Technology has become a game changer for the trucking industry. The growth of app-based technology has removed many of the barriers that used to prevent people from making the transition from company driver to owner operator. It used to be that you needed to have an accountant, a dispatcher and an office staff to run even a one-truck operation. Today, there is an app for almost everything. As Jamie Hagan, owner of Hell Bent Xpress notes, it’s easier than ever for a one-person operation to manage all aspects of an owner operator business using little more than a smart phone and a handful of apps. 

“You used to need a dispatcher service and all that stuff,” says Jamie. “You couldn’t do everything while you were on the road. You had to wait to get home to do it all, so you almost had to be leased to somebody. Now you don’t. You don’t need anybody. You can be a single truck operator and basically have your back office in your phone. You can just do it all in the palm of your hand, taking pictures and uploading stuff from your phone. It’s just awesome.”

“You used to need a dispatcher service and all that stuff,” says Jamie. “You couldn’t do everything while you were on the road. You had to wait to get home to do it all, so you almost had to be leased to somebody. Now you don’t. You don’t need anybody. You can be a single truck operator and basically have your back office in your phone. You can just do it all in the palm of your hand, taking pictures and uploading stuff from your phone. It’s just awesome.”

Read on to discover how to start a trucking business with one truck, a smart phone and some good old-fashioned hard work.

Establish Your Business

One of the first steps that you’ll take to start a trucking business with one truck is applying for your own authority/motor carrier (MC) number. Most states also require that you apply for a US DOT number. To find out if you need a USDOT number, visit the FMCSA’s website. If you have not yet been issued a US DOT number and you have never registered with the FMCSA before, you will need to register and apply for your MC number/authority through the Unified Registration System. Other start-up related requirements include registering your business with the state as an LLC, S-corp or incorporate business, as well as shopping around for insurance. 

Keep in mind that you may have trouble getting loads with certain brokers and shippers if you have a fresh MC number. Some of the larger carriers and mega carriers require that you have one or two years of history under your MC number before they’ll let you haul their freight.

Buy a Truck and Trailer

Choosing which truck to buy will be one of the biggest decisions you’ll make as a new owner operator — and according to most veteran truckers, it’s an important one that has an impact on how profitable you will be. Shawn Stewart of Pinnacle Transport in Seminole, Fla., is a big fan of buying used trucks. 

My biggest advice especially right now is to buy older trucks with fewer moving parts,” Shawn said. “That’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the years. My 1999 FLD has eight sensors on the motor. My 2005 International has 19 sensors with an engine control unit that will shut down the motor if the sensor is reading something wrong. You don’t want to get stuck because of a sensor malfunction.”

My biggest advice especially right now is to buy older trucks with fewer moving parts,” Shawn said. “That’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the years. My 1999 FLD has eight sensors on the motor. My 2005 International has 19 sensors with an engine control unit that will shut down the motor if the sensor is reading something wrong. You don’t want to get stuck because of a sensor malfunction.”

The COVID-19 pandemic and tightening supplies of rubber and steel have made it very difficult to even get your hands on a new truck and trailer. No matter whether you choose to buy a new or used truck and trailer, it’s important to do research and calculate how much your truck payment and maintenance will be each month. 

“Do your research,” says owner operator Gabrielle Simmons. “Do a lot of research. Don’t just get what you think looks the best or feels the best because ultimately the price and maintenance a lot of times are going to make or break your business. Do your research, run your numbers and then decide on a truck from there.” 

Find Broker Loads and More with Trucker Tools’ Free Mobile App

Once you’re set up to do business, you need to start building relationships with brokers and get loads. One way to achieve both of those goals is by using Trucker Tools’ free mobile app. The app’s load search tool is a powerful one that lets you search by lane, date, type of freight and more. Unlike load boards, the loads that you see in the Trucker Tools app are live loads. The load information in the app is drawn directly from the transportation management systems used by brokers, so you’re never looking at loads or submitting quotes on loads that have already been taken by another owner operator or carrier. You also may be able to book loads directly in the app if the broker posts their loads as Book-It-Now® loads. 

The Trucker Tools app is your all-in-one Swiss Army knife that will keep you rolling, saving you time and money on the road. In addition to booking loads, you can use the Trucker Tools app to find the cheapest fuel, the best route, parking, weigh scales, rest areas, truck stops, truck washes, CDL legal protection, Walmart stores, restaurants and more. The app includes an axle weight calculator and you can use its load tracking tool to track loads digitally with brokers, as well.

Read How To Avoid Freight Fraud and Load Board Scams to find out why you may want to rethink using load boards. To download the Trucker Tools app, visit https://www.truckertools.com/web/carriers/.