If you're considering a career in trucking you may not know the differences between a company driver and an owner operator. There are lots of reasons people choose one path over the other and both have their place in the world of trucking. Here is a quick comparison to help you see which path might be right for you.
What is a company driver?
Company drivers are truckers who are employees of a particular trucking company and drive a tractor or tractor trailer provided by that trucking company. Read our post for more info on a day in the life of a company driver.
What is an owner operator?
Owner operators are truckers who own their own tractor or tractor trailer. These owner operators can either haul freight as self-employed independent contractors, or they can lease their truck to a trucking company by contract and haul freight for that company using their own truck. If owner operators are leased onto a trucking company they still operate as self-employed, but they can usually enjoy better access to loads with less leg work on their part. If they operate completely solo, they have more freedom to take the types of loads, and routes, they enjoy most, but booking the loads can be time consuming. Read our post for more info on a day in the life of an owner operator.
- No start up costs besides getting your CDL.
- The money you make is yours. You don't have to reinvest in your truck.
- No commitment. If trucking isn't for you, you aren't out any money.
- Better access to benefits and insurance.
- When you go on leave, you can leave work at work.
- The current driver shortage means lots of opportunities for work because most trucking companies are hiring.
- You make less money. Because the trucking company is taking on the risk, you make less as a company driver.
- You have less home time. When you are a company driver you have a little less control of your schedule, meaning you have to be on the road more.
- You drive the truck you are given. Now, some companies give you a few options, but you can't do much of anything to customize the truck. Often these company trucks have fewer bells and whistles.
- Some companies have a strict ride along policy or don't allow pets. K&J allows pets and riders as long as you pay for rider insurance for the time they ride along.
- Less respect from other drivers. This isn't always true, but some OTR drivers look down on company drivers.
- Possibility of slip seating (this is where you take whatever truck is available rather than having a truck assigned to you that you consistently use). K&J Trucking does not do slip seating, but many companies do.
- You make more money. Because you are taking on the risk and insurance, you make more than a company driver.
- You can make your own schedule. When you are a company driver you have a little less control of your schedule. As an owner operator you can make your own schedule, but you still have to pay the bills, so don't be fooled into thinking you get a lot more time off because in the end, if the truck isn't running, you aren't making money. Unfortunately bills don't decrease just because the truck is parked.
- You can customize your truck and drive your dream vehicle. If you want a custom seat or a nicer stereo, you can get one.
- It is up to you who rides along. Because you carry your own insurance, you can decide who will be riding along with you without asking first. If you want to bring along a furry co-pilot, you can.
- The current driver shortage means lots of opportunities for work because most trucking companies are looking for trucks.
- Start up costs are pretty steep. Often companies will help you get started by leasing you a truck until you can purchase outright.
- You have to find the loads. If you lease onto a trucking company this is not the case, but if you operate completely solo you have to find and book your own loads, which can be a full-time job!
- The money you make needs to cover all your driving expenses and your take home pay. No one is writing you a paycheck that is all yours. You have to consider upkeep and running costs when you factor in your pay.
- Big commitment. If you decide to get out of trucking and own your own truck you could very well lose money getting out of the truck because of their quick depreciation.
- More limited access to benefits and insurance. Some trucking companies like K&J Trucking provide options for their owner operators, but many, if not most, leave you to figure this out for yourself.
- When you go on leave, you can't leave work on the truck. Much of your home time will be spent maintaining the truck and working on keeping your paperwork in line.
- Taxes are more complicated. If you hire a good accountant to help you keep up with your books, this doesn't have to be a problem, but taxes can definitely be more complicated as an owner operator.
So Which is Right For Me?
Unfortuately, only you can answer this question! But if you want to start the conversation and see if working for K&J Trucking might be a good career fit for you, we would love to chat. We are currently hiring drivers from the Sioux Falls, SD, Guymon, OK, and Kearney, NE areas. But even if you are outside these areas, we still want to talk!