There are few jobs more appealing than trucking to those who love the outdoors and the open road. The opportunity to see the wide open spaces and sprawling cities in our nation is a powerful draw to those who can’t imagine sitting at a desk all day.
Of course, it can be easy to let that romantic view spoil the operation of the business, and unfortunately for the road-hungry traveler, a certain amount of desk work is in order even when you’re in a chair that has 18 wheels.
Driving a truck is an amazing experience that is also a business. And just as a farmer must do some books after parking the tractor, a trucking owner-operator has to keep an eye on the bottom line to stay in the driver’s seat–figuratively and literally.
As you’re logging your required rest hours or simply waiting on a load to get off your truck, keep in mind some of the important things you can do to keep your dream profitable.
The Startup and Expansion Costs
Most truckers don’t have the cash to go out and buy a brand-new rig for their first truck. It’s financial suicide even if they do. Things will be a little tight starting out, so you have to control your costs.
The same applies for an established company that may be looking to add or upgrade a truck. Get familiar with a supplier like CharterTrucks.com, which has a wide selection of heavy trucks and equipment, listed in an efficient, searchable format that will help you find what you need in a hurry.
Buying a used vehicle from a credible company saves an incredible amount of depreciation, a noncash cost that can nevertheless hit you in the wallet when tax season rolls around.
The Daily Expenditures
There are some fundamental business practices you need to keep in line, and trucking can be a little murky on them. For example, when you drop off a load of freight in one town and dead-head to another for the next load, you need to keep track of your unloaded mileage for tax purposes.
What repairs and maintenance have you done? What did it cost? In the flurry of trying to get back on the road after a breakdown, don’t forget to keep up with receipts and statements so that you can accurately manage your expenses.
Speaking of expenses, try to control them. If you’ve started out in a cab without a sleeper, save some money by checking with Charter for a rig that carries living space. Then determine how many nights on the road will be spent in your sleeper cab, and how often you can let yourself splurge on a motel. (An affordable motel!) And keep yourself healthy so that you aren’t missing miles by making doctor visits.
It can be easy to lose track of how often you are treating yourself, and before long your expenses are out of control. The same goes for meals. Do what you can from your on-board fridge, and then be reasonable when eating outside the truck.
The Devilish Details
In addition to knowing what you’ve spent on the business, you need to know what it qualifies as. Can you write off your dinner with a shipper as a business expense? What about upgrades to the truck? Can an upgrade of your truck’s capabilities be justified as a business expense?
As noted earlier, you are required to have some down time in order to be in compliance with driver laws. While you may wish you could spend all that time sleeping or searching for another load, you really need to discipline yourself to track expenses during that time. And if it seems too burdensome right now, imagine how much nicer it will be come tax time if you have all your information gathered up and classified. Your CPA may not recognize you!
Trucking is a unique business in that you can’t really multi-task. You are either driving, or you are managing. Making sure that your non-driving time is spent on good management will help you keep your business out of the ditch.