The debate on the viability of being an owner-op in trucking is a recurring topic, which seems to repeat itself through the decades. Some in the field, with years of experience, believe that the challenges and opportunities have changed little, despite economic and technological developments.
For some former owner-ops, rigorous management was not enough to overcome the challenges of increased competition and sometimes drastic price cuts. These pressures have led some to abandon their independent status to become salaried employees, seeking a more stable life balance.
“I was an owner-op for 10 years, I was very good with numbers, but the competition became much too fierce and there was always someone to cut prices ridiculously… Today, I am very well salaried! I have quality time with my wife and children,” says Luc.
The allure of independence and the pride of being one’s own boss are confronted with the reality of a dependence on clients and contracts. For some, the dream of becoming an owner-op collided with the harsh reality of the profession, leading them to choose the security of salaried employment.
The journey of those who have succeeded as owner-ops shows the importance of discipline, prudent financial management, and adaptability. Succeeding in this field requires knowing how to prioritize and manage risks while remaining attentive to opportunities.
The current economic conditions, such as high-interest rates and market fluctuations, pose additional challenges for newcomers. Established owner-ops, benefiting from some equity, seem to fare better than those considering starting with new equipment.
Some see trucking as a more stable sector than others, even in times of general economic slowdown or pandemic, as Covid has shown in some sectors of the trucking industry. The prospect of investing in trucking is compared to other businesses, like restaurants or retail, where the risks can be even greater, especially on the brink of a recession.
The experience as an owner-op varies greatly. For some, the pride of maintaining and driving their own trucks is invaluable, while others find specific niches in transport that offer better opportunities and rates.
Tips for success? Establish priorities, don’t start with new and unaffordable equipment, shop for clients before signing a contract, do maintenance and repairs yourself as much as possible. And, to echo our owner-op contributor Charles Pellerin, you have to ask a lot of questions!
“For me, it’s not a yes or a no, because transport is a very vast field and each type of transport is different. For my part, I have my truck for local refrigerated transport and each year is better than the last. For me, yes it’s worth it, but maybe for another person who does another category of transport, it’s a no. The important thing is to find the contract,” adds Nadi.
In the end, becoming an owner-op in 2024 is a deeply personal decision, influenced by many factors. The trucking sector, although evolving, remains a complex field, where success and difficulties coexist. Choosing this path requires careful thought, rigorous planning, and constant adaptability to the incessant changes in the market.
Without these skills, perhaps it’s better to do like Sam and become an owner-op where the virtual meets the dream… in American Truck Simulator!
- This article is based on the comments collected during a debate on the subject.