It is true that truck drivers have a fair amount of time on their hands to think. As for anyone who has this luxury, thoughts and dreams of riches, success and ownership are frequent topics from the brain waves. Haulage work is hard, sometimes mundane and frequently frustrating. For seasoned drivers, who ultimately become haulage and road experts fairly quickly, it is not a massive leap of imagination to desire greater autonomy and more lucrative outcomes. However, before you head off to the ‘truck shop’ for a shiny new 18 wheeler, there are quite a few details to be planned out in advance. |
A Sound Investment
Once you have been an employee driver for a few years most drivers become quite knowledgeable about haulage work, the industry, and the future towards which it is heading. Some feel settled with this knowledge whereas others see opportunity. The dream looks like a world where you design your own destiny, schedule, work conditions, and ultimately tap in to the more lucrative side of the job. Being an entrepreneur also provides the opportunity to do it ‘your way’. There can be great pride in seeing the fruits of your labour pay off while watching your business earn respect amongst fellow industry leaders. What you need to truly become a ‘player’ in the field of haulage work is patience, collateral, a detailed plan, and quite a bit more patience.
Money, Money, Money
As with any small business venture money will open the doors you need. HGV, or even van ownership, requires a huge amount of up front expenses as well as careful financial planning for the initial set-up months. This endeavour needs to be plotted carefully and with great detail. Each step towards owning and establishing yourself as a small-business owner will require fees, deposits, licenses, and that is all generally before you even attempt to purchase the vehicle.
The Tip of The Iceberg
In summary, the first steps towards becoming an owner-operator look like this:
A Worthwhile Headache?
- Grab a calculator. Start gathering data along with a running tally of the cost. Consider the cost of the vehicle, cost of maintaining said vehicle, and cost of insurance required.
- Consider the type of haulage work you wish to do. Domestic? International? Sub-contractor? Franchise opportunities? Make this decision prior to deciding which type of vehicle you want to buy.
- Figure out who, in the government, you need to play ‘Mother May I’ with. Government regulations are a maze and a mine field combined. Read all the fine print, twice, and then start filing applications, with the required fees, for whichever licenses are needed to keep you legal.
- The Big ‘O’. Sadly this ‘O’ requires patience too. The O-License (truck Operators license) is an attempt to prove that both the location and the operator are fit for the job. According to one media outlet the breakdown looks like this: “There are three types of O-licence – Standard, Standard (international) and Restricted. You can forget the restricted version if you want to work for a living – it is just for companies transporting their own goods. If you are intending on journeys abroad, then you’ll need the international version. Just domestic trucking? Then the standard UK licence will suffice.”
- Park it. Finding a place to park your shiny new 18 wheeler legally, is covered, with full instructions, within the O-License application. It will require public notices and a 21 day waiting period as well as money.
As with most small business enterprises a crystal ball would be invaluable! However, with proper and meticulous planning, becoming an owner-operator can be an extremely lucrative venture. After the initial set-up costs and teething pains most owner-operators’ only complaint is not being able to keep up with growth of their new business. Haulage work is still a growing industry with room for individual sub-contractors and larger fleet companies alike. It will require patience and flexibility, as well as keeping a finger on the pulse of the ever-changing government regulations. However, if you can handle the initial headache, the payoff in the end will be just the soothing balm you need.
Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry. Connecting logistics professionals across the UK and Europe through their website, Haulage Exchange provides services for matching haulage work with available drivers. Over 4,000 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.
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