Owner operator and bulk hazmat trucker Gabrielle Simmons recently took time out from trucking to chat with us about what her first two years as an owner operator have been like. Gabrielle spoke to us about the challenges she and other truckers are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic and how she’d wanted to become a trucker since she was 18 years old when she went on the road for the first time with a trucker friend. Gabrielle shared how she got involved with SHE Trucking and why she uses Trucker Tools’ free driver app for trip planning, finding truck stops and to get real-time information on fuel prices. We also asked Gabrielle about what she’s learned in her first two years as an owner operator and what advice she has for newbie owner operators.

What has surprised you and what have you learned in your first two years as an owner operator?

“I had to learn quickly that you really need to stay on the road to make enough money to pay for the truck, cover the expenses and have extra. I didn’t realize how truly demanding it is when you have your own equipment with that type of payment. I continued my lease with Schneider and brought the truck over to Dana Transport, but I actually recently just refinanced so I just have a monthly payment.” 

What advice do you have for new owner operators?

“Don’t wait until you’re ready because you’ll never feel ready. Make sure you have contingency plans and funds to fall back on, but don’t let fear keep you from becoming an owner operator. I think that a lot of people let fear of responsibility or fear of the cost that comes with being an owner operator scare them away. And I’m always trying to encourage people to just do it. “

What advice do you have for new drivers looking to buy their first truck?

“Do your research. 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.” 

What strategies have you used to save money or manage your income as an owner operator? 

“I always recommend having at least $5,000 in reserve at all times because one breakdown can cost you that. I think it’s always important to have a maintenance fund set aside that you absolutely do not touch under any circumstances. If you don’t have the cash, at least be able to access that money from a credit card or loan. Don’t get yourself in a position where you’re living paycheck to paycheck and just trying to float each week because that’s often what causes owner operator businesses to fail. Just remember that life happens, so we need to account for that. You also need to have funds available to cover your truck payment, if needed.”

For the rest of our interview with Gabrielle, read Life on the Road with New Owner Operator Gabrielle Simmons and Hazmat Trucking with Owner Operator Gabrielle Simmons. To download the Trucker Tools free driver app, visit https://www.truckertools.com/web/carriers/