22 May

Work in the trucking industry is profitable and, for many people, enjoyable and comfortable. There are two ways to go with a career in the trucking industry, being a company driver or an owner operator.

There are a number of differences between these two paths and we are going to go through them to help you make the right decision for yourself when deciding which path to take.

But first let’s, define each position:

Company drivers are truck drivers who are employed by a carrier company, and who use vehicles owned by that company.

Owner operators are truck drivers who are independent and own their own assets, they can lease their assets to a trucking company or they can be self-employed contractors.   

So what is left is going through some advantages and disadvantages, or pros and cons of company drivers vs owner operators.

Company drivers pros

  • No startup costs.
  • No personal expenses. For a company driver, the company will cover your expenses.
  • The money you make is yours.
  • Better benefits and insurance.
  • No commitment. If you decide this is not the job for you, you will not suffer big losses.
  • Work stays at work. When your workday is over, or you take a vacation, you don’t have to take your work home.
  • Lots of opportunities for finding work.

Company drivers cons

  • Making less money. The trucking company is the one finding the work and taking the risks, so you, as an employee, will get paid less than what the company gets paid.
  • Less control of your schedule. You will have to spend more time on the road, and follow the company schedule instead of making your own.
  • You don’t get to customize your truck. You will get a truck assigned to you by the company and you don’t have a lot of choice in the matter.
  • Company rules. Some companies have strict policies about ride alongs or not allowing pets, so you would have less freedom in that sense.
  • Possibility of slip seating. This means that you might not always be driving the same truck, or get to choose the truck you will be using.

Owner operator pros

  • Making more money. As an owner operator you will earn more money than as a company driver because now the risk and the expenses also belong to you.
  • You are in charge of your schedule.
  • You get to pick your truck. You can customize your truck, make it as comfortable as you want it.
  • Making your own rules. As an owner operator you get to set your own rules, you can decide if there can be ride alongs, or if pets are allowed.
  • Work opportunities. Companies need trucks, so there will be a lot of opportunities to get work.

Owner operator cons

  • Start-up costs. The costs can be pretty high to start with, check out how to lower your owner operator costs here.
  • Finding your own work. As an owner operator you will have to find your own loads, especially if you operate completely solo. Finding loads and making deals can take up a lot of your time.
  • Big commitment. Investing money into your truck is a big commitment, you will be taking a lot more risks than as a company driver.
  • Limited access to benefits and insurance.
  • Expenses and managing the earnings. You are in charge of covering all the costs and bills and also covering your own paycheck. You have to consider all the expenses you have and divide the money you earn so it all gets covered.
  • Taking the work home. As an owner operator you will have to take your work home occasionally. You will have to maintain your truck and keep all your paperwork in order.
  • Doing your own taxes can be very complicated and deciding to hire someone else to do it for you is another expense added to your list.

The pros and cons are practically opposites in these two career paths, and when it comes to deciding what the best option for you is, the best place to start with is seeing what you can afford to do at this moment in time. Another thing to consider is, are you willing to take the risk and go the owner-operator way? When the risks are higher, the chance of earning more is higher too, but you have to learn a lot about that side of the business and even hire people specializing in certain things, like accounting, to help out with the business side. Going through these lists will, hopefully, give you an idea of the differences between being a company driver and an owner-operator, and will help you make an informed decision while choosing a career path. What it ultimately comes down to is a personal preference.