Don’t be discouraged by the sight of larger fleets, countless drivers, and seemingly endless financial resources from other trucking companies. In fact, a little birdie told us (okay, it was truckinfo.net), that 90% of trucking companies have six or fewer trucks.
There’s ample legroom for you to get started and thrive as a business owner-operator in the trucking industry, even with just one rig. Plus, if you can perfect your business model and operations with one truck, think about how equipped you’ll be when more wheels roll into your field of vision. Take a look at these essential steps for how to start a trucking business with one truck.
1. Securing Funding
First, let’s get down to the dollars and cents. Like any business involving large items, you’ll need some dough to fund your venture.
One truck can cost tens of thousands of dollars, even from used truck retailers. So if you don’t have enough savings to start your entrepreneurial journey, consider loans to get yourself set up. If you have an established business like an LLC (which we’ll discuss a little later), you can open a business bank account and reap the benefits of small business loans within your bank.
You can also find ways to fund through commercial truck leasing loans, federal loans, or generic small business loans. Here are a few funding options to get the wheels turning:
2. Register with the US DOT for $300
If you plan on operating intrastate commerce, you need to register with the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) for $300.
The Deely Insurance Group outlines the requirements for registering with the DOT. You’re required to register if your truck:
- Has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), gross combination weight rating, gross vehicle weight or gross combination weight of 10,001 pounds or more
- Is designed or used to transport more than eight passengers (including the driver) for compensation
- Is designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers (including the driver) and is not used for compensation
3. Establish Your Truck Business and Get Liability and Insurance
If you haven’t already, it’s a good idea to establish your business so you can reap tax benefits and separate your business liabilities from your personal ones. Certain states grant your state tax id number as soon as you’ve finished establishing your Articles of Organization, while other states require you to take an extra step to do so.
But even before doing this, you might want to consider what type of business model you want to form. A sole proprietorship is an unincorporated business structure with one owner (you). Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) — a common business model as told by Motor Carrier HQ by small trucking companies — separate your business assets from your personal ones.
Then there are S-corps, which are a model that an LLC can file with a maximum of 100 shareholders, and C-corps, which are more complex structures that issue shares of the company.
To simplify choosing the best option for your business, head on over to doola and we will help you form your business the right way and save yourself the stress.
You’ll also want to take into account liability and insurance:
- Primary liability insurance — Federally-mandated insurance is required for any trucking company. It covers bodily injury or damages you cause others from your truck.
- General liability insurance — State-mandated insurance that protects you from off-road accidents, like slip-and-falls.
- Non-trucking liability or bobtail insurance — This policy is for when your truck is used on off days for personal use.
- Physical damage coverage — Use this to cover theft, collision, vandalism, natural disasters, and any repairs needed.
4. Get Trucking Authority
Before you even start operating your truck, you need trucking authority — which is the government’s way of granting you the authority to professionally operate your truck to move freight.
Just like all parts of the business, there’s an assemblage of paperwork needed for access. If that all seems like too much, you can partner with companies like DAT Freight and Analytics. This will also help you determine what kind of authority you need, which depends on the cargo you’re carrying.
5. Find a Process Agent
As a truck owner, you’re also required to have a process agent or a person who will receive any court papers for you if you’re ever served.
6. Get Your Truck!
You’re rolling down the winding road of entrepreneurship and just about ready to turn onto the big decision highway: what kind of truck should you get? A flatbed, step deck, reefer? Or what about a dry van or a dump trailer? Browse through model options, and then, based on the funding secured from step one, decide if you’re going to buy a truck or lease one.
For Buying a Truck
For Leasing a Truck
*Bonus: buy an existing trucking business from a marketplace like BizBuySell. Sometimes, people aren’t selling just their trucks, but their whole business! At a larger upfront cost than just purchasing a truck, you’re buying out an entire company, oftentimes throwing trucks in with the deal. Similar to franchises, sellers will occasionally offer training so you can learn how to continue and grow the success of your business. Unlike franchises, once it’s yours, it’s yours; you get to make the rules. Here’s an example of a listing on BizBuySell.
Rev Up Your Growth: How to Scale Your Trucking Business
Scaling Your Business
- Manage your finances — Work with a business formation and bookkeeping service like doola to ensure your income is more than your expenditures.
- Write up a business plan — Starting a business will always bear some bumpiness, but with goals and systems, you can eventually make it feel like a soft drive on a straight highway.
- Invest in technology and tools — Find apps and tools to help you manage your business smoothly, like TruckerPath, which tracks truck stops, parking availability, weigh stations, and more.
Do Your Research on
- Driver shortages — to keep a timely delivery record
- Changing regulations — to keep up with new laws
- Following procedures — to keep up with legalities
Building Your Business One Truck at a Time
It’s important to start your trucking business out on the right foot and by following these tips you’re off to a great start. Partner with us at doola and we can help form, manage, and grow your trucking business so you can ride off into the sunset with strategy and ease!
How much does it cost to start a trucking company?
According to Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, a basic model of a single semi-truck can cost between $40,000 and $120,000, not including the additional features and options needed for it to run efficiently, like adding a sleeper cab.
How much can a single truck owner earn per year?
The average annual pay is $242,826, based on ZipRecruiter as of 2023.
Is trucking a good business?
Trucking can be a profitable business if you invest and manage your business mindfully.