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7 Habits of a Highly Successful Owner Operator

7 habits of a highly successful owner operator

The first rule of success in any area is to listen to successful people in your field and imitate them. With that in mind, we compiled these seven habits from a very successful owner operator who has been in trucking for over 50 years. While he still trucks two thirds of the year he also takes time to relax with his wife. They have been very successful and are able to do extensive world travel because of the practices outlined below.  

1. A Highly Successful Owner Operator Manages Their Money Well.

To be profitable, this has to be an owner operator's number one priority. In fact, almost all the habits come back to this one point. Any extra money from the truck should go into three accounts, repairs, taxes and retirement. As an owner operator you are self-employed so you MUST save for your own retirement, make sure you are putting some money away every year, and start young. If you are married, it is important that your spouse understand and respect the spending philosophy. Without support from home it is hard to be a successful owner operator. 

Watch out for equipment depreciation. Don't let it sneak up on you. Try to rotate your equipment – try every three years to see the most benefit. If you are just starting out as an owner operator it will take a little time to get to this stage, but a three year cycle should be your goal. The reason? In addition to the tax benefit you simply have less expense to run the truck; for instance, only one set of drive tires are needed and you can still trade/sell with better than 50% tread left.

2. A Highly Successful Owner Operator Is Very Conservative with Their Personal Expenses.

Little things mean big savings. Don’t buy anything one piece at a time. For instance, if you drink pop or juice buy in bulk so you save money.  Buying anything at a truck stop or convenience store is going to cost you more then you should spend.  It might seem trivial but a dollar or two a couple of times a day adds up, in fact if you are out three hundred days and spend an extra 5 dollars each day you spent $1,500 you didn’t need to spend – that could go a long way towards your retirement!

3. A Highly Successful Owner Operator Is Not Distracted By Shiny New Things That Aren't Profitable. 

The owner operator we interviewed wanted to drive an extended hood truck versus an aerodynamic option and justified t by telling himself he would get the money back in resale value. The problem was, once he started actually tracking the savings, he saw that he was wrong. The aerodynamic option was a much better long-term value. In his words, "sometimes you believe what you want to believe and not what is actually true"

Until you actually start recording your costs you don't really know. Thinking you are making a smart decision isn't enough; you need to do the math. 

He also suggested that the little things add up to big savings.  Don’t idle your truck, don’t add lights and extras that won’t make you more money, and drive at a lower speed.  Being proud of the truck you drive and having personal comforts are important but be reasonable when you buy or customize a truck.  

4. A Highly Successful Owner Operator Doesn't Put off Truck Maintenance.

Preventative maintenance is the key, putting off needed work with the idea that it can go another trip is foolish.  If you break down on the road the cost can be double what you might have spent on the same repair in your home shop; not to mention the cost of downtime.  It’s vital to be ahead of repairs.

5. A Highly Successful Owner Operator Takes Care of Their Own Health.

Your personal health will dictate how successful you are in the long run as an owner operator. Don’t fall for every health gimmick; there is no shortcut to good health. As hard as it is get out and move every day, when you are at a shipper or receiver's, go for a walk.  Watch what you eat and drink.  Make time to take care of yourself. This is all vital to your success.  

6. A Highly Successful Owner Operator Plans Their Trip Before They Leave. 

Leave early, and give yourself plenty of time. The benefits are numerous.  You save fuel by being able to drive at ideal speeds, there is less stress on you and your equipment, and if something does go wrong you have time to deal with it (Example: a blown tire or small mechanical breakdown).  Put yourself in a position to succeed and control costs by leaving early and planning your trip, including fuel stops and breaks, ahead of time.  

7. A Highly Successful Owner Operator Knows Their True Costs of Operation.

This cannot be stressed enough.  Understand the “true” cost of fuel by backing out the state tax and comparing where you fuel.  Don’t let the price on the board dictate where you purchase fuel, always understand the true cost per gallon.  Drive at different speeds and track what is most cost effective, once you know a speed saves you money, track your savings.  For instance, if you get .50 better going 64 versus 68 then keep track of the savings each time you fill the truck, that way you will have a constant reminder of the benefit.  Better yet, put the money aside or in a special account that you can use to purchase your next truck, you will be amazed at the amount after even one year.


We hope these habits have helped you. K&J Trucking is always looking for highly skilled and motivated drivers to add to our team. We have openings for both owner operators and company drivers. Give us a call. 

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