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7 Tips to Make More Money as an Owner-Operator

Owner operator in front of a truck.

Are you wondering how to make money as an owner-operator? Growing your trucking-industry business can be hard, especially in a hot freight market. But with a little planning and easy-to-use technology, you’ll be growing your business in no time.

Whether you have ten trucks in your fleet or are a single-truck owner-operator trying to put more money in your pocket, here are some steps you can take to make more money in trucking.

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1. Be the first to call on the best load.

Getting the best paying loads can feel like an ultra-competitive sport, so make sure you have the best freight matching tools to get to the hottest lanes and loads first. To find the perfect freight for your truck or team, invest in the best load board to grow your business.

Our definition of “best” is a load board that goes way beyond the old-school notion of a load board that just finds loads. It helps you be quick on the draw to get the loads you want with reliable brokers. It gives you valuable information and access to decision tools that help you make a solid game plan and save precious time. Great load boards help you manage every part of your business with speed and ease, ultimately delivering a higher owner-operator salary.

When evaluating load boards, ask yourself:

  • Is it comprehensive? There’s no reason you should have to bounce around from load board to load board, website to website, to find loads and keep track of all the details. If you take this approach, by the time you decide on a load, the chances are high that it will be gone when you’re ready to book it.
  • The best load board is one that helps you be fast and first. Is it innovative? Fast and easy to use? Nothing’s more frustrating than fussing with clunky technology, the very thing that’s supposed to make your life easier. It’s one thing to find a good load, but quite another to book it before someone beats you to the punch. What if you could book loads instantly on your schedule, from the road, maybe even outside broker business hours?
  • Can it help with broker selection? Look for a load board that goes the extra mile to help you choose brokers to work with. It should offer important details like broker credit score, experience level, and how long it takes them to pay. Truckstop employs a whole team that checks every broker on the load board regularly, so our broker data is relevant and up to date.
  • Does it provide powerful search functionality? The best trucking load board lets you drill down to find the right loads for you. Look for tools that sort loads by rate, origin, and broker ratings. Some include heat maps and search options that serve up the best-paying loads. The most innovative, established load boards help you find backhauls, let you post your truck and your specialty so brokers can find you, and have an instant load-booking feature, just to name a few. You can get as detailed as you want, saving you tons of time to make more money.
  • Does it enable instant load booking? Another great feature that can help you stay ahead is Book It Now. This feature is available to all carriers on the Truckstop Load Board. Once you’ve been added as a preferred carrier by one of your broker partners, you’ll see any Book It Now loads available from that company. You can book these loads at your convenienceat any time of daywith just a few clicks. It’s that easy!
Owner operator smiling with book it now preview overlayed.

With Load Board Pro, you’ll see loads from thousands of trusted brokers posted in real-timeincluding Book It Now loads. Don’t miss out on a great-paying load because you were waiting for the load board to refresh.

2. Work with the right brokers.

Working with brokers you can trust from the get-go keeps the cash flowing and you and your drivers on the road. The Truckstop Load Board Pro ensures that all brokers are verified before allowing them to post their freight. With CreditStop Broker, you will see a broker’s rating and their days to pay. This helps you plan cash flow while building relationships with long-term partners.

3. Negotiate the highest rates.

Work smarter, not harder. Many owner-operators and carriers are under the impression that increasing your pay requires increasing your hours. But that isn’t always the case. With Decision Tools, you’ll have the information you need, like truck activity and loads-to-truck ratios, to negotiate better rates. You’ll even see at a glance whether a specific load is favorable or unfavorable for negotiation.

Decision Tools. Gauge negotiation strength with truck-to-load ratio and truck activity by origin and destination.

Once you’re equipped with some tools and strategies, you can start enjoying the job you signed up for and the freedom and flexibility that comes along with it. The key is not to work more hours but to make more money per mile. It boils down to finding the best loads out there, getting the highest possible rates for every load, and keeping your cost-per-mile as low as you can. When you get these things dialed in and working together, you will make a higher profit as an owner-operator.

Look for a load board that provides insight into rate trends so that you can negotiate better with brokers, earning fair revenue that offsets your expenses and returns a profit. The best load board also gives you visibility into spot market rates (a one-time rate for hauling a load). These rates vary widely depending on many factors, like seasonality (winter loads during the holiday season could command higher spot market rates, for example), supply and demand, and load-to-truck ratios, to name a few.

preview of rates

When you understand spot market rates, you can back up your negotiations with solid, current data and push for a higher rate when the broker is holding out for a lower one. Ideally, your load board should have a rates tool that arms you with this and other critical information that helps you make more money as an owner-operator.

Getting higher rates for each load means more money in your pocket over the long haul. But how do you know that you’re getting paid fairly for a particular load? On Truckstop Load Board Pro, you can use Rate Insights to see posted, paid, and submitted rates by equipment type and lane when talking with a broker about a load. This will give you more power when negotiating.

I refer to the rates tool within the Truckstop Load Board to know what the rates should be for new lanes. If a broker sets a low rate on a load, I have real data to back me up when I say, “this is what the rate should be.”

– Mel Pink, Jackson Moving and Storage

Rates previews overlaying an owner operator in front of a truck.

4. Focus on the people.

Relationships make the freight community go ’round. If you can form long-lasting relationships with trusted brokers who call you first when they have freight for you to haul, you will always have a full truck and get paid on time.

“I have built a list of broker relationships using Truckstop — so when I need a load, I call one of my contacts because I know their lanes. If I know I’m going to have a truck in Laredo, I call one of my brokers that I met through Truckstop’s Load Board. I know I can trust them to help me get my drivers loaded and pay on time.”

– Mel Pink, Jackson Moving and Storage

5. Plan your routes in advance.

Want to plan ahead so you can estimate your profits in advance? With Truckstop Load Board Pro, owner-operators like you can plan multiple trips to be more strategic in your trip routes and make more money in the process.

Even better, the Fuel Desk feature helps with trip planning. You can find the best routes, choose the least expensive fuel stops, and even calculate your IFTA (International Fuel Tax Agreement) taxes as you go along.

Fuel Desk. Simple truck routing, rates, and IFTA.

When planning, make sure you have a solid understanding of your cost per mile. It’s a fundamental calculation that every owner-operator should know. In fact, it’s arguably the single most important number you need to get a clear view of your profit margins. Once you’ve established your cost per mile, you can start making adjustments to get this number down so more money stays in your pocket.

6. Minimize deadhead miles.

Deadhead miles occur when you drive your truck with no freight on board. If you don’t have a load, you’re spending money on fuel, lodging, and meals without making any money to offset those expenses. You can reduce the number of deadhead miles you drive by picking up backhaul loads for your return trip to your home base. Backhaul loads may not pay as well as the original trip, depending on demand, but you can generally make enough to cover your costs along with a small profit.

7. Cut fuel costs.

As an owner-operator, one of your biggest expenses is fuel. So it only makes sense to take advantage of every opportunity to reduce your fuel costs. Easy ways to save include:

  • Join a fuel card programWhether you choose a credit card with rebates or a simple loyalty card that saves money on every fill-up at a specific brand of stations, a fuel card program is an easy way to keep your fuel costs down.
  • Carefully plan your route. Taking the scenic highways is a great way to see the country, but every mile out of your way costs you extra money in fuel. Planning the most efficient route between every city pair can lower your fuel costs.
  • Choose your fuel stops wisely. Sometimes stopping just 10 miles early or going an extra 5 miles down the road can result in significantly cheaper fill-ups. So you’ll want to make sure you’re finding the best deals.

This is where the Truckstop Fuel Desk shines. This tool helps you plan the best route to your next destination while also providing daily fuel cost updates to help you decide where to make your fuel stops.

Start today.

When Mel Pink became the fleet manager for Jackson Moving and Storage, she had never used Truckstop. After a quick demo call, she was quickly up to speed. Now, she uses the load board daily to negotiate rates with brokers, ensure her drivers are paid, and books loads with brokers she trusts. Find out how the Truckstop Load Board keeps her business moving.

What could you do with more money in your pocket? Don’t work harder and longer hours for the same amount of money. With simple technology and a little planning, you’ll be growing your trucking business in no time. Sign up today.

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