Updated: Feb 17
Many drivers make the transition from company driver to owner-operator because they want the opportunity to make more money and have more freedom. However, before you can achieve these goals, there are many things you should consider before starting your own trucking company.
One of the biggest things on the mind of a driver who is looking to branch out on their own is, “how much does it cost to start a trucking company?” Let’s take a look at the different costs you should expect to face before you can call your trucking company your own.
*A quick note before we start... Many of the costs associated with starting a trucking company vary quite drastically. The goal of the article is to let you know about the different expenses you may incur and a range of how much you should expect it to cost.
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How much does it cost to start a trucking company?
If you are looking to start a trucking company, chances are you have already acquired your CDL (Commercial Drivers License) license as a company driver. In case you haven’t, you will have to go to a CDL training school-course, pass a written exam, acquire a CDL permit, train with a supervising driver, complete all required training, and pass your CDL skills test. After all of this, you will earn your CDL.
The exact cost varies from state to state. In Colorado, for example, a CDL training course costs between $3,000-$7,000, your permit will cost $14, your skills test will cost $225, your DOT physical will cost $65, and your official CDL licensing will cost $28. These costs should be similar no matter what state you are getting your CDL, but individual research will be required.
USDOT and MC Number
Before you start your own trucking company, you will need a USDOT number and an MC Number. A USDOT number identifies you as a carrier that is operating in interstate commerce and an MC number identifies you as a carrier who transports regulated commodities in interstate commerce. You can file for both through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) website for $300. You will need to know your company operation, operation classification, cargo classification, types of vehicles, ownership of vehicles, and driver status. Once the application is complete, it will take about three to six weeks to get approved.
When you decide to start your own trucking company, you will need to get your own truck. You have the choice of purchasing your truck or leasing it. When you purchase a truck, it is considered your property and may be sold at any time. You make monthly payments on the vehicle until it has been paid off, and at that point, you are the titleholder.
If you go this route, you can purchase the truck new or used. A new truck typically runs between $125,000 and $150,000 on average. A used truck can start at $45,000 and go up to $100,000, depending on how old it is. The monthly payments of purchasing a truck will vary based on how much you can afford for a down payment and the interest and terms of the loan.
When you lease a truck, you still make monthly payments, but those payments go toward the use of the truck, not ownership. Leases are typically set on a schedule of one to three years. If at any time you want to stop paying for the lease, an early termination fee will be applied.
If you choose to lease a truck, you can usually expect to pay around $1,600 to $2,500 per month.
In addition to getting your own truck, you will also need to decide if you need to purchase your own trailer. As a leased owner-operator, you may have a carrier that provides a trailer for you. However, owning your own unique type of trailer while being leased on to a carrier may allow you to be more desirable to the carrier and to shippers.
If you are under your own authority, getting your own trailer can lead to increased revenue and more control over the equipment you are using, but it will also come with increased costs. New trailers today cost anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000.
The insurance you’re required to purchase for your trucking company will depend on if you are leasing onto a motor carrier or operating under your own authority. If you are leased onto a motor carrier, the carrier will likely provide primary liability insurance coverage. This insurance will cover injuries or damage to other people or property if you are found responsible. You will still need to purchase non-trucking liability insurance, physical damage coverage insurance, and occ/acc insurance. As a lease owner-operator, your insurance will likely cost somewhere between $3,000-$5,000 per year.
If you are operating under your own authority, the cost of insurance goes up to around $8,000-$12,500 per year. This is because you have no motor carrier covering any of the cost for you. You will need liability insurance, physical damage insurance, motor truck cargo insurance, and work comp insurance. These are just the basic insurances you will need as you operate on your own authority. The price of insurance will vary depending on the type of coverage you are looking for.
Setting up your trucking company as a Limited Liability Company (LLC) will allow you to separate your personal assets from your business liabilities. An LLC can lead to several legal, tax, and business advantages, but it may or may not be necessary depending on a variety of different factors.
It’s recommended you consult with a business service provider, like ATBS, before setting up an LLC. The state-filing fees for an LLC vary from $50-$300 depending on the state that you are filing in. The average state-filing fee is $127. ATBS can help you set up your LLC for $299 plus the specific-state filing fee. Click here for more information about setting up a business entity.
BOC - 3 Form
The BOC - 3 Form will be necessary if you plan on doing interstate business. This form establishes that you are legally able to operate in each state that you drive. The cost of filing your BOC - 3 form will range between $20-$40.
IRP Credential and IFTA Decal
The International Registration Plan Credential and International Fuel Tax Agreement Decal are two more costs you will incur in order to operate across state lines. The IRP credential cost is based on the percentage of miles you operate in each state, and the average cost is about $1,700 per year. The IFTA decal cost is a lot cheaper at about $10 per year.
The heavy highway vehicle use tax is a fee assessed annually on heavy vehicles operating on public highways at weights equal to or exceeding 55,000 pounds. The cost is determined by adding the unloaded weight of the vehicle, and any trailers, with the maximum load customarily carried. The maximum HVUT is $550 per year.
A load board is an online matching system between truck drivers and shippers that allows freight to be claimed and shipped. Working under your own authority will mean you will need your own load board. An owner-operator who is leased onto a carrier will still have freight assigned to them. There are many options when it comes to using a load board. Some are even free. If you want to pay for a load board it is going to cost between $35-$150 per month. ATBS recommends using Truckstop.com or DAT for your load board.
Ready to get started?
There are many costs associated with starting your own trucking company. However, if you believe in yourself, and want the opportunity to make more money and have more freedom, then it’s worth the investment.
This article covers the main expenses that you will face during the process of starting your trucking company, but keep in mind that these costs will vary and you may have to pay more or less depending on your unique situation. Hopefully, this article will help you prepare for what you will have to pay for before starting your trucking company.
Quick List of Costs
CDL: $3,000 - $8,000
USDOT and MC Number: $300
Truck Lease: $1,600 - $2,500 per month
Purchase: $45,000 - $150,000
Trailer: $25,000 - $50,000
Insurance: $3,000 - $5,000 per year
Business Entity: $127 - $426
BOC-3 Form: $20 - $40
IRP Credential: $1,700 per year
IFTA Decal: $10 per year
HVUT: Maximum of $550 per year
Load Board: $35 - $150 per month