Career Talk: Should you be an Owner-Operator or Company Driver?


Truck drivers get the opportunity to tour all of America, which provides amazing sights and landmarks. But if you want to work hard and bring in the money, you have to make a crucial decision before you set off on the road – should you work for yourself or a trucking company?

The other way to word this question is: Should you be an owner-operator or a company driver?

The answer will determine the amount of responsibility you take on, and the amount of money you earn.  And if you’re wondering about money, we won’t make you wait for the answer. Owner-operators do earn more than company drivers.

On the subject of money, a truck driver’s pay depends on a number of factors, including how much you run and what you’re hauling. For more on that, we recommend you check out our complete guide on truck driver salary.

Beyond the obvious question of pay, truck drivers should also know what it’s like working as a company driver compared to an owner-operator.

Company Driver

For most drivers, working as a company driver is how you got your start, which means you’re used to getting your assignment,loading (or hitching) your trailer, and riding out. Sure, there may be a bit more to it than that, like inspecting your semi-truck and waiting for the trailer to be loaded and unloaded.

And of course, for all truck drivers, you have to keep track of regulated breaks and driving time.

But when it comes time to get paid, the number printed on the check is yours. No guesswork needed. That money is 100% yours to keep or spend as you see fit.

The same cannot be said for owner-operators.


Now, say you want to go out on your own. Do everything yourself and reap the rewards as they come in. This prospect can be tempting, but you should understand that you’re taking on much more responsibility.

The first thing you have to do is buy your own rig. Buying a semi-truck outright is going to set you back a pretty penny, even for used rigs.

Even if you have savings and an opportunity for a good loan, the upfront cost of the truck won’t be your only expense.Unlike driving for a trucking company, the maintenance, repairs, insurance, and fuel costs are all on you.

You are also responsible for finding all your own loads. This means spending a good portion of your day on job boards and contacting people.

The good part is that you get to pick and choose your own loads. You can pick the most lucrative routes, and you get to keep the profits for yourself.

The bad part is that this is time-intensive, and there might not always be work available when you want to drive.

Owner-operators also must keep track of every dollar coming in and out. The IRS is notoriously particular about having an accurate record of cash flow, and they aren’t forgiving when it comes tax time.

Owner-operators probably want to create their own Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) for their tax purposes.

If you’re willing to keep up with all of that information and take on all of the extra responsibilities, however, then the fruits of your labor will be your own. And that’s the key difference between that makes people choose being an owner-operator over a company driver.