The pros and cons of being an owner-operator

Being an owner-operator in an industry full of carrier companies is a point of pride for many drivers. The banter at the truck stops buzzes with business strategies and inside advice on what lanes are best.

Most company drivers don’t have to deal with things that owner-operators do, but there are pros and cons to every driver employment scenario. Because Shipwell loves working with informed and hard workers, we support every carrier on the road.

Through our relationships with carriers, we have learned about the challenges and opportunities of being an owner-operator. Here’s what we’ve learned from carriers on the road.

Want to join the Shipwell community as a carrier? Sign up with us to book more freight, get better matching loads, and use the smartest tech in freight.

The Challenges

Start-up costs

Getting the equipment to start your company requires a huge upfront cost. From buying or renting rigs, establishing your authority, to obtaining a CDL, prospective owners need to come in with some money to put down. For some, it could mean taking out loans or putting a balance on a credit card that could follow you for years. New carriers need to come in with a game plan to hit the ground running.

Booking your own loads

While company drivers get called by the dispatcher to get loads, the owner-operator is entirely in control of booking loads. This means extra time spent researching industry trends to know what rates are fair. Additionally, it means time on the phone and online trying to schedule loads at reasonable rates. If you aren’t smart about it, your vacation time could be eaten up by managing your business.

Responsibility for expenses and salary

If the wheels aren’t moving, you aren’t making any money. Setting financial goals is imperative for owning your own business so your costs are covered. Think about taxes, insurance, maintenance, business fees, and of course, your salary. Being wise about what loads you book, who you work with, and how long you are on the road all factor into how well you succeed in this industry.


Ideally, you want to be home long enough to recharge, see your family and friends, and take occasional vacations throughout the year. Being an owner-operator means you often take work home with you because the next load could be a phone call away. Keep in mind that if your truck needs repairs, you may have to take time off to get it fixed, which could chop away at your reserved vacation time.

The Opportunities

Get the equipment you want

While some company drivers share trucks and are not assigned a dedicated rig, the owner-operator has full control over what sort of equipment they own. Getting a comfortable cab with nice seats, a decent stereo, and a relaxing sleeper area add real-time benefits to the driving experience.

Have more control over your revenue

A smart owner-operator can make as much money as they want by running the business efficiently. According to our ELD partner KeepTruckin, owner-operators have an average earning potential of $100,000 a year. If you are someone who can hustle and is knowledgeable in market trends and negotiating, owning a business is perfect. Even when you run a contract with a company to use their load boards at a price, you may see your take home money grow more than ever.

Be your own boss

The best part of being an owner operator is getting to be your own boss. No more having to ask permission for ride alongs (including pets), arguing over pay increases, or insurance. Plus, if you meet your target income goals as scheduled, you can take vacation how you choose. For folks who have a family to get home to every week, this has more value than gold.

Owner-operators have plenty of autonomy, but they often spend just as much time running their business as they do running the lane. Informed owner-operators use Shipwell to book loads, schedule appointments, and leverage real-time tracking transparency to the shipper or broker.

Working with Shipwell is an owner-operator’s secret weapon to help book more loads and have full centralization between all parties involved in a load. Real-time tracking, efficient communication, simplified document management, and next-gen automation help Shipwell carriers better manage their business.

Plus, 24/7 access to the Shipwell brokerage team means customer support anytime you need.

Want to be a carrier with Shipwell? We would love to add you to our growing network of carriers!