How to Start a Trucking Business With One Truck

Starting a trucking business using freight factoring

Last Updated April 19, 2024

If you’re a company truck driver or have a solid understanding of how the trucking business works, you might consider starting your own trucking business. It can be a lucrative career–owner-operators earn more than $300,000 per year–and the best part is you only need one truck to start a transportation business.

However, it requires full-on commitment and attention to detail to find success. If starting a trucking business with one truck was easy, everyone would do it! Therefore, continue reading to lean the general order of operations that should be followed when kickstarting your trucking business with just one truck.

How to Start a Trucking Business with One Truck: Step-by-Step

Firstly, it’s important to have industry knowledge before launching a trucking company. For example, read articles on current trucking trends and keep up with trucking trade publications. Having a firm understanding of these trends can be helpful when making future operational or financial decisions.

Furthermore, connect and speak with existing owner-operators to ensure this is the right venture for you. They can provide valuable first-person perspectives on what it means to be an owner-operator in today’s market. Their experiences and advice can help you make an informed decision about starting your own company.

Then, once you have decided and are ready to secure a truck to start your business, you can follow the steps below.

Determine Operating Under Your Own Authority vs. Leasing On

Deciding whether you’re going to operate under your own authority or lease-on with a carrier might be the most important decision in the early stages of starting your trucking business.

Operating under your own authority means you own your own truck, have your own MC number, and get to run your business entirely how you like. When leasing-on, you’re contracting yourself and your truck out to work for a more established trucking company. Leasing-on means less control over your business but also less responsibility. In addition, you will likely have access to more loads and potentially more business.

There are pros and cons for both, so it’s important to weigh what’s most important to you before making your decision.

Related: How to Get Trucking Authority

Create Your Business Plan

Creating a blueprint for your business achieves a few things:

  • It lists out business goals
  • It points you in directions to help you reach those goals
  • It acts as a reference point, specifically when things don’t go to plan
  • It keeps you on track and organized throughout your career as a trucking business owner

A business plan should include an executive summary, company description, market analysis, financial projections, and marketing and sales plan. For owner-operators, this should also include plans for obtaining funding and how you plan to operate, whether under your own authority or leased-on with a carrier.

Choose Your Business Structure and Form Your Business Entity

Forming your business entity is a simple but momentous moment in your entrepreneurial career. It symbolizes the birth of your trucking business.

You’ll have a few options when choosing how your business is structured. The four most common for owner-operators include:

  • Corporation: A separate legal entity from its shareholders. Therefore, personal assets are protected.
  • Partnership: Owned by two or more individuals.
  • LLC: A combination of a partnership and corporation; this is the most common for new owner-operators.
  • Sole Proprietorship: Owned and operated by a sole individual who has complete control.

For more information and to register your business, check out the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Obtain Funding

You’ll need a detailed plan for how to fund your trucking business. This is an expensive industry. Even if you’re looking to start a business with just one truck, you’re looking at $150,000 to $175,000 for that truck. You can opt to purchase a used truck, but that will still cost you upwards of $50,000. Keep in mind that most lenders will require a decent personal credit score to buy a semi-truck.

Plus, you’ll need to account for expenses such as overhead costs, equipment upkeep and repairs, and marketing efforts. So how do you obtain funding?

Unless you’re self-sufficient, you’ll likely aim for SBA loans and other types of small business loans in your early stages. These loans can be used for a variety of purposes, but they can be especially useful to purchase your first truck or upgrade your equipment.

Freight factoring is utilized by even the most established small trucking business owners. It involves selling unpaid invoices to a third-party factoring company in exchange for an immediate cash advance of up to 99%% of the invoice value. It’s a way to boost cash flow and improve working capital so you don’t have to worry about not being able to afford taking on new business or slow-paying customers affecting your finances.

Related: 12 Small Business Loan Industry Statistics

Fulfill Documentation Requirements of an Owner-Operator

While starting a business with one truck can be a lucrative venture, it’s not easy.

There are numerous rules and regulations that all owner-operators must be aware of and abide by in order to get started. You must undergo safety training, drug and alcohol testing, and understand hours of service regulations before you can hit the road.

Other documentation and requirements that must be completed include obtaining insurance plans, registering for a USDOT number, and opening an account on the FMCSA portal. However, these are just a few of the requirements of an owner-operator – click here for a full breakdown of necessary documentation and paperwork.

Set-Up an Accounting System

Future business owners underrate the importance that accounting plays in the success of any business. Well-organized, efficient accounting systems are even more important in the trucking industry, as business deals and general costs can get very expensive.

When starting a business with one truck, know that you’re going to have many responsibilities on your shoulders, especially if you choose to operate under your own authority. That’s why it’s vital to ensure your accounting procedures are as streamlined as possible.

One tip that’s particularly important: automate as much as you can. Automating your AP (accounts payable) and AR (accounts receivable) will accomplish five things:

  • It reduces human error
  • It reduces manual labor
  • It accelerates accounting-related processes
  • It assists with and improves record-keeping
  • It maximizes cash flow management

Start off by choosing your accounting software. From there, you can select plans or features that fit your business needs.

Find a Truck

When it comes time to get your truck, understand that you have two options: buying or leasing.

Buying a truck, as mentioned, can be expensive. Used semi-trucks cost $50,000 or more, while the average new semi-truck costs $150,000-$175,000. Leasing a truck means a lower upfront cost, less maintenance costs, and less risk. However, you’re technically not an owner-operator in this case, therefore you won’t necessarily have the full independence and autonomy you might want when running your business. Plus, if you end up purchasing the truck, it could prove costlier in the long run.

There’s no right answer, but make sure to analyze the pros and cons before purchasing or leasing your truck.

Start Finding Loads and Scheduling Routes

Now comes the fun part. It’s time to find your first truck load and start scheduling your routes!

However, this step is still new territory for you, so you might be wondering how to find loads for your truck.

A few methods include utilizing load boards, paying for dispatch services, and negotiating with freight brokers. Load boards are an especially popular way that trucking business owners schedule their routes. You can think of a load board as an online marketplace where shippers, brokers, and carriers come together.

If you decide to lease-on with a company, you may not have quite as much work to do with this step, as the company you lease-on with will offer you additional resources such as private load boards.

Is Starting a Trucking Business with One Truck a Good Idea?

Starting a trucking business with one truck means you’ll be considered an owner-operator, and owner-operators bring home, on average, $323,000 per year. Some might see that number and think it is a no-brainer to become an owner-operator, but it’s important to understand the responsibilities that’ll come with being an owner-operator before getting started.

Responsibilities That Come with Starting a Transportation Business with One Truck:

Some of the duties you’ll perform to be a successful owner-operator include:

  • Buying and/or leasing a truck
  • Finding loads to haul for that truck and planning routes
  • Organizing financial records, paperwork, and documentation
  • Buying insurance
  • Maintaining your truck and equipment
  • Managing overhead costs
  • Overseeing accounting responsibilities
  • Building relationships

Organization is key for owner-operators. If you aren’t confident, you have the organizational skills to run a business from the ground up, you might want to reconsider starting your own trucking business.

But if you’re confident you can handle these tasks, there are several steps to take to set up your business, even if you plan on operating with just one truck.

How to Start a Business with One Truck FAQs

Is starting a trucking business with one truck worth it?

Starting a trucking business can pay off, literally. The average owner-operator makes more than $300,000 per year. However, this comes with a lot of responsibility, as you’ll be tasked with finding your loads, scheduling and planning your routes, repairing any damages to your equipment, filing paperwork, and handling accounting duties just to name a few. Then again, if you’re ambitious and willing to put in the time and effort, you can make a fantastic career by running a trucking business.

How much do owner-operators make?

The average owner-operator earns about $323,000 per year. However, business owners won’t bring home 100% of their company’s revenue due to business expenses throughout the year, meaning you might be looking at somewhere between $100,000 to $200,000 in gross income.

How do I get funding for a trucking business?

If you’re a first-time business owner, you’re likely not going to qualify for traditional bank loans right off the bat, but rest assured there are options. Freight factoring is an alternative lending solution aimed to boost your working capital through selling unpaid customer invoices to a third-party factoring company in exchange for cash advances. By factoring invoices, you won’t have to worry about slow-paying customers affecting your cash flow, which is all too common in the freight world.

What is a small trucking company worth?

The worth of small trucking companies will vary based on revenue, but valuation can be calculated by using one of three different methods: the income method using income to estimate value), the market method (determining the appraisal value of assets by comparing the value of similar assets on the market), and the asset method (the net value of assets minus liabilities).