, you create your own business and serve as both the employer and the employee. You establish connections with clients, negotiate contracts, and work with trucking companies on a contract basis, temporarily joining their workforce to complete specific jobs.

As an owner-operator, you are responsible for your own (or leased) truck, insurance, and other business expenses related to your services. Dot delivery driver This means that you have more control over the jobs you accept or decline, and you work directly with clients you have contracts with. There are two types of owner-operators:

Lease purchase owner-operator: This is a driver who leases their truck.

Freight agent: This is an owner-operator who manages other drivers under them.

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Owner Operator Requirement #1: DOT & MC Numbers

If you plan to operate a commercial motorized vehicle (CMV) in most states, then you must obtain a USDOT number. Discover the steps to becoming an Amazon owner-operator. This requirement is essential if you're transporting passengers, hauling interstate freight, or carrying hazardous materials in quantities that necessitate acquiring a safety permit. Following the necessary protocol will ensure your business complies with state and federal regulations.

If you want to register for a USDOT, the Unified Registration System is your go-to online portal. You'll need to submit a $300 payment to get started. Depending on the type of freight-regulated commodities you plan to transport, an MC Number may also be required. To find out exactly which requirement applies to you, head over to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's website for more information.

If you plan to work as a for-hire carrier or transport people or freight across state lines, you'll need a USDOT and MC number. The filing fee is nonrefundable, and the process may take up to a month to complete. It's essential to make sure all requirements are met before applying to ensure a smooth process. You can quickly get your USDOT and MC numbers with the proper steps taken!

Owner Operator Requirement #2: Heavy Vehicle Use Tax

If you drive a heavy vehicle, such as a commercial motor vehicle that weighs over 55,000 pounds, you may be liable for the Heavy Vehicle Use Tax (HVUT). This annual fee applies to the combined weight of your vehicle, any trailers or semi-trailers attached to it, and their customarily carried loads. The sum must not exceed the maximum gross weight set by law. Make sure you pay this tax on time to avoid penalties and fines.

Taxable weight for any heavy highway vehicle ranges from 55,000 to 75,000 pounds. A base fee of $100 is applicable for vehicles weighing up to 55,000 pounds, and an additional $22 is charged for every 1,000 pounds after that. The maximum tax rate is capped at $550 per annum for vehicles exceeding the 75,000-pound mark.

If you're an owner-operator of a heavy vehicle, the IRS requires you to complete Form 2290. However, if your CMV travels less than 5,000 miles in a year, then you are exempt from paying any fees associated with the form. Even though there is no fee for filing this form when it's used by someone who drives fewer than 5,000 miles per year, it still needs to be completed.

Owner Operator Requirement #3: Intrastate Licensing via an SDLA: State Driver Licensing Agency

When using your Commercial Motor Vehicle to transport commerce between states or foreign countries, or within a state but with part of the trip crossing another state’s line, or with cargo originating or finishing its journey outside the state - it is essential to check with your State Driver Licensing Agency (SDLA) to find out which requirements you must display.

Doing so will ensure that you remain compliant with applicable regulations. How to get mc dot PINs All drivers must be aware of what is expected of them and take the necessary steps to stay compliant to preserve their license.

Owner Operator Requirement #4: International Fuel Agreement

Do you need to submit quarterly fuel reports while operating within IFTA jurisdictions? The International Fuel Agreement (IFTA) can help minimize the number of reports that you need to file.

If your vehicle has two axles and grosses more than 26,000 pounds, or has more than two axles, then you will be required to display your credentials under the IFTA program. This includes displaying two decals on the cab's exterior and carrying a legible photocopy of your IFTA license. Make sure to adhere to these requirements so that you stay in full compliance with all applicable laws.

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Becoming an Owner Operator, Step #1: Figure Out If it’s the Right Career

Are you thinking about starting out independently and becoming a business owner? Before you leap, it's essential to consider all of the labor involved. If you're already a trucker, being an owner-operator may require even more time away from home. As an employee driver, your responsibility is confined to driving; however, when you become a business owner, many more duties come with the role. Weigh all of the pros and cons carefully before taking the plunge!

Becoming an Owner Operator, Step #2: Secure a CDL

Getting your commercial driver’s license (CDL) is the next step on your journey to becoming an owner-operator. While getting a regular driver's license is relatively easy, acquiring a CDL takes more effort. Get a US DOT Number through Package #3. You must pass a DOT physical examination and decide your cargo.

Furthermore, special endorsements may be needed for some types of freight that require additional testing. To complete the process, you'll need to ace knowledge tests and pass road skill tests as well. You can quickly become an official CDL holder with hard work and dedication!

Becoming an Owner Operator, Step #3: Make a Financial Investment

When you become an owner-operator, there are more than just the obvious costs to consider. Weight taxes, registration fees, licenses, and endorsements are only the beginning.

You'll need to factor in the maintenance of your trucking equipment, payments for any loans or leases taken out, insurance premiums, and even what it will cost you to live comfortably. Being your own boss brings lots of freedom and the responsibility to handle these financial obligations. Be sure to plan accordingly!

Becoming an Owner Operator, Step #4: Get a Rig & Equipment

It's no secret that becoming an owner-operator is the goal for many truckers. You've worked hard and saved up, or taken out a loan to invest in your truck -- and now it's time to make a meaningful purchase. But before you take the plunge into this exciting endeavor, you should consider a few things first.

Think about the type of operation you want to run: what kind of loads do you plan on hauling? What routes will you be driving? How do you become an owner-operator trucker? Which areas can provide the most opportunity for success? Once you have answered these questions, it’s time to start shopping for the right truck that meets all your needs and fits your budget.

Becoming an Owner Operator, Step #5: Figure Out Which Owner Operator Type To Be

Once you have a CMV, you must decide whether to lease your vehicle to a company or become an owner-operator. Most new drivers take the former option as it doesn't require seeking out work and covers some of the expenses associated with hauling freight.

This can be particularly beneficial in helping new drivers learn the ins and outs of trucking operations. However, becoming an owner-operator holds more potential for earning money - although this may be offset by needing to invest resources into running your own business.

Becoming an Owner Operator, Step #6: Secure Insurance

When it comes to insurance, the type of coverage you select depends on your business model. If you lease to a trucking company, the included coverage may be limited in scope. On the other hand, if you opt to go your own way and become an independent operator, make sure your plan offers comprehensive protection in case of unexpected accidents or incidents—everything you need to know to obtain your MC and DOT numbers. You must have the right policy for your particular needs to have peace of mind while on the road.

Non-Trucking Liability Insurance is essential for independent truckers and owner-operators, ensuring they are covered while they are not directly performing duties on behalf of their motor carrier. Similarly, Physical Damage Coverage helps to protect against costs incurred in the event of a crash or collision. \

Motor Truck Cargo Coverage guards goods that have been loaded onto a vehicle from potential losses due to theft or damage. At the same time, Lease Gap Coverage provides coverage if the value of a totaled car is less than what’s remaining on its lease. All these elements come together to create comprehensive insurance protection for commercial drivers.

Summary: How Do I Become an Owner-Operator?

Here are some steps to becoming an owner-operator:

  • Obtain a commercial driver's license (CDL) and gain experience as a truck driver.

• Determine the type of trucking business you want to operate (e.g., long-haul, local, specialized).

• Research the costs of owning and operating a trucking business, including purchasing or leasing a truck, insurance, fuel, maintenance, and other expenses. Visit and learn how to become an owner-operator truck driver.

• Secure financing to purchase or lease a truck and other necessary equipment.

• Register your trucking business and obtain any necessary licenses and permits.

• Build relationships with customers and brokers to secure consistent loads and establish a reliable source of income.

• Develop a business plan and budget to help you manage your finances and stay on track with your goals.

• Consider joining a trucking association or organization to stay up-to-date on industry news and connect with other owner-operators.

• Stay informed about regulations and laws that may affect your business, including safety regulations and tax laws.

Becoming an owner-operator requires careful planning and preparation and a willingness to take on the responsibilities of owning and operating your own business. With the right mindset and resources, however, it can be a rewarding and lucrative career path for those who are willing to put in the effort.

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